james bond Skyfall
dir Sam Mendes
scr Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan
prd Barbara Broccoli, Michael G Wilson
with Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Berenice Marlohe, Albert Finney, Ola Rapace, Rory Kinnear, Elize du Toit, Helen McCrory
release UK 26.Oct.12, US 9.Nov.12
12/UK MGM 2h23
Another close shave: Harris and Craig

dench bardem fiennes
Quantum of Solace (2008) Spectre (2015)
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Skyfall Hiring Mendes to direct a James Bond film was a bold move for franchise-holders Broccoli and Wilson, because he keeps the story so deeply personal that it sometimes feels more like an action-drama than a 007 romp. But this also adds a surprisingly thoughtful current alongside the usual thrills.

After a messy Istanbul mission, Bond (Craig) is presumed dead while a henchman makes off with a list of undercover agents. Five of them are outed to the press, with threats of more to come. Which means that government minister Mallory (Fiennes) wants MI6 boss M (Dench) to resign. After Bond resurfaces, he's put on the case and sent to Shanghai to find the villainous Silva (Bardem), who engages Bond in a vicious cat-and-mouse game, escaping from custody. So Bond and M lure Silva to Bond's ancestral Highlands home Skyfall for an epic showdown.

While the film kicks off with a spectacular chase sequence in Turkey, and features the usual action mayhem and slightly less seductive womanising, it differs from the 007 canon by having a villain who isn't interested in world domination or untold riches. No, his motivations are personal, which means that this episode doesn't have a ticking time-bomb under it: Bond is fighting for his own life, not to save Queen and country.

So even though the set-pieces are beautifully staged, shot and edited, the film never really sets our pulses racing. Craig is a solid actor who invests Bond with a fascinating internal life as a gentleman thug. And his bond with Dench's M has never been so thoroughly explored, which adds an emotional kick. Thankfully, there's still plenty of enjoyable banter with Harris (as a fellow spy), Whishaw (as Q) and Marlohe (as a mysterious sexpot), plus an unrecognisable Finney as an old friend. And Bardem is marvellously camp with layers of nastiness.

There are also nods to 50 years of Bond movies in subtle touches (drinking a 1962 Scotch) and broad gags (that Aston Martin DB5). And the political subplot adds the only moment of suspense as M faces a government grilling while Silva's brutal plot explodes in the background. In the end, the film is entertaining and thoughtful instead of exhilarating and fun. Not a bad trade-off.

cert 12 themes, violence, language, innuendo 12.Oct.12

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© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall