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Bond on the run – ★★★★

Believe it or not, it’s actually been four years since we last spent a few hours in the company of Jimmy Bond. You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s been less than that due to the pre-release coverage that MGM and Columbia have been shamelessly pushing over the last two years. The tools and medium may be changing but the promotional cycle seems to have been the same for every new Bond since Pierce Brosnan relaunched the franchise with 1995’s Goldeneye…

  • Confirmation of Bond actor and discussion of his big fat salary
  • Bond girl speculation and hiring. She’s an unknown. But kinda hot. Fair enough.
  • Director brought on board (usually a cost-effective action-specialist who knows his place)
  • Slew of on-set photos published as tabloid newspapers go to town on sexy shirtless Bond
  • Analysis of all the sponsorship and product placement deals that will pepper the film
  • Complete Bond brand bombing. 2012 Summary – you need to be wearing James Bond aftershave while watching Sky Movies 007.

It’s a well-trodden path that means absolutely everyone on the planet knows when there is a new film in the series. If you’re sad obsessives like us Spoooolers then it means your consumption of regular AND film media is dominated by the character and makes it almost impossible to approach release day without fatigue and with fresh eyes.

The twenty-third film in the series (I now make it 67 hours and 38 minutes to watch them all, best clear a long weekend for that marathon) focuses on the strength of the relationship between James Bond (Daniel Craig) and M (Judi Dench) as one of her personal demons, played by Javier Bardem, returns and aims to reek havoc on her life and her beloved agency MI6. The fact that the film opens on a scene that sees M putting Bond’s life in danger suggests there may be some acrimony but obviously this quickly peters away. Support comes from Naomie Harris’s Eve, Ralph Fiennes’ Mallory, Ben Whishaw’s Q and Albert Finney’s Kincade. Bérénice Marlohe plays the obligatory Bond girl with a mysterious past who doesn’t get a whole lot to do other than look attractively dangerous.

While plenty of credit can go to the cast, Skyfall’s greatest strength undoubtedly comes from the trinity of director, writers and cinematographer that were brought in by long-term franchise producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli. Heading up this troop is one of Britain’s finest directors Sam Mendes, a man better known for character-focused dramas like American Beauty, Road to Perdition and Revolutionary Road. Writing credits are shared by long-time Bond writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, but this time with the added input from Mendes collaborator and academy award nominee (most recently for last year’s Hugo) John Logan. Rounding out the team is Roger Deakins, one of the world’s best-known cinematography fellows. It’s this crew combination which means Skyfall avoids many of the clichéd pratfalls that inhibit so many of the franchise’s offerings – pointless card games, boring car chases, bland bad guys. Instead the film looks absolutely gorgeous and uses believable and tense action scenes that actually drive the story along. What a treat.

| o | – Heart of glass

The film lags a little in its first hour as Mendes and his screenwriters struggle to set out all their pieces. It’s not until close to this one hour mark that we’re even introduced to one of the film’s strongest elements, its villain – Javier Bardem’s Raoul Silva. Silva is a blonde weirdo who is a brilliant addition to the range of villains we’ve been treated to over the last fifty years. While his actions may have taken some pointers from Heath Ledger’s Joker, Bardem still makes the character his own with a series of delightfully freaky quirks. Craig has never been the  most charismatic Bond, and so his subtle coolness makes Bardem’s Silva the perfect foil.

The final act of Skyfall has been kept largely secret without much play in the film’s trailers. There is a big reveal which we won’t spoil, but we will say that the peril that comes with these final scenes reminds you just how much you care about these characters and what happens to them. Technology and modern combat is taken out of the equation and we’re treated to a back-to-basics trip to Scotland with an Aston Martin DB5, moonlight, mountains, lakes, secret tunnels, shotguns, dynamite and a creepy old house. The only thing we’re missing is a cameo from Sean Connery in a kilt.

The film is too long at 143 minutes (though it is worth noting that the only Bond film under two hours in the last 40 years is Quantum of Solace and it’s crap) but in that time it manages to pack one hell of a punch and delivers for fans and indifferents alike.

Even though he won’t do it, can they at least try and sign up Mendes for Bond 24 now please?

UK  /  Directed By: Sam Mendes  /  Written By: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan  /  Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Albert Finney, Ben Whishaw, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris  /  143min  /   Action   /  Release: 26 October 2012 (Ireland/UK), 9 November 2012 (US/Canada)