Susan Granger’s review of “Skyfall” (Columbia Pictures/Sony)
James Bond celebrates his 50th cinematic birthday in great style, as Daniel Craig confidently embarks on his third exotic action-adventure, delivering a compelling performance as Ian Fleming’s iconic secret agent.
In the spectacular prologue, Bond (Craig) chases a thief across the rooftops of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar on a motorcycle and pursues him onto the top of a speeding train, almost being killed in the process by fellow field agent Eve (Naomie Harris). What’s been stolen is a device containing the real names of every British Secret Service agent embedded within terrorist organizations around the world. One-by-one, they’re being assassinated and the new London headquarters of MI6 explodes in a cyber-terrorist attack. This breach infuriates Intelligence and Security Chairman Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), who wants to retire M (Judi Dench). “We’re both played out,” mutters Bond.
Not so fast, M counters. With headquarters moved underground to Churchill’s old war bunker, MI6 is quite different these days. Particularly un-nerving is the geeky, new weapons-and-technology guru known as Q (Ben Wishaw), who arms 007 with only a Walther PPK and a tiny tracking device. No more exploding pens and other outlandish devices. Bond’s shadowy quest then takes him to Shanghai and Macau, where he’s enticed by sexy Severine (Berenice Marlohe), who leads him to flamboyantly ruthless Silva (Javier Bardem), one of the strangest, most deviously shrewd and dangerous of all Bond villains. For the climactic encounter, Bond revs up the Aston Martin DB5 from “Goldfinger” and takes off for Skyfall, his old Scottish manor house, presided over by its grizzled caretaker Kincade (Albert Finney).
Scripted by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan, directed by Sam Mendes (“American Beauty”) and photographed by Roger Deakins, there’s a droll, deft balancing of the traditional, franchise espionage with a timely, contemporary socio-political twist. And Adele is sensational singing her new Bond song with Thomas Newman’s orchestral score taking cues from vintage classics, including Monty Norman’s traditional Bond theme.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to10, “Skyfall” soars with a thrilling, terrific 10, one of the best Bonds ever.