Daniel Craig's Bond is back to his distinctive best Discuss this article
‘Were you expecting an exploding pen? We don’t really go in for that any more.’ That’s Ben Whishaw’s Q to Daniel Craig’s James Bond in Skyfall, a Bond movie that struts forward while looking back over its shoulder to the past. That’s what the 007 films are all about – an evolving mix of tradition and progress – and here we have director Sam Mendes bringing to the franchise a stately look, sombre mood and ample room to breathe.
The Bond films are savvy magpies, smartly pinching the shiniest, newest jewels of movie-making for themselves. Quantum of Solace (2008) came a cropper by putting its hand too obviously in the till of the Bourne films.
But Skyfall much more subtly takes its cues not only from the current, moodier breed of superhero movies, but also from the world around us. There are nods to terrorism, data theft, hacking and even attention-grabbing government inquiries – but nothing is specific or exact enough to mean anything significant. This is a Bond movie: atmosphere is all. The appearance of contemporary relevance is enough.
The story sees Bond in an emotional crisis after a failed mission to Istanbul leaves the names of secret agents in the hands of an unknown villain. Trips to Shanghai and Macau follow as 007 pulls himself together and tries to find the culprit. Meanwhile, a delicious foe emerges in Silva (Bardem), a camp, creepy and smooth character who dares to challenge Bond’s masculinity.
Skyfall is a highly distinctive Bond movie. It has some stunning visual touches, and it mostly manages to convince us of Bond’s emotional life beyond this story: rooting his crisis in his relationship (or lack of) with
his parents. Mendes knows there’s a risk of coming over po-faced by omitting the traditional pleasures of a Bond movie, and its only in the second half of the film, which takes place entirely in the UK, that you get the feeling the director has played the compulsory 007 cards that any Bond director has to.
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