The James Bond franchise has long been associated with a hefty amount of product placement and in the adverts preceding his latest outing –the Sam Mendes directed Skyfall- he himself becomes the product placed in the sales pitch, selling everything from beer, watches, cars and make up. It seems at one point as if you have seen most of the movie before it has even begun. Of course the best publicity the film has had yet was the pre-release claims that this twenty third outing for Bond is the best ever and to be honest I would agree that yes it possibly is.
It certainly trashes 2008’s unfocussed and virtually plot free ‘Quantum of Solace’ and even eclipses Craig’s first outing ‘Casino Royale’ which seemed to invigorate the flailing brand- Pierce Brosnan and Timothy Dalton never made too much impact and Roger Moore was always a bit of a joke- dragging it into the modern age whilst adding a bit of much needed depth to a character which had previously been unexplored in favour of big action sequences, car chases and exploding pens.
The action kicks off in usual style with the tail end of another mission but this time Bond doesn’t fare too well taking a bullet in the name of duty and under M’s-Judi Dench again in the role of his superior- directive. Presumed dead he is, in fact, on an island paradise drinking beer-cue product placement- and shots in his new role as dead man. An apparent terrorist strike in London on MI6 with M in particular being the main target shakes him back into shape and he rises from the not so dead to defend and protect the woman who ordered the firing of the bullet which almost killed him.
What then ensues is a mission to Thailand and an encounter with Mr Silva- Javier Bardem as one of the most convincing, memorable and authentic Bond villains ever- who is a disenchanted ex-operative who M had previously retired for being disloyal and unreliable in the field of duty. It seems Silva is not prepared to forgive and forget and has his sights set firmly on MI6 and M in particular. With the action then decamping to London- in a bunker no less- Bond then kidnaps M and takes her to his desolate childhood home in a very bleak Scotland.
The final confrontation takes place here and it is a refreshing change from the exotic locations of most other Bond finales. In fact the placing of most of the action in London and then Scotland is something which lends this film a sense of realism, authenticity and gravitas. Along the way the famous Aston Martin from ‘Goldfinger’ –another one of the franchises best offerings- makes a re-appearance endowing the proceedings with a sense of history as well as providing one of the films wittier exchanges between Bond and M. The relationship between these two is another factor taking the film to a higher level as it is deeply complex one with so many contradictions and loyalties always coming into force but the natural chemistry and understanding between the two still manages to win through whatever.
‘Skyfall’ is then probably the best Bond film in recent memory-the early ones are discounted somewhat as despite their brilliance they are over familiar and seem more like curio pieces of a bygone era- and boasting the best plot, villain and performances in decades. Daniel Craig, Judi Dench and Javier Bardem give amazingly strong performances and Ralph Fiennes as the new man to be feared in MI6 is also on fine form. Ben Whishaw gives a spot on shot as the new Q playing him as an uber-intelligent geek who is terrified even of flying. We also receive our first introduction to a new Moneypenny-Naomie Harris- but that doesn’t feature until later on in the film and I am sure it will be picked up on in future outings. As far as blockbusters go this film is definitely the best of the year but it is so much more than that as it stands on its own merits as simply a great film. Just don’t be conned by the adverts!