50 years old. 23 films down. It’s pretty incredible that James Bond is still even relevant, so when I say that Skfyall – Academy Award winning Sam Mendes’ envisioning of the British icon – is the best yet, I do not say it lightly. This is, in my honest opinion, the best blockbuster of 2012.
When MI6 comes under attack, James Bond (Daniel Craig) must return from obscurity to fight the threat that seems to be targeting M (Judi Dench). As the past comes back to haunt her, we begin to see the dirt the intelligence agency has swept under the rug over the years. So Bond, like he always does, sets out on an international chase to find the mysterious man who’s to blame for all the violence and who seems to have some unfinished business with M.
Skyfall feels fresh and new but somehow, and I think this is Mendes’ real achievement; it keeps the essence of classic Bond and just hints at that twinge of nostalgia. The infusion of the two – and how it treats Bond – taking the iconic persona it (in a very respectful way) begins to peal it away leaving you nothing more than Bond as a character, a very raw and broken character. As we finally get to see the man behind the seductive smirk and sharp wit. Then with the underpinning theme of age, especially with Bond and M, and how even though they have the correct mind-set and passion, their actual bodies may not be what they used to, brings the slap of realism it needs to keep its feet on the ground.
It also, in a masterful stroke, brings Bond back to Britain. The London skyline, its busy roads and Tube acting like the perfect backdrop for this thrilling tale. The visceral feeling of ‘this is happening on our soil’, as we see monuments and architecture burned into the British public’s subconscious in danger, has an impact. And Mendes orchestrates everything with ease; don’t get me wrong, it still abides by the Bond formula, but using all his skill he injects a hell of a lot of personality to it, allowing us to finally begin to see the human element behind the character.
Craig once again shines as Bond, with Bardem and Dench supplying some great support. But, maybe surprisingly, they are not the heroes of Skyfall, nor is director Sam Mendes. This is Roger Deakins’ movie, truly and wholly, his photography – in basically every scene – is nothing short of breath-taking. His elegance adds a completely new level to franchise, an overwhelming beauty that has never been as ever-present in any of its predecessors. The script and direction are both excellent, but it’s Deakins’ talent that breathes them into life and makes them shine.
Fast-paced, stylish and feeling a snippet of its 143 minute runtime, if Casino Royale was the Batman Begins of the Bond franchise – re-birthing a new vigour into the character – then Skyfall is the franchise’s The Dark Knight. It takes the character to new heights, not just with action and beauty, but with depth. This is Daniel Craig’s Bond, and now, after three films, he has finally made it 100% his own.