In a typically vigorous opening sequence, M makes a judgement call that sees Bond become a victim of friendly fire. He's missing, presumed dead, and M is in deep shit over the information that was lost in this incident- a hard drive packed with details that could endanger undercover operatives all over the world. Three months later, with M and MI6 under scrutiny from the government, and under attack from their enemies, Bond re-surfaces. Unaccustomed to action, he struggles to find the knack again, as he's pitched against the fearsome Raoul Silva.
The allegations against Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace have been based on a perceived debt to the Bourne movies, with their elaborate chases and kinetic camerawork. The comparison that is already being made for Skyfall is with Christopher Nolan's Batman films, and it's not hard to see why- there are parts of that summary I made that sound an awful lot like The Dark Knight Rises, without me trying to align the two. It's oddly circular, as Nolan's films have so obviously been influenced by a childhood of watching Bond movies, but Sam Mendes breaks the cycle by having some of the fun that people have missed in the previous two instalments.
Like Nolan, Mendes seizes upon a theme and carries it throughout, but unlike Nolan, his interpretation of this film's iconic character is not so serious as to bypass the more fun parts. There are a lot of nods to previous Bond films, and some finessed reinvention of certain tropes that will delight long-time fans. And of course, there are some new interpretations of familiar characters, including Ben Whishaw as Q, in a performance that felt more reminiscent of Doctor Who than Desmond Llewellyn. This, more than most things about the film, points the way forward- rather than repeat the elderly inventor character that Llewellyn mastered, we have a more relevant and modern Q.
Whishaw's geeky quartermaster is just one of a number of new principal roles, in which the acting is routinely excellent. Naomie Harris is far from the usual Bond love interest, with a surprisingly small, yet integral role throughout, and on the other hand, Ralph Fiennes gets a lot more to do than I had expected. Craig and Dench are excellent, working with a plot that capitalises on the strong relationship between Bond and M, especially when they're placed against Javier Bardem's Silva. He's another aspect that I want to save for a more spoiler-y discussion, but suffice to say, I consider him no less than the greatest Bond villain since Robert Shaw in From Russia With Love.
On a technical level, it's all as marvellous as expected from the calibre of the crew. Sam Mendes' approach packs more forward motion and character development into the first ten minutes than Quantum of Solace managed in its entire running time, and it doesn't stop there either. The stunts are all superbly executed, but the real hero this time around has to be cinematographer Roger Deakins. After the shakycam nightmare of the last instalment, there's not a single shot in the film that looks askew, or uninteresting. Without hyperbole, it has to be the most gorgeous Bond movie ever made. Deakins has long been nominated at each year's Oscars ceremony, but has never won anything- if they have to give him belated recognition for Best Cinematography, I would love it to be for his work here.
Skyfall is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen Skyfall, why not share your comments below? Come back next week for the full BlogalongaBond review, but in the meantime, just go and see it already!
I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.