Right it's that time again to suspend your disbelief, and re-enter the charming world of James Bond in Sam Mendes' first dip into the franchise with Skyfall – an occasion to mark the 50th birthday of Ian Fleming's creation - as our favourite secret agent celebrates the only way he knows how; in absolute style.
We begin in Istanbul where James Bond (Daniel Craig) and his accomplice Eve (Naomie Harris) are chasing down a terrorist to reclaim a hard drive containing the names of Nato operatives, which if revealed, could spark the loss of various lives. However, Bond is accidentally shot down and while believed dead, the cyber-terrorists take advantage of the now vulnerable MI6, bombing their headquarters in London. Bond – hiding away in the Turkish city, learns of the attack and returns to London to clean up this unsavoury mess.
In the meantime his loyalty to M (Dame Judi Dench) is put to the test, while Bond fervently tracks the evil head of the enemy Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), M is being questioned by the newly installed government agent Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), as her old fashioned methods are being vilified at a parliamentary enquiry. However Bond must not only do all he can to protect her reputation, but her life also, as it appears Silva's number one target is M herself.
Mendes has brought Bond to the modern world in brilliant fashion; a world driven by computer technology, as both M and Bond's archaic, somewhat primitive take on the criminal world is brought into question several times. However, despite asking questions of 007 - bringing attention to the relatively antiquated traditionalism of the franchise, any question as to whether Bond is relevant in the modern world are resoundingly answered, because yes, we do.
Mendes remains entirely faithful to the Bond franchise, as we are given everything we want to see. The classic (and somewhat corny) one-liners, the cars, the girls and even the “names Bond, James Bond” line. It's all here, as we capture all of the nuances that make Bond, well, Bond. Mendes also brings his own unique touch to proceedings, as a narrative driven story that keeps you engaged throughout as he showcases his wonderful directing talent. The filmmaker – who has spent the majority of his professional life in London – captures the essence of the capital city perfectly, showing off London in a brilliant light, which given the significance of Bond's British identity to the overall brand, seems important to get right.
However the stand-out performance of the film hails from Spain, as Bardem shows off his acting credentials as one of the finest “bad guys” in world cinema. Mendes intelligently deploys his trump card halfway through the film, building up suspense to when we are finally introduced to the sinister villain. When Silva does finally appear he completely steals the show, bringing more depth to the antagonist than I can recall ever being done in a Bond movie. He manages to portray a sadistic side as triumphantly as he managed in No Country For Old Men, yet done so in an entirely different manner.
Bardem approaches the role as Silva in an incredibly camp way, that only he could pull off. However that only makes him seem even more chilling as by being so playful at times makes his darker side seem even more harrowing. He should get an Oscar nomination for this. Seriously.
In what is one of the finest Bond's for a number of years – certainly since Craig took the helm – Skyfall is made in such a way where you don't need to be a Bond fan to appreciate it, as it stands as a lone film in its own right. Also, if you want to see Dame Judie Dench wielding a gun and saying the 'F' word, then I guess this is your lucky day. Happy bloody birthday Bond.