Running Time: 143 minutes
US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 12A
Country: United Kingdom, United States
After Daniel Craig opened up his stint as the you’re-not-allowed-the-mess-this-up Bond with the excellent Casino Royale and then followed it up with the grimly poor Quantum of Solace, it was interesting to see if the Aryan one would follow a Brosnanesque decent into the mediocre.
Near the beginning of Skyfall, Bond apparently gets bumped off by his own team only to turn up again when he’s needed to protect M from a David Walliams lookalike who’s predictably shacked up on his own private island. Thankfully, this time, it’s the bad guy who got a one-track revenge fetish not Bond and he gets a vague backstory without the dots being joined too obviously.
The best way to rate a Bond is how it does with the main Bond constituents: the classic constants, the characters and the action-story meld. There are the gadgets, the car porn, the baddies who do things the hard way, the party crashing, the sex pesting and the loose women. There are also a great menagerie of characters with Craig’s Bond showing a hitherto unseen vulnerability which adds an increased fascination to him wading into battle more Johnny English than well-oiled killing machine. Dame Judi Dench, despite disturbingly turning into Yoda, plays M to a tea as a cranky old lady and, judging by most of the old ladies I know, puts in a believable turn. Bardem’s unconventional Bond baddie is just what’s needed; memorable and a little strange, however, it’s Albert Finney who steals the show as Kincade, the old school gamekeeper.
The finale and opening scenes of Skyfall are truly spectacular. We begin in familiar exotic environs, Istanbul on this occasion, and then the climactic action of possibly one of the best extended Bond scenes for decades takes place, not in Monte Carlo or some random Eastern European city that looks suspiciously like Prague, but the misty Highlands of Scotland. The attractively desolate surroundings of the middle of nowhere in Scotland add a beautifully atmospheric element to the final showdown. The only, but fairly significant, downside to Skyfall is the mid-part where Sam Mendes loses his way with unengaging action that unnecessarily drags out the runtime.
It's Got: Monte Carlo swapped for Scotland, the return of a wise cracking, alcoholic, substance-dependent Bond, gay baddie
It Needs: To be tighter and more engaging in the middle third - for example, the fifteen minute chase scene on the London Underground could easily have been cut
Craig and Mendes put in an above average turn in the Bond series. Some great action sequences sit uneasily next to some extremely mediocre ones but the story and the fascinating bunch of characters keep things interesting.