James Bond: Skyfall ★★★

James Bond: Skyfall is the 23rd film in a series that has spanned 50 years. My ticket to the preview at the ODEON in Leicester Square. Images © Hollie Borland

With a series of 23 films, spanning half a century, featuring around 85 Bond girls and six different Bonds, how does one create something fresh? One doesn’t. One merely starts with the familiar and twists it and turns it and manipulates it in a way that makes an audience believe it is unfamiliar. Thus Skyfall is created.

‘New’ is not something fans have always craved – Bond is traditional: he went to Eton, he drinks a Martini and he has a love for Queen and country to rival none. After all, we did display him as a national treasure in the Olympic Opening ceremony. No, we don’t want anything new, we want a show. And boy don’t we get one.

Director Sam Mendes has taken the challenge and blown it right out of the sky. A pre-credits chase scene puts you right back where you belong – accepting the stupidly impossible, yet desirably cool moves that can only be described as ‘Bond’. Even when all seems lost, the full four-minutes-plus of Adele seems so right. From scenes in Shanghai messing with your head, to a one to one on an isolated island off of Macoa, to straightforward shooting scenes in Scotland, I found myself trying to stay one step ahead of a game I couldn’t quite fathom.

With a wikileaks-esque storyline, Bond (Daniel Craig) is sent to recover a hard drive stolen by cyber-terrorists, which holds a list of names of Nato operatives, which are leaked gradually over the Internet. As well as being pressured to quit her job as head of MI6, M (Judi Dench) faces a dilemma when her Head Quarters are blown up.

The central theme is old and new, highlighted by the number of times the word “transition” is mentioned. Dench looks noticeably old and Craig’s rough, aging look is emphasised when the young new Q (Ben Whishaw) tells Bond that “We don’t go in for exploding pens any more.” In some scenes this theme is in danger of becoming too sentimental. The secret to 007 is that we think we know him, but as M says, he’s a creature of the shadows and is better off left there. Thankfully, the storyline delves little deeper than his relationship with M– any more and Bond would become simple James.

There are moments in Skyfall where Bond appears almost to have given up, lost his flare, and you find yourself watching with desperation, hoping against hope that he will find it again. Craig’s moody, brazen Bond is pleasantly balanced by Javier Bardem’s delectable villain, Silva. The camp, sensual, playfulness lacking in Bond, Silva more than makes up for. Almost suspiciously relishing in being caught, Silva is playing a game that may just be too big for agent 007.

Even with minimal gadgets and an unexpected Bond girl, I found myself laughing out loud, gasping, biting my nails. From the 007 theme music to the Aston Martin DB5, previously seen in Gold Finger, I got that familiar feeling falling through unknown waters. Skyfall is tense, funny, tantalisingly good, and so very, very Bond.

Skyfall is released in the UK on 26th October 2012. Watch the trailer below.

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