Sometimes, in this life, a licence to kill might come in very handy. But that is not how James Bond 007 is feeling as we join him for his third Daniel Craig incarnation, in Sam Mendes‘ Skyfall (2012).
Yes, official Bond 23 is in cinemas as of 26 October 2012, and I am going to have to make an addition to my Bond. James Bond. post, but where will this one go in the rankings? Do read on, I think it’s safe to say you’ll know by the end of my review.
And Picturenose (myself and Colin) was in attendance en masse at the rather splendid Belgian premiere on 24 October – it’s always the same with a new Bond film, the sense of expectation, the big questions as to what the present director, writing team and stars are going to bring to the mix this time but, after the astonishing success of Martin Campbell’s Casino Royale (2006), which itself (before now) can lay claim to being best Bond ever, and the perceived-as-disappointing-in-certain-quarters-but-not-by-Picturenose Quantum of Solace (2008) by Marc Forster, Bond by Craig has taken on a completely fresh dimension, and has brought the franchise to far and away the most faithful-to-Fleming rendition of the character.
And guess what? The truly wonderful Skyfall is absolutely no exception to the new rule.
A few, more than a few years appear to have passed for our (anti)hero – we join him as he is desperately trying to retrieve a hard drive that has been taken from MI6 containing the names of many secret agents who are ‘embedded’ in terrorist organizations – their lives are at risk if the information falls into the wrong hands, and Bond, while trying to wrest the hard drive from such a pair of hands (on top of a moving train, preceded by a rooftop motorbike chase, preceded by a break-neck, breathless belter of a car chase) is accidentally shot by his fellow agent, who was acting on the orders of M (Dame Judi Dench) on remote. Missing presumed dead (surely MI6 knows Bond better than that, don’t they?), 007 goes into temporary hiding, starts hitting the bottle big time (he’s not even shaving), before a devastating cyber-terrorist attack on MI6’s HQ in London brings him back to M. Needless to say, her welcome is as chilly as we have come to expect, but she begrudgingly acknowledges that she needs Bond’s help to battle the new threat of unknown enemies and battles without frontiers, as a mystery entity starts tapping in to every bit of security that MI6 holds dear. And there is a cryptic message for M herself: ‘Know your sins’. What is the grande dame of intelligence hiding? We’re about to find out, naturally…
Writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, here joined by John Logan, have simply outdone themselves this time around – while the previous films finally brought us a Bond that bleeds, Skyfall goes completely to the heart of Fleming’s character, entailing a journey into both his own past and that of M’s, and there may be a terrible reckoning awaiting both, as near-enough the best villain in any Bond, ever, who is eventually revealed as being one Raoul Silva (an amazing Javier Bardem), has a very specific agenda against his former employer.
And it is the language of the film’s exchanges, and the credibility that these bring to what is a thrilling central premise, that truly separates this from all its predecessors – Sam Mendes was never going to make a run-of-the-mill action yarn, he is too much of an auteur for that, but what he has managed, along with amazing performances from his principals, is a Bond that may as well be the first ever made, it is just that good.
I could quite happily list and describe in detail the scenes that brought so much joy to Colin and me at the premiere, but to do so would be treachery of the first order. Why not just get yourself along, discover your own favourite parts (believe me, there will be many) and enjoy the very best Bond film ever made. There – I have officially said it, and I am standing by it.