There is a list on a computer chip which details the N.A.T.O. operatives working undercover throughout the world. That chip has been stolen. And if it falls into the wrong hands, the repercussions could be extremely serious so British Secret Service agent James Bond (Daniel Craig) and his assistant Eve (Naomie Harris) have been dispatched to Turkey to track it down, and with a bit of skill work out who the culprit is. However, Bond gets to the hotel room where it is meant to be too late, and has to give chase, with the henchman carrying the chip leading him across Istanbul - to Bond's death.
Oh no, he's not really dead, they were just teasing you in this, the 50th anniversary Bond movie which also had the result of being the most successful in the franchise so far, proving there was life in the old dog yet. Coincidentally, this was also the running theme of the story, as while Craig's debut in Casino Royale had effectively rebooted the franchise it seemed the writers and producers couldn't leave that formula behind, so Skyfall could be viewed as a reboot as well. After all, they reboot the character in the plot because everyone thinks he really did die after he fell off that tall railway bridge, whereas he's actually been going off the rails, drinking and snogging women on an exotic beach somewhere.
But when MI6 gets bombed, it spurs Agent 007 to make a comeback to prove he really is all he's cracked up to be, and not simply cracking up. This first half, once the big action sequence was out of the way, contained a curious quiet, a stillness which suggested director Sam Mendes had been impressed by another British spy movie of recent vintage in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and although for much of this Roger Deakins' glossy photography lent a rich sheen of class, there was not much to set the pulse racing. Mostly discussions about discovering who the mastermind behind the security leaks was, and how Bond could hunt him down, both easier said than done in a new, modern and deeply paranoid world stage.
Indeed, the main impetus for punishing the evildoer with extreme prejudice was not so much that he was putting N.A.T.O. operatives' lives on the line, or that he had struck at the heart of the British security establishment, but more he had insulted Judi Dench. Sure, she was back playing Bond's boss M, but it was really Dame Judi we were watching with her imperious manner and national treasure status: how dare this insurgent take the mickey out of such a sainted actress! So it's up to Bond to save the face of this most beloved of British thespians, and that will involve saving her life as we find out that not only is the bad guy scheming the destruction of the security network of the West, but also he plans to take revenge on M. That's right, this was personal.
Meanwhile, Bond must regard his advancing years with an unusual combination of grace and aggression, much as the series felt it had to prove it still had what it took to command an audience's attention, which judging by the "Best Bond Ever" reactions Skyfall garnered they didn't need to be worrying about. Rather than protesting too much, the film tied in its worries about obsolescence in a future which refused to play by the old rules and achieved an absorbing drama which had something to say about the creeping fear the twenty-first century was suffering, that feeling that someone somewhere was out to get you for no reason they were willing to discuss. And our embodiment of that concern? He was introduced in the second half, as the plot cranked up the suspense up a few gears.
Seems this opening half was merely an apéritif, though a heady one which travelled to the Far East where Bond thinks he can stop this new menace, who is not so new, just one they had underestimated or even never considered. Step forward Javier Bardem as Silva, an intriguing villain who announced himself with needling camp and then goes on to prove more sinister than you might have expected, a performance as showy as Craig's was controlled and clench-jawed. Appealingly, there was more humour as the plot progressed, reminding us of one aspect to Bond which was a cut above his rivals, that wit which could be groan-inducing, but indulged you with a good chuckle nonethless. As this builds to a finale which may represent a pyrrhic victory at Bond's ancestral home in Scotland - including a welcome turn from Albert Finney, another much-respected British thesp - we are given excellent reasons to stick with the franchise, as Skyfall demonstrated its true worth, giving us a hero we could always rely upon. Fine music by Thomas Newman; Adele sang the ubiquitous theme song.