Skyfall ★★★

After the glowing reviews, I was looking forward to this. Sam Mendes and a really stellar cast; what could go wrong?

The answer is really, not all that much, but I don't think it's the magnificent return to form it's been hailed as after the turgid mess that was Quantum of Solace.

It certainly starts well; the opening scene is a great extended action sequence featuring Craig and Naomi Harris trashing half of Istanbul in pursuit of Ola Rapace's mercenary (who also happens to be wielding the most phallic gun I've ever seen!). It remains vaguely in the realms of plausibility but with a few flamboyant stunts that pull away from the Bourne-again verite of the two previous Craig films. Great stuff, and leads into the a great intro sequence with a surprisingly palatable Adele warble that mainlines prime Shirley Bassey nostalgia.

From there though, and despite some excellent work from Dame Judi in particularly I wasn't particularly gripped by the plot. Granted, it has a neat elegiac tone similar to Mendes' own Road to Perdition. M and Bond are seen as playing on past glories, and their frailties are exposed under the harsh glare of a new age; seen as anachronistic and over-the-hill. This is hammered home by the appearance of the youthful new Q (a superb Ben Wishaw, who benefits from an extended screen-time that old Desmond Llewelyn never got), and that it's suitably a shadow from the past that returns to haunt poor M.

This shadow takes the form of Raoul Silva, ex-agent who believes himself betrayed by M. I can't overstate how the film suddenly comes alive with the introduction of Javier Bardem. In keeping with the theme, he resides in a crumbling ruin of a formerly opulent island off Macau. He's an injection of flamboyant, malevolent energy into the poe-faced proceedings. His first scene is pitched perfectly between scary and camp as he pours himself over Bond. It's effortlessly the best scene in the film, closely followed by the 'hydrogen cyanide' scene as he Lecters it up at the beleaguered M.

Next to him, Craig's Bond is shown up as a slightly one-note automaton. The film tries to inject some humanity into him, with some interesting back-story but he responds with nothing more than a mildly-pained glance into the middle distance. OK, he's supposed to be practically crippled by traumatic memories hence his taciturnity, but Craig never really sells it for me.

I really did like the nods to old-school Bond towards the end. The Aston Martin, the knowing gag about the ejector seat, the excellently low-tech guerilla tactics against Silva's ultra-tech weaponry. It does slightly beat the audience round the head with its message that sometimes the old tricks work just fine for the old dogs, but its certainly crowd-pleasing and unusually emotional for a Bond.

So, it's a statement that the oldies are often the best, while also acting as a passing of the torch for some familiar characters. It is excellent in places, it's just a shame that these places only correspond to Bardem's on-screen presence and this comes way too late into the film.

Kevin liked this review