The new James Bond movie Skyfall hands fans and filmgoers their quantum of solace by redeeming the franchise from the lacklustre disappointment of Daniel Craig’s previous outing.
This time round, the kind of Bond we expect from the Craig era is back with all the elements that we have come to expect from the thrilling reincarnation of 007 in Casino Royale – serious homage to the books, the inventive reboot and perhaps most of all, genuinely marvellous acting from cast members in addition to the masterly performances that may be expected from Craig and from Judi Dench. In other words, the first talking point after the final credits ran was the work of Javier Bardem, who deserves every accolade you will have read in other reviews for his performance as the best actor in a Bond villain role arguably for decades. Exuding charisma as Bond’s nemesis, Bardem draws the eyes in his scenes with Craig, no mean feat and a happy departure from simply being – as in so many of the 007 series – the stick figure headed only for the ultimate destruction of his elaborate lair (giving away no crucial plot points, the denouement in Skyfall avoids this cliché of the now-50-year-old series).
Kudos too for the new Q (Ben Whishaw), the cyber warrior whose characterization (and civilian floppy hair clearly exempt from MoD square cut regulations) also holds the series well into the 21st century and moves it from the this-film’s-gadget conventions of the previous 007 decades. Having issued Bond with somewhat minimalist equipment, Q tells him, “what were you expecting, an exploding pen? We don’t do that sort of thing anymore”. Self-referential, of course, but wonderful – restrained enough not to mention invisible cars, respectful enough to remember than in the books 007 made very practical use of humble Talcum powder.
Skyfall offers, of course, the Bond film fan’s pursuit of spot-the-product-placement especially, in this case, the controversial Heineken appearances (one quite credible, as Bond goes on what amounts to a sort of post-mortem Gap Year, another less so, as a bottle turns up in the grasp of Bill Tanner at a time when most of us would not want a responsible Chief of Staff to have anything but a zero blood-alcohol count).
The film has a thread running through it in the form of a subtle tradition-versus-innovation debate, dialogue put into the mouths of leading characters that can only reflect the anguish of devotees of the books and films and the decisions that makers as the series must face in the struggle to keep Bond saleable in the face of muscular competition on big screens elsewhere.
For all the complaints in other reviews about the 143-minute running time, Skyfall did not overstay its welcome – and when those final credits rolled, one was left looking forward to the next one (Bond 24, in 2014) for reasons other than the sentiments felt after QoS, the hope of a Bond film worth watching for a motivation more than the habit of decades.