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Reach for the Skyfall!

Daniel Craig’s third outing as the world’s most famous spy has opened in its usual October slot, and is probably the most anticipated yet. After the fabulous introduction to the ‘Blonde Bond’ in Casino Royale and the crushing critical disappointment of Quantum of Solace, every Bond fan was hoping for a return to form in Skyfall.

The question is – did it happen? We first meet Bond in Turkey, alongside new agent Eve (Naomie Harris) attempting to retrieve a hard drive with the names of every MI6 agent embedded in terrorist organisations from the baddies. An accident leaves Bond shot, presumed dead, cue Adele warbling her Bassey-esque theme tune.

Three months on and with agents dead after an attack on MI6, Bond decides to get back in the game against the mysterious Silva (Javier Bardem), who has the list and a past with MI6, in particular M (Judi Dench).

The 50th anniversary of Bond is this year, so everyone involved was determined to go all out in order to make a film worthy of this auspicious occasion. Whether they did or not, to be honest, I’m still debating it.

If asked to describe the film, ‘Classic Bond’ would be the perfect phrase. Over recent Bonds, particularly from the Brosnan era, the emphasis has been much on the technological advances. The gadgets became more elaborate to the point of silliness (invisible car anyone?) and the explosions bigger.

Here everything has been stripped back to the point that, where Craig’s Bond was seen as a re-boot of the franchise, this feels like a reboot of the re-boot. Pains have been taken to tip a nod to every film from Dr No to License to Kill.

The Walther PPK, the Aston Martin, and Q all hark back to earlier days. For me, some worked, some didn’t. One thing in particular that did work was the scripting, with some nice playful back and forth between Bond, M and Eve.

Director Sam Mendes isn’t really known for his action skills, more at home in character based studies like American Beauty and Road to Perdition, and it shows. Bond is a broken man after his tribulations and a lot of time is spent focusing on whether he’s up to the job or not, something that M, he, and even Silva question.

It’s in the characterisation where Mendes excels, in particular the back story between Silva and M and Silva himself is an interesting villain, superbly played by Bardem. His menacing introduction is easily one of the best in a long time for a villain.

In the action stakes though, things get a bit underwhelming. These films are synonymous with over the top action and huge set pieces, but aside from the finale and a scene in a courtroom the action doesn’t excite as much as it should. Performances don’t disappoint.

Craig has grown into the role, portraying the cold-eyed killer in the same assured manner of his initial outing. Dench, Harris and new boy Ralph Fiennes all give great support, but the standout is easily Bardem.

Ben Whishaw’s introduction as Q was small but pivotal. An actor of Whishaw’s calibre will be a welcome introduction to the cast should the character continue. Bond girl Berenice Marlohe and Albert Finney have small but key roles and also do well.

Craig’s third Bond doesn’t quite hit the heights of Casino Royale, but definitely outguns Quantum of Solace in terms of a storyline it is well executed with a heavy dose of nostalgia heaped on especially for the anniversary.

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