Review: The wonder of Bond, James Bond

“Skyfall” (M) ****

THERE’S a freshness about what director Sam Mendes has done with Neal Purvis and Robert Wade’s fifth Bondfilm screenplay.

Same pudding as its 22 predecessors, but with ingredients from different suppliers, so tasty that not until after it’s over do you wonder how that or this or whatever else came about.

The fantasy continues. The plot framework is essentially unchanged. Evil forces threaten Britain. A computer disk carrying the names of all the secret service’s field agents has been stolen. When last seen, James Bond was falling into a fast-flowing European river with a bullet in him fired by his assistant Eve (Naomie Harris) on the insistence of M (Judi Dench).

In London, his belongings get sent to storage and his apartment sold. Then former service agent Silva (Javier Bardem) starts executing five service fieldmen a week until he can get to M, his real target.

How could any mortal survive what Bond experienced? The film doesn’t bother to explain. We next see him in a tropical, beachside bar, watching a TV news bulletin of a terrorist bomb in MI6’s headquarters that energises his patriotism and professional ethic enough to send him scurrying back to London to resume work from the Service’s new location in Churchill’s war room, deep under London, where a new and improved Q (Ben Whishaw) and Bond’s best pal Tanner (Rory Kinnear) deal with field problems and political displeasure.

The rest is, as they say, future history delivered in exotic locations and improbable stunts. No digital clock counts down to a final humungous explosion (although there is a big and fiery bang when Bond lights a fuse connected to a domestic gas tank).

“Skyfall’s” humour is more subtle and its gadgets are less incredible than previous Bondfilms. The Aston Martin in storage starts first hit to send Bond and M north to Scotland and snippets of Bond’s family history and home as it moulders away in a desolate valley where loyal family servant Kincade (Albert Finney) joins them in a vigorous and noisy defence against Silva’s henchmen.

Daniel Craig and Javier Bardem make a fine pair of antagonists. Judi Dench is, as always, without peer. Ralph Fiennes will succeed her in the next Bondfilm. Mendez has raised the bar.

At all cinemas


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