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Skyfall Movie Review: Shock! James Bond Fails Late Fitness Test! Thankfully Film Awesome!

Tuxedo – check. Walther PPK – check. Laydeez – check. In fact, this Bond film was so full of ticked boxes it’s rather hard to think of anything they missed out on. The gun-barrel opening was included at the end which was a bit odd, but otherwise all was present and correct. Apart from Felix Leiter, but no-one really cares about him.

After the difficulties of the last Bond movie, Quantum of Solace, it was easy to be skeptical about this latest installment’s ability to live up to the astronomical hype attached to every film centered around the world’s most famous Old Etonian. Would they have another tired ending blowing up a stupidly designed hotel in the middle of nowhere? Would “Skyfall” actually mean something? Would M and Bond finally get it on? This franchise always stirs up controversy and the run up to this was no different.

I mean, HEINEKEN!? WHAT?! Where’s the Vodka Martini!? In the scene at the bar in the casino in Macau, you idiots – she’s having champagne. After the non-controversy of Bond drinking beer in the movie, everything settled down after the first European reviews came out, which were extremely positive. After scores of messages describing how awesome it was from people back home, this was cinematic catharsis, and for once high expectations translated into massively high enjoyment.

Firstly, it has had the best balance of humor, action and character of any Bond in recent memory, Casino Royale included. Not only do we get to see where Bond retreated to when he received the news his parents had died, we got a significant character’s death, and a truly creepy villain (a remarkable Javier Bardem). Couple that with the return for the Aston Martin DB5 (slobber) and an ejector-seat joke, the reintroduction of Moneypenny, the return of Q, and Bond himself being told he was a “jumped up little shit”, and it was Bond heaven.

It also featured a major departure from the Bond catalogue in that a large proportion of the film is set in London, and the city makes an excellent character for the plot to play off. Of course there is a level of bias here, but chases in the London Tube, especially ones that end with (bizarrely empty) trains falling through the ceiling are excellent viewing, as are shootouts in Whitehall and secret underground bases where Winston Churchill used to hang out. It was great to see Bond on home territory as well as the usual awesome destinations (Istanbul, Shanghai and Macau in this one) and then on up north to Scotland. And thank heavens the title made sense in the end.

Of course there were the usual small frustrations, and the old question “why didn’t he just shoot him in the head straight away?” More time than necessary was spent on Bond’s vulnerability after his posthumous boozathon, and Naomi Harris as a mysterious Moneypenny veered to the annoying side of flirty. Also, Daniel Craig looks inexplicably good in, umm, everything, so the noise of girls hitting the floor as they passed out was irritating. Nevertheless, the lightness that had got somewhat lost in Casino Royale and Quantum was back, lots of bad guys were killed in a creative way, and a helicopter flew into something and blew up, so all was forgiven.

This was a cracking night at the cinema, and Skyfall is rightly being hailed as one of the best Bond movies of all time. The general group feeling was slightly less unashamedly ecstatic, but everyone had a great evening. After a four year wait, this was no disappointment.

In fact, it was so enjoyable, the idea of waiting four years for the next one fills me with dread. The set-up is there, the cast refreshed, and given the box office they’d be nuts to let the next one slip (happily, it’s already in development). I’d be more scared than Javier Bardem’s dentist, though Skyfall has set the bar dauntingly high.

November 20, 2012
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