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On Film4: 4 Sep 1:00AM
Daniel Craig returns as James Bond in Sam Mendes' take on the world's greatest secret agent.
James Bond's previous adventure (Quantum Of Solace) may have trousered half a billion dollars, but its reputation in the Bond canon is less than stellar, and audiences don't forget such disappointments quickly. Skyfall's mission, then, is clear: restore faith in 007. Like its enduring protagonist, the film cannot afford to fail.
To this end, director Sam Mendes has been recruited to put 007 back where he belongs - on top. The obvious way to achieve this is to return to the tropes associated with the best Bond films. It's a method that's worked repeatedly in the series' history; whenever public opinion turns against him, Bond goes back to basics.
And so Skyfall launches with a terrific pre-title sequence, as Bond demolishes half a Turkish bazaar attempting to capture a minor bad guy before embarking on a stunning, stunt-packed scrap aboard a train. Adele's Shirley Bassey-esque theme kicks in, and we're into the film proper. The entire sequence feels designed to reassure a nervous audience that yes, the Bond you know and love is back.
In actual fact, he's not. Not yet, anyway. Following the events of the pre-title sequence, Bond is a scruffy, stubbly shadow of his former self. And as the film's true villain, Silva (Javier Bardem), reveals his plan to strike at the heart of MI6 - and at M (Judi Dench) herself - it's doubtful that Bond is in any state to take him on. The rest of the film sees a deconstructed hero slowly reconstructed, but not without a price, and the result is a Bond film unlike any other.
It's the blend of familiarity and freshness which ensures Skyfall's success. Mendes and the film's writers understand that it's not just returning to Bond's roots that keeps him alive but it's also the bravery to explore the character's previously unseen emotional levels. The requisite Bond Girls (Naomie Harris, Bérénice Marlohe) and action sequences are present, and even a new Q (Ben Whishaw) pops up to strengthen the link to the past, but they're all secondary to the bold, emotional core of the film: Bond's relationship with M.
With a leading cast at their best and a script that balances thrills and humour with believable characterisation, Mendes delivers a unique entry in the fifty-year-old franchise. It's been a long wait, but it's finally safe to say that Bond is well and truly back.
The Bond cocktail is given another good hard shake, and the result is not just a cracking entry in the franchise but also a fitting tribute to 007 in his fiftieth cinematic year. Cheers!
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