Skyfall (2012)

Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Bérénice Marlohe, Albert Finney, Rory Kinnear

Directed by: Sam Mendes

Rating: 1 2 3

Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Okay, I'll come clean. My favourite Bond film is The Living Daylights. I saw it five times when it came out at the cinema, and will still happily drop everything to watch it when it turns up on TV. By 1987, the Bonds of Sean Connery and Roger Moore had come to seem like historical figures from a lost world, their films as relevant to my world as the Doctor in the House or Carry On franchises. Timothy Dalton, however, was the perfect Bond for the late '80s: suave, witty, manly; resourceful, wry and ironic, with an ever-present twinkle in his eye. And for a teenager who'd gone through puberty surrounded by ominous images of icebergs, the modest two notches on his bedpost seemed refreshingly modern too.

Daniel Craig's Bond, on the other hand, is thoroughly at odds with the 21st century: while most of us are busy frantically sharing every detail of our mundane lives with everyone we know, his 007 is tight-lipped, monosyllabic, his face a finely-chiselled, impenetrable mask. I know, he is a spy: they're probably not supposed to tweet. But (and apologies for this because I suspect that criticising Daniel Craig is vastly unpatriotic, if not a treasonous offence) his steely, clench-jawed impassivity does make him rather hard to empathise with. And so, while everything starts off with great aplomb, with a breathtaking train-top chase and suitably stylish titles (when you get over Adele's bizarre enunciation anyway), after that, the series of exotic locations, casinos, posh hotels and so on somehow failed to engage me (read, I fell asleep).

Ben Whishaw as Q in Skyfall

Things liven up when Javier Bardem's bonkers bad guy finally puts in an appearance (and he certainly takes his time in doing so), sporting a bleached, bouffant barnet that vies with his No Country for Old Men bob for villainous hairdon't of the century, and Ben Whishaw's delightfully nerdy and very 21st century Q comes into his own.

But I didn't really connect with the film until Bond and M (Judi Dench) head up the A9 into the Highlands (yes, the A9 actually gets a namecheck) to Bond's desolate, ancestral home of Skyfall. For once, we actually may be in Scotland (as opposed to Poland, or, er South Africa), or at any rate in the lonely, windswept and very, very British landscape of the Brontës, Daphne du Maurier, or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. And we get Albert Finney, excellent value as ever as a bushy-bearded, gung-ho groundsman. Now that's more like it!

Judi Dench as M in Skyfall

Suddenly, Skyfall stops aping every other Bond film you've ever seen before (albeit in an impeccably visualised, visceral, gritty manner) and actually becomes interesting, opening a fascinating window into our hero's troubled past and eventually delivering an ending rich in future possibilities.

I'd definitely urge you to take this review with a pinch of salt and make your own mind up about Skyfall – I was, after all, asleep for part of the first half, my favourite Bond film is, as we've discussed, The Living Daylights, and I'm one of the few people who hated director Sam Mendes Oscar winning yawn-fest American Beauty. For me, however, while the film looked amazing and featured some top notch performance from some of our finest actors, it was over-long, unnecessarily complex and a little bit smug. For me, Skyfall fell short.

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