November 6, 2012 12:00 pm

Bond is back! Daniel Craig returns as the world’s greatest secret agent, 007, in his latest adventure Skyfall, from director Sam Mendes.

Craig impressed in his Bond debut Casino Royal, bringing a brutal physicality to Ian Fleming’s much-loved super spy, but his second outing, Quantum of Solace, was a disappointment. Thankfully, this third installment is a return to form, at least as good as Casino Royale. Bond is most definitely back on track.

In Skyfall, things get personal. MI6 is under attack and there’s only one man that can track down the threat and neutralise it. But Bond has seen better days; a botched op in Turkey (the spectacular pre-credits sequence) leaves him battered and broken, and his loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her.

Straight out of the blocks, Skyfall sets out to make a statement: when it comes to action sequences, nobody does it better than James Bond. The pre-credits sequence, a staple of the franchise, is spectacular, and sees Bond racing across the rooftops of Istanbul on a motorcycle in pursuit of an enemy operative. Follow that with a fistfight on the roof of a moving train and you know you’re in for an adrenalin-fuelled film.

Craig brings even more muscle to the role than he did in Casino Royale, including one fantastic fight scene in a Shanghai skyscraper, silhouetted against a flood of neon lights. However, the most striking thing about his performance is the frailty that he shows; he brings you Bond at his lowest, a man who has lived through so much that his willingness to continue is in question. It’s a fitting portrayal for a film that reveals more of Bond’s character than perhaps any of its predecessors.

In Skyfall, Bond is not the only franchise stalwart to show an emotional side. Judi Dench takes centre stage as M, head of MI6, who has to deal with the consequences of her decisions. She has to battle a ghost from her past, intent on revenge, forcing her to get away from the desk and become the ultimate Bond girl. Skyfall is the Bond film that finally exploits all of Dench’s talent as an actress.

Of course, every story needs a villain, and in Skyfall that role falls to Javier Bardem. Bardem is no stranger to playing the villain, having won an Oscar for his chilling performance as a killer in No Country for Old Men. Bardem plays Silva, the ultimate cyber-terrorist with a huge grudge. Unlike most Bond villains, Silva’s goal is not world domination or unimaginable wealth, it is revenge. For him it’s very personal, and he will stop at nothing to achieve it. Bardem is fantastic; Silva is terrifying.

M, Bond and Silva are backed up by some excellent performances from the supporting cast. Naomie Harris’s Eve draws out the humorous side of Bond and Bérénice Marlohe sizzles as the beautiful Sévérine. Skyfall also sees the return of Q, played by Ben Whishaw. The new Quartermaster is a young computer nerd, the complete antithesis to Desmond Llewelyn’s older, slightly paternal Q. A complete change of direction was probably the only way the character could work, as Llewelyn was so popular that replacing him would have been difficult. However, Whishaw does a good job of trading banter with 007 and looks set to carve out his own niche in the franchise.

Skyfall is action-packed, with stunning locations, beautiful girls and a terrifying villain. It has all the glamour expected of a Bond film, and all the pure masculine charisma that made Daniel Craig so popular in Casino Royale. Skyfall cements Craig’s credentials as Britain’s deadliest secret agent, and best of all, contains the familiar line of text on the screen at the end of the film…

James Bond will return.

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