Britain’s favourite secret agent returns to much fanfare in the latest instalment of the James Bond series.
But this is no typical Bond film.
Since Daniel Craig took over the role of Bond, the films – which admittedly had become a little ridiculous by the time Pierce Brosnan handed over the Walther PPK – have grown much darker in tone, and gone back to basics with gritty action sequences, torture and betrayal.
Skyfall continues the stripped back tradition, even featuring a new, much younger Q, who provides Bond with nothing more than a gun, radio transmitter and a plane ticket, responding to 007’s surprise with a quip about exploding pens.
The film opens with a thrilling chase through the bazaars and countryside of Turkey, as Bond and co-agent, Eve, hunt down a villainous assassin who has stolen a data file containing the identities of various undercover operatives. From cars to motorbikes to trains, the action comes to an end in a heart-stopping moment as M, following the events from her office in rainy London, must make a brutal decision that could permanently damage her relationship with Bond.
So the scene is set for MI6 and M in particular, to deal with an adversary who may be closer than they would like to think. As the villain, Javier Bardem is a bleach-blond, scenery chewing whirlwind of psychotic energy and revenge plans. I have to admit that whenever he was on the screen I did cringe a little at his overacting. Some may find his performance as a megalomaniac genius outstanding, but I found it jarred against the overall tone of the film.
Judi Dench has been a feature of the series for some time now, but in Skyfall she is given a lot more screen time and becomes much more central to the plot, as does her relationship with 007.
As with the other Daniel Craig films, we learn more about Bond’s origins, as the story takes us back to his childhood home in the desolate wilds of Scotland. Craig is the most brutal of the Bonds so far, playing the spy as a damaged hero rather than the suave and witty ladies’ man of earlier incarnations.
Skyfall does also feature some outstanding locations, including the striking Hashima Island, with its genuine ghost town of abandoned mine and worker’s housing blocks. I was disappointed that the island didn’t play a bigger part in the story.
But this is another solid action thriller, which sets the scene for a new regime come the next instalment.
And not (quite) a Heineken in sight.