James Bond is presumed K.I.A. on a mission but is lured back into service by an elaborate cyber-terrorist threat targeting MI6 itself.
Skyfall seems to begin as yet another “evil hacker takes over the world with his dastardly laptop” story that has become as tedious as it is ubiquitous in this day and age. Combining this concept with the old “I’m too old for this shit” theme that first reared its head in the Lethal Weapon franchise and some moments of irrelevant Bond totty and cheesy quips and I feared Skyfall had fallen into the same trap of excessively self-referential corn for its 50th birthday that Die Another Day tumbled into. And then Javier Bardem appeared on the screen.
The character dynamic is very like that of The Dark Knight; Craig faces off against an effeminate, playful yet clearly psychotic version of himself and all the cyber-nonsense falls away to become a personal duel between the two men for the affections of their adopted mother figure. Sam Mendes’ direction takes a far more subtle approach when harking back to Bond’s past as he battles the anti-Bond whilst hurtling backwards through his life amidst decaying monuments to empire. The classic DB5 makes a welcome return and makes for a literal blast from the past culminating in a Straw Dogs style showdown with a military helicopter – like North By Northwest on steroids – as Bond’s own past burns to the ground all around him. It’s a daring rewrite of the history of 007 leading up to the classic Bond/M/Moneypenny dynamic from the very beginnings of the character and Sam Mendes pulls it off beautifully. I personally preferred Casino Royale but at the same time I suspect that repeated viewings of Skyfall are required and will be appropriately rewarding.
It’s yet more proof that a 12A blockbuster in the right hands can become something with sophistication and adult themes and it begs the question why studios choose to hand these kinds of projects and their associated multi-million dollar budgets over to talentless hacks with such depressing regularity.