Give Bond an Oscar! It's not just the best ever 007 film – Skyfall deserves to bag its stars, director and writers a host of Academy Awards
22:58 GMT, 25 October 2012
23:35 GMT, 25 October 2012
Verdict: The year’s best movie so far
Bond movies have picked up an insultingly meagre two technical Oscars over the past 50 years, for Goldfinger and Thunderball.
There must be a good chance that this is about to change, and change dramatically. For Skyfall takes the Bond franchise to a new pinnacle of quality.
Nine times nominee Roger Deakins (No Country For Old Men, The Shawshank Redemption) should win his first Academy Award for his stunning cinematography, equally magical whether it is among the iridescent skyscrapers of modern Shanghai or the bleak, ancient moorland of Scotland.
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Skyfall's eyefall: New Bond girl Bernice Marlohe with Daniel Craig's 007 in the background
One of the world’s most talented yet least known composers Thomas Newman (American Beauty, Road To Perdition) must also be a good bet after ten unsuccessful nominations to achieve his first Oscar, finally emulating his famous cousin Randy.
The score is matchlessly atmospheric and makes witty use of old Bond themes while adding a few of its own.
Disgracefully for a series that has brought us such great numbers as Goldfinger, Nobody Does It Better and Live And Let Die, Bond has always failed to win best song. Adele should at least win a nomination this time.
And who would have thought Skyfall would be a strong contender for best original screenplay John Logan (a nominee for Gladiator, The Aviator and Hugo) has teamed up with previous 007 scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade to come up with a script that has qualities rarely seen in an action adventure: topicality, wit and intelligence.
Perhaps most significantly, Skyfall is the first Bond film to have a realistic chance of winning the major awards: best picture, director (Sam Mendes, who has already won for American Beauty), actor (Daniel Craig) and supporting actors (Judi Dench, Javier Bardem).
The best Bond yet: Skyfall is one of the top action-adventure films of all time
That’s how good this film is. A second viewing persuades me this is not just the best Bond movie, it’s up there with the top action-adventures of all time.
It tells a refreshingly simple story and succeeds because of consummate craft, marvellous action set pieces and a cast that looks like the National Theatre at play.
In the pivotal role, Dench as M gets more to do than ever before in a Bond movie, and endows her role with a lifetime of experience and authority. She won an Oscar for Shakespeare In Love, and she’s even better here.
There are juicy roles for Ralph Fiennes, as M’s deviously bureaucratic new boss, and Albert Finney, as an entertainingly violent gamekeeper.
Strong supporting parts are also played by Rory Kinnear, Helen McCrory, Naomie Harris and especially Ben Whishaw as a new, modernising Q.
The only weak link is Berenice Marlohe, struggling with the surely outmoded job of being a Bond girl. But after a parachuting Queen, I suppose anyone would have been a let-down. In Raoul Silva (Bardem), Bond gets his creepiest adversary ever: a man not — for once — bent on world domination, but with good reason to hate MI6.
Helped by astonishing special effects and a spectacularly demented hairstyle, Silva exudes a peculiar kind of menace: a cheery perviness that makes The Joker look wholesome.
Academy Award contender: Daniel Craig could be in the running for best actor while Skyfall could take the biggest prize – best picture
The film gets off to a terrific start in Istanbul, with a thrilling rooftop chase of a kind you won’t have seen before.
Quite apart from its ingenuity, it’s a valuable reminder that CGI is no match for superb stunts, courageously staged. By the start of the title sequence, Bond is already missing, believed dead, and M has written him a careful obituary.
Needless to say, he has miraculous powers of recuperation, and he’s soon helping the head of MI6 track down Silva, who — like all Bond villains — seems to have endless funds and a limitless supply of henchmen.
The action roams the globe from Turkey to London, then off to Shanghai, before ending up in Scotland for a splendid climax that’s like Home Alone with an unlimited budget.
Here, Mendes pays tribute to earlier writers in the spy genre, particularly John Buchan and Michael Innes, and reveals more of Bond’s back story and traumatised childhood than anyone has before.
There are more acting scenes than we’re used to in Bond films, but because of the quality of the cast and gravity of the ideas being discussed they don’t drag; they make most action adventure films look rushed and superficial.
Mendes delivers not only wonderfully exciting scenes, but some new, genuinely surprising twists and a welcome element of humour, most of it thanks to Bardem and Dench. Craig is superb as a defiantly virile Bond well past the first flush of youth, and not the crack shot or honed athlete he used to be.
Action packed: This movie takes Bond to a new level and makes Jason Bourne look outdated
The film makes more of his patriotism and resilience than any previous 007 movie, and his relationship with M becomes all the more touching as we realise she’s become the mother he virtually never had.
Mendes steers clear of cheap sentiment, and British upper lips have rarely been stiffer.
But this movie has a respect for Bond, and the secret services, that hasn’t always existed in previous adventures of the world’s most famous spy. Long-standing devotees will enjoy the way elements are brought back from much earlier films, especially a rather well-known car.
But the reason Skyfall excels is that it builds on our familiarity with the Bond canon and takes it in a new direction, much more relevant to world politics in the 21st century.
With this film, Bond enters the age of cyber-terrorism. 007 has been regenerated in such a way that it is he who makes Jason Bourne look old-fashioned.
The ingenious central idea is to probe the heart of what we demand from our intelligence services in the age of WikiLeaks and public accountability. Is it really that murkiest of concepts, transparency or something deeper than that Isn’t it really our primeval desire to be safe
Thanks to Skyfall, the future of Bond movies is assured for years to come.
Everyone connected with this brave, wholly successful enterprise deserves congratulation.
Whether or not it triumphs at the Oscars — and I hope it will — I don’t see how anyone can deny that this is a cracking story, very well told.
There hasn’t been a more entertaining picture this year.
Now watch the trailer