The reboot of the James Bond franchise with Casino Royale was one of the most bizarre and pointless decisions committed to film by any production team.
The 007 franchise owners are celebrating 50 years of James Bond, yet the current film series only dates back six years. Jettisoning the past and then clawing it back in order to claim longevity really is an exercise in having your cake and eating it.
What’s more, the reboot gave the franchise nothing. Indeed it turned the accomplished 007, who M knew she could always turn to, into the office new boy. It was never clear why she’d despatch him on any mission over 00’s 1 to 6.
Skyfall is a decent and largely successful attempt to give the character back some of the status he used to enjoy.
Spoilers do lurk below.
The plot is actually quite thin, former MI-6 agent Raoul Silva (a camp and at times OTT Javier Bardem) decides to destroy M (Judi Dench) in revenge for giving him up years before and allowing him to be tortured.
To achieve her downfall he blows up MI-6’s Thames-side offices and hacks into their mainframe, ensuring that even when captured he enjoys the upper-hand.
Director Sam Mendes keeps the film moving fast enough that the minimal plot doesn’t really matter and the action sequences are among the franchise’s best.
But there’s no escaping that in story and scope, Skyfall is actually a pretty small film with an inward looking plot and the action largely taking place in London and Scotland – the usual Bond globetrotting is largely confined to the start of the film.
The fan theory that James Bond is a codename handed down to successive agents is demolished during the film’s climax with the action taking place in and around the Bond family’s ancestral home.
By the time the credits roll there’s no escaping the fact that there’s only one James Bond in this timeline, even if he somehow has Sean Connery’s DB5 , complete with ejector seat and machine guns hiding behind the headlamps, stored in his garage.
Yet while the producers cement their rebooted timeline, they simultaneously undo some of the biggest changes it brought to the series.
First we get to a great new Q (Ben Whishaw), played very much in the David Tennant ‘Geek Chick’ mould, as well as a new Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) who appears throughout the film but isn’t named until the final scene.
MI6 Chief of Staff Bill Tanner (Rory Kinnear) also returns to the franchise.
But while the wider MI-6 family is finally restored, Skyfall marks Dench’s departure from the series, her M is killed at the hands of Silva and his henchmen. She dies in a poignant scene, held by a weeping Bond.
Which brings us to Daniel Craig, his Bond is the best of any era and grows in stature as the story progresses. Whoever succeeds him when the times comes will have heck of a job to pull off.
The final scene – in which Harris is unveiled as Moneypenny – provoked groans and a few sniggers from the audience I saw the film with. In a film about secrets, her’s is pretty loudly telegraphed throughout.
The same scene returns Bond to the world of the 60’s – the new M (Ralph Fiennes) is based in an office straight out of the Connery films which no longer seems to be located in Vauxhall Cross, suggesting the films and reality may be about to part company once more.
Despite the hype being poured all over it by some, Skyfall isn’t the best Bond ever. In fact it’s not even close. But it is a great Bond film, packed with thrills, gags, stunts and plenty of action.
Our verdict: 4/5