As someone who isn’t a big Bond fan, who mildly liked, and not loved Casino Royale and was utterly frustrated with Quantum of Solace, I had just one question while walking into the new Bond film. Just how much of an improvement would Skyfall be? The answer, luckily, is that Skyfall is stunning, and a hell of a blast.
Taking over reigns from the much maligned Quantum of Solace’s Marc Forster, director Sam Mendes handily wipes the floor with all of the previous Bond movies to date. This is a new kind of Bond, neither the uber gritty Bourne-esque action star nor the gizmo pumping compulsive humping cocky hair gel model. Mendes sort of creates a hybrid of both the personalities and brings his own special flavor into the whole thing. The result is a sophisticated, surprisingly playful, yet surprisingly emotional story that makes you care for Bond when he is hit by a bullet, rather than simply expecting him to be a bullet sponge baddie killer like Big B in Agneepath.
Much like the previous few entries in the fifty year franchise, Skyfall opens with a slam bang action set piece, and straight into Adele’s magnificent song juxtaposed to some groovy CGI fused credits. Going too much into the story would ruin most of the fun, because the only major flaw of Skyfall is the lack of a big doomsday conspiracy for Bond to fight against. Bond (Daniel Craig, once again in his element), is hot on the trail of a mysterious man who has gotten hold of some Wikileaks style information that would cripple MI6. It isn’t a cake walk for Bond because to get to the Mystery Man, he has to sleep with his girlfriend like Kareena Kapoor in Kurbaan, and in an epoch busting screenwriting twist, this time things get personal. The computer hacking bad guy’s big plan isn’t much different from that of the villain in Die Hard 4, but Javier Bardem absolutely annihilates the acting competition this year. Bardem doles out a Joker-Chigurh cocktail and he's gleefully awesome – one of the best, if not the best Bond villain to date. Bardem arrives sinfully late in the film but immediately sucks you in with his brilliant Oscar-snagging opening monologue.
There is plenty of action, but it isn’t slapped on just for the sake of it. Roger Deakins’ camera stays still and lets you in on the action instead of jerking the lens around. And when there’s no gunplay you’re invited to soak in the gorgeous Scottish, Chinese, Turkish locales. There’s even the abandoned Hashima Island as Bardem's lair, but sadly we don’t get to experience the scale of a lone villain residing on a whole island. What works, however, is the band of supporting cast, where Judi Dench finally gets a much meatier role as M, with Naomie Harris and Ralph Fiennes joining in for further franchise duties. Mendes knows the amount of ridicule the latter Pierce Brosnan movies received, and cheekily parodies them with Ben Whishaw’s gadget guru Q. Chris Nolan has expressed interest in doing a Bond film, but Skyfall is probably the most Nolan-esque Bond movie you’ll get. Watch it to know why.
(First published in MiD Day)