Skyfall ★★★★½

It's been a funny old decade for Mr Bond, 10 years ago the 40th anniversary Bond movie Die Another Day saw the franchise not just shoot itself in the foot - it proceeded to chop the foot off and flush it down the toilet into a cesspit of effects-heavy and self-referential poop!
The reboot arrived with Casino Royale which surprised everyone by not just being commercially successful but critically successful too, it wasn't to everyone's tastes with its Bourne-a-like editing and lack of traditional elements but it gave the Bond slate a much needed wipe clean.......
Then Quantum Of Solace happened, the franchise dropped the ball again. Perhaps the success of Casino Royale was taken too much for granted and the reboot became a rebomb. Audiences were confused and genuinely let-down. To add insult to injury the MGM financial situation put Bond on the to-do list once again.

So we come full circle to the next big anniversary - the 50th - and anticipation has never been so high - which way will it go? Traditional or NuBond?

Why not both?

Skyfall, to put it as simply as possible gets it "right". There's an overall feeling that the Bond team have sat back and had a good honest think about what the audience wants......and that is something we usually can't have - the best of both worlds. I don't wish to blow my own trumpet but I knew from the moment I saw that Casino Royale was lacking many Bond elements that evenutally tradition would slowly work its way back in and the Bond franchise would be rebuilt from within.

Skyfall has a melancholic mood that drives the whole story forward, there are demons here that need to be faced. The past has to be dealt with and everything needs to move on, the whole movie IS the position the Bond franchise is in. Very brave of the team to more or less admit on screen that it is in a sense "now or never".

The core story is brilliantly easy to follow thus avoiding any alienation of the more casual Bond fan, what could be simpler than "they've got something we want, we need to get it back"?
There's minimal globe-trotting which for once is very welcome. Focussing on England and London comes across as a huge thank you to Bonds original audience and a great nod to 2012 which has been a Great British year.
Characters are clear and simple, their motives and allegiances are set out and never change - I don't know about you, but I tire of the "double-crossing" twists that plague many movies these days. Each character truly is part of the story and no one seems to be just dressing the set.

Action wise it's great and almost understated, the story really pushes the movie along - the action happens at the right time and never outstays its welcome. The pre-credits is a classic that nods to Octopussy and The Living Daylights without the need to hammer the point home. For me, the action highlight is the beautifully shot fight scene set against a neon-lit backdrop in Shanghai......less is indeed more.

Performances are spot on, the choice of actors over models and novelty-casting has paid off. Seeing the calibre of Ralph Fiennes and Naomie Harris certainly gives hope for the future. I was especially impressed by Berenice Marlohe as Severine, a relatively small role but non the less amazing. I don't think any Bond girl has been so dangerously, erotically enticing as her before - she was perfect.
Craig has really become Bond now, he's as intense as ever but seems more at ease with the role and his humour is certainly coming through.

So, I mentioned earlier "the best of both worlds" - this is the Bond that should in theory please everyone. There's lots in this film about old vs new and none of it's very subtle. Sam Mendes does a great job in pulling back on the much criticised Bourne style editing and direction, he makes it much more accessible to the wider audience. The scale of the whole thing seems to be kept on a much tighter rein with the previously mentioned Shanghai sequence the only exotic location that registers. The nods to old Bond are fantastic and very welcome, an obvious sign that producers value their core audience. The nods to future Bond are pleasing and demonstrate trust that the audience can handle changes.

Like all movies, look deeper and there are flaws and maybe the odd "as if" moment but when something is as stunning and well made as this they are forgivable and forgettable. If mistakes lead to the whole movie tripping up then I would take issue and question it (yes Prometheus I'm looking at you) but in this case it's all so skilfully handled you just go with the flow.

Of all the clichés in all the world "Bond is Back" is a very overused one but in this case it really is true. The last two Craig movies were kind of "Bond on loan", Skyfall cements the fact that Bond has done his time on the naughty step and he's accepted he needs to grow up.

All that's left is for us to enjoy him......again and again.

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