Skyfall is the greatest Bond film of my lifetime, potentially of anyone’s lifetime. And the BEST thing is that if you’d never even heard of 007 until you saw him help the Queen bomb out of a helicopter (“FALL” out of the “SKY”) into the Olympic Stadium earlier this summer it doesn’t matter. Skyfall isn’t just alright for a Bond flick. It’s incredible for an action movie. It had to be.
For 50 years Bond completed his missions, bagged a broad, let the credits role and departed with a promise: “James Bond will return”. But why return to fight, or die, another day when there’s enough of him to fill ITV2’s entire schedule? The challenges to the series have evolved. There’s competition from Bourne, 3D and the revamped Batman. There’s the recession, which delayed production for months. And then there’s Bond himself. He’s just so... British.
Like Britain, Bond belongs in the past; an affable, yet laughable, relic. His first outing in Dr No was in 1962, the same year The Beatles released 'Love Me Do' – a long time ago. It’s no coincidence that Skyfall’s script features the words “old” and” fashioned” a lot. But wait... it’s 2012. Team GB rules the waves. Something bizarre’s happening for antiquated remnants of yore. Could Skyfall be the first blockbuster in a post-Olympics Britannia?
The answer: OH YESH. Brilliant action movies don’t overcomplicate the plot (*sideways glance at 2008’s Quantum Of Solace*). Skyfall is simple. Like many a Bond before, Daniel Craig dies (but not really) again. Rather than texting his boss M (“Yo, I’m alive!”), he regresses like a shipwrecked hunter-gatherer on some far-flung beach, consuming women, glugging on beers. Until an attack on Mi6 by an agent-turned-rogue awakens his conscience and he returns, not-so-ready for action.
A simple plot needn’t mean an unsophisticated one. Bond’s fallibility is a reminder that this isn’t Cold War-era 007. Terrorism lives in our homes now, the glory days of innuendo-named lovers and ridiculous gadgetry are done. Frankly, there’s no time for dicking about. Director Sam Mendes saw how Christopher Nolan rejuvenated Batman, transforming a stale franchise into something ingenius on global issues. Mendes headbutts modern insurgency with a film-stealing performance by Javier Bardem as a post-Joker villain, a menacing homosexual with a Richard Branson haircut and a Norman Bates complex. He’s so terrifying Mendes gets away with cinema’s first post-7/7 attack on the London Underground.
But enough serious stuff, Skyfall’s bloody cool. It’s witty without those lines (you know the ones); it’s a love letter to London drizzle, BBC News and NHS ambulances; it’s Dame Judi at her most Churchillian; it’s a classic car. Adele’s theme tune is a narcolepsy-inducing copy of Shirley Bassey numbers... and even it works. He might be 50 but James Bond never looked younger.