See, this is what happens when you get Sam Mendes to direct a Bond movie. Theatrically trained, critically acclaimed for serious stuff such as American Beauty and Road to Perdition – he’s gonna mess with it, isn’t he? Frankly, I’m relieved. The Bourne-style overstuffed action and frantic editing was starting to get me down. But Skyfall, even though two of its writers (Neal Purvis, Robert Wade) are veteran Bond hands, has indeed been messed with, in a good way. Could be to do with John Logan (Hugo, Coriolanus) joining the writing team – and he’s up for the next two as well.
In fact, fresh blood is all over this 23rd Bond. That’s what it’s about, really. Death and resurrection, refreshing the franchise and passing the baton to a new generation. New cast stepping into old roles, new vs old threats and weaponry, the new world (slick, shiny, busy Shanghai) vs the old (wild, natural, empty Scotland) … while at the same time age and the ways of the past are given a salute of acknowledgement. It doesn’t labour the point, but in both obvious and subliminal ways, it’s like a motif. Which is why this Bond contains a little more substance than most.
It also offers more character interest. Daniel Craig’s Bond was already shifting from traditional one-dimensionality into something moodier, and now there’s insight into his family that will no doubt invite comparisons with Batman. Whether it’ll get darker is anybody’s guess. Don’t worry – there are still girls, guns, gags, gadgets and global roaming, plus the suspension of disbelief, but it’s less busy and sometimes you can even see people thinking.
The plot’s simple. Someone’s stolen the list of MI6 agents. They’re being knocked off, but the real target is M ( Judi Dench). It’s through protecting her that Bond’s confronted with his past as well as the villain
– the latter another of Javier Bardem’s amusingly eccentric creations, again with the assistance of hair and makeup. So, hardcore action junkies might be disappointed, but with the new talent on board – including Ralph Fiennes and Ben Whishaw – these theme and character developments just might succeed in delivering that rejuvenation.
SKYFALL, directed by Sam Mendes
Films are rated out of 5: 1 = abysmal; 5 = amazing