“Skyfall” movie review – Back to basics, Mr Bond…

Daniel Craig’s obsession with “Trials HD” had taken a disturbing real-life twist…

So, “Skyfall” it is, then?  The 50th anniversary James Bond adventure, the follow-up to the mostly unloved “Quantum of Solace” and a pivotal picture for the financially challenged studio MGM  – it’s fair to speculate that there’s a reasonable amount of pressure being brought to bear to ensure that this 23rd Bond movie delivers.

And, boy, does it ever.

The lingering ‘meh’ after taste of “Quantum” is erased pretty much entirely by the jaw-loosening action-packed pre-credits sequence which runs amok in Istanbul this time around and amply illustrates the deep jeopardy in which Bond finds himself throughout “Skyfall” (and that the British Government must settle a butt-load of liability claims whenever James Bond has to give chase to somebody – it’s carnage in this sequence, people – carnage, I tells ye!).

Sam Mendes, in his first and hopefully not last Bond film, manages somehow to strike an almost flawless balance between the massive stunt-packed sequences which the audience expects of Bond and the more internalized, adult drama which Mendes’ film career has become synonymous with – for the first time since Craig took on the role, we’ve got a Bond with grit and wit, realism and outlandish adventure, a character-driven drama with convincing thrills and spills.  I don’t really know how the team behind the film did it, but they’ve made perhaps the best Bond movie ever.

New Bond poster or Prada Fall 2012 poster? Magic Eight Ball says ‘Huh?’

The acting is impeccable – new additions Naomie Harris and Ralph Fiennes make intriguing introductions which promise further mileage in the franchise and villain Javier Bardem is a memorable, layered, gloriously eccentric maniac with a plausible revenge motive and an almost down-to-earth way of achieving his goal (he doesn’t have an underground base inside a volcano but he does have a metric eff-ton of server farms and Bot Nets at his disposal – how times have changed).  New Bond girl Berenice Marlohe is arguably least well served by the script – she’s a Femme Fatale straight from central casting, with smoky, exotic good looks and the requisite tragic back story but doesn’t really get to do much other than smoulder, shower and…I’ll let you find out the rest.

I was particularly fond of the way that the film finds way to set the action back in the UK – we jet off to Shanghai, Macau and the like, but always find ourselves being drawn inexorably back to Bond’s home in a way that the series hasn’t done in recent years.  It probably doesn’t mean that much to viewers outside this nominally United Kingdom, but the sense of our home being laid siege to by enemies from without whose ideology outweighs a flag or national identity is palpable and unusually affecting – this is a blockbuster action film which occasionally manages to get under your skin in a way that these films never really aim for.

By the time that the climax rolls around and sins of the mother are revisited on the surrogate son, all bets really are off and I was genuinely taken aback by one development in the story which I didn’t see coming – possibly because I’ve been fairly spoiler-averse on this film and perhaps because I didn’t want what happened to happen.  But happen it did, and it sets in motion a new direction for the series which certainly changes the dynamics which began to shift with “Goldeneye” – how’s that for being cryptic whilst actually alluding to what’s changed in the series?

If I gave ratings, this would get a very enthusiastic 9 out of 10 – it’s a great action adventure, a brilliant “Bond” movie and confirmation that the good people at Albert R. Brocolli’s EON knew what they were doing when they hired Daniel Craig – “Skyfall” is his best Bond yet.

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