How do you revive a formula over 20 movies in? How do you keep the series fresh and interesting?
If Casino Royale was the reboot the Bond franchise needed, then Skyfall is the boot up the reboot the Bond franchise needed. After a long wait, this new installment had to deliver, especially seeing as Quantum Of Solace was pretty poorly received by critics and audiences. With a mammoth running time of two and a half hours, a cool trailer preceding it and a promising cast, Sam Mendes' new Bond looked set to be something pretty special.
And indeed, I'm happy to report, it is.
Here we have a Bond film which not only sets out to tell a compelling 007 tale but honor the now 50 year-old franchise with tons of clever, sometimes quite subtle, references to classic Bond films not to mention a more personal and, ultimately, more meaningful approach to the character. Yes you've got your old Aston Martin, your baby Q (played by Ben Whishaw), new gadgets but Skyfall never goes for a wink-wink-nudge-nudge clusterf*** of dumb references with no logic to them the way Die Another Day went about it. The film instead includes all the usual obligatory ingredients that make up a Bond film but couches them within a solid, emotional rollercoaster-ride of a plot which takes its characters into uncharted waters all the way to a surprising, bittersweet finale the likes of which we haven't seen since...
...On Her Majesty's Secret Service?
Man, that was aaaaages ago.
And boy that movie blew...
But anyway, if Casino Royale was the Daniel Craig years' Batman Begins, then Skyfall is this new trilogy's Dark Knight: a LOT of things happen and they're all crazy-important. You've got a brilliant Joker-style villain in Javier Bardem's Raoul Silva, a guy you underestimate at first, dismissing him as nothing more than a run-of-the-mill cartoon Bond antagonist but by the end you'll be having No Country For Old Men flashbacks. The way the character is developed and built-up as a threat little by little is cleverly done and works completely. Actually, Skyfall does a great job of NOT pulling off the usual expected cliches. For a while there, every Bond film wanted to be and, to a certain extent, was Goldeneye! And honestly, as much as I enjoy Goldeneye, it's basically a glorified 007 cartoon. I'm pretty glad that Skyfall goes for something else entirely, which is also why I enjoyed Quantum Of Solace to a certain extent.
Thankfully, Skyfall doesn't forget to have fun and before we get to that tense, bleak (but still thrilling) third act, there's enough MI6 mayhem to keep you glued to the edge of your seat while popcorn chunks ooze out of your nostrils. The pre-titles sequence is relentless and brilliantly done, you get a stealthy, suspenseful Shanghai mission in the second act and loads of London-based cat-and-mouse games. The film takes what made both films before it good and dumps the crap stuff while adding a bunch of cool little twists and turns to the mix.
Overall, Skyfall is one of the best blockbusters of the year and one of the best Bond films in a while. And seeing as Sam Mendes is open to take on one or two more 007 outings, this looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Welcome back, Mr Bond.