Damon Smith gives his verdict on this week’s latest film releases, with James Bond accepting his most personal and perilous mission in Skyfall
SKYFALL (12A, 143 mins) Action/Thriller. Daniel Craig, Dame Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes, Berenice Marlohe, Rory Kinnear, Albert Finney, Helen McCrory. Director: Sam Mendes.
Time waits for no man, not even the suave and sharply attired 007.
The latest Bond, Daniel Craig, has rugged physicality in abundance but his one-note interpretation of the spy who is shaken but never stirred remains devoid of personality.
It’s telling that the abiding memory of Casino Royale and Quantum Of Solace is a pair of tight, blue swimming shorts.
Skyfall will do nothing to dispel those concerns but is undoubtedly the best instalment of Craig’s tenure to date.
Director Sam Mendes sensibly surrounds his leading man with an ensemble of award-winning actors, who bring gravitas and humour to their iconic roles.
This tour-de-force supporting cast encourages Craig to raise his game but also exposes his weaknesses as an actor, most noticeably in a pivotal scene of heartbreak, which relies on a drenching from a previous fist fight to send droplets of water down his inexpressive face, suggesting the tears of a momentarily broken man.
In the brilliantly orchestrated action sequences, Craig is in his element and Mendes opens with a breathtaking 12-minute pre-credits sequence, which draws heavily from the Bourne franchise to propel Bond and field agent Eve (Naomie Harris) through the winding streets of Istanbul.
The mission ends in apparent tragedy, heralding the sombre chords of Adele’s soaring theme song that harks back to the belting ballads of Shirley Bassey. With Bond reportedly killed in action, section chief M (Dame Judi Dench) pens an obituary as a political storm rages around her.
A database of MI6 assets has fallen into the wrong hands, compromising undercover agents around the world.
This dereliction of duty puts M and the department’s Chief Of Staff, Bill Tanner (Rory Kinnear), in the firing line and they are summoned to Westminster before a committee including the new Chairman of the Intelligence And Security Committee, Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), and ambitious rival Clair Dowar (Helen McCrory).
Dench is wonderful as ever and really excels when she abandons her desk for the field of action. Supporting actress Oscar nominations have been bestowed for far less.
Whishaw asserts himself as a gadget geek with a terrific introductory scene in an art gallery, warning Bond that “age is no guarantee of experience.”
Director Mendes gets high on nostalgia to the obvious delight of Bond purists.
However, he spends slightly too long looking back and not enough looking forward, and consequently stumbles with the lacklustre final showdown more befitting of an episode of The A-Team than the second biggest film franchise in history.