Skyfall

Skyfall ★★★★

Spy legend James Bond, in what has become the longest-running film series in cinema history, celebrates his 50th anniversary with this promising new spectacle, which early buzz has already spoken of as "The best Bond movie in decades". Although I enjoyed it through and through, it regrets me to say that I don't quite agree with said statement.

Granted that Adele's Skyfall theme is one of the most divine to have ever entered my ears, and sure, it's fun that Q is back in a younger, more contemporary version (I still miss Desmond Llewelyn though and his arsenal of imaginative gadgets). It's also a proud moment for us Swedes to see our very own Ola Rapace (the husband of Noomi Rapace) exchange knuckle sandwiches with Agent 007 on top of a speeding train.

However, there's far between the bursts of adrenaline and even draggy in places. Being the second-longest Bond movie yet, the duration is definitely felt in this one. It's not that I have issues with films that run on for nearly 3 hours (mind you, I saw "The Return of the King" four times in a crowded theatre), but my gripe with Skyfall is that the pacing is very uneven, setting the most rip-roaring scenes in the first 15 minutes of the film, as opposed to saving the best for last.

Now, due to certain restrictions placed upon me from the powers above (the press screening I went to had the most elaborate security arrangement I've gone through to date), I'm not in liberty to expose any details concerning the plot. On the other hand, that also means that you won't have to worry about this review containing any spoilers. Not that I was planning to expose any, but you know, accidents are prone to happen.

At any rate, this 23rd installment in the franchise is essentially, and above all, an ode to its beloved past. References to previous Bond films stack up pretty high, and the whole legacy really comes full circle when we see Daniel Craig get into the seat of the legendary Aston Martin DB5, which for those that remember, made its first appearance in Goldfinger back in 1964. There are tons of other nods of the kind that I would be happy to list, but I'm going to leave them unsaid for now so that you can discover them on your own.

Daniel Craig may remain one of my least favourite Bonds (I currently rank him #4 in the sextet, with Sean Connery at #1), but he's never been less than solid in the role and has really grown into it at this point. As for the rest of the ensemble, there are chiefly three top performances (okay, one is mostly just for her exceptional beauty - and yes, I know you're thinking Judi Dench, but no, it's not her) that stood out for me here.

Starting off with Javier Bardem, whom we may best remember for his chilling performance in No Country for Old Men, he once again projects his dark talents upon the main antagonist Raoul Silva, who is indeed one of the most memorable villains in many a Bond flicks. Truly, one of the great fortes of the film. Next up is Dame Judi Dench, who really gets to shine here in another pivotal and dignified turn, if not her best as "M" to date. Last of three, but definitely not least, I was utterly mesmerized by the stunningly gorgeous Bérénice Marlohe, who makes her Hollywood debut with this film, as one of the two lovely Bond girls. She isn't just a pretty face though, but does really well for herself as the exotic femme fatale, Sévérine.

Treating us to some of the most bombastic action sequences the series has ever seen, it's a sprawling adventure that spans across many nations. There's a segment in Shanghai that is absolutely breathtaking, elevated even more by Roger Deakins' sumptuous cinematography and Sam Mendes' masterful directing.

So although slightly disappointed by the inconsistent tempo, partially dry dialogue and lengthy, action-poor narrative (I think the hype and misleading trailer is to blame), this is nonetheless a classy and well-crafted entry, that I'm sure most fans will admire and enjoy. For when all is said and done, anything that redeems the series from the forgettable mediocrity known as Quantum of Solace is a winner in my book. And after experiencing the nostalgia, sentiments and royally elegant thrills of this film, I conclude with the sincere admittance that this critic was left both shaken and stirred.

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Update: A good night's sleep really made all the difference, because I thought it was much better on a second viewing. Hence, my previous grade has now been revised from 3.5 to 4 stars, which effectively promotes it to one of my Top 3 Bond films of all-time, next to Goldfinger and GoldenEye.

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