Sunday Rundown – That’s What She Read

Sunday Rundown – That’s What She Read

Up here in the good old North of England we were promised a snow storm to end all snow storms. Okay, nothing that dramatic but if Ned Stark had been here he would have forever been saying “Winter is coming”. It was getting so bad that everyone I work with was starting to panic about how they would get to work. Except me, obviously. It’s just a bit of snow. The other night, as I was putting the bins out after work, I stepped I felt super Christmassy as the snow fell gently around me. Snow is too magical to be a pain in the arse. I love the way British people react so strongly to changes in weather. Our weather is hardly extreme but suddenly, at the mere mention of a blizzard, society starts to collapse. Imagine if we did start experiencing the kind of freak weather that other countries face so often? It’d be like Lord of the Flies or some shit. Take public transport, for example: you get a slight snow fall and suddenly the trains are all running super late. It’s not like we’re dealing with The Day After Tomorrow levels of snowfall here. I mean, we don’t need to be start sending Gerard Butler into space anytime soon. Other countries manage to get by with more snow than we do. How is it so hard here? It makes me laugh every time we get to December. People start treating the word “snow” like it’s Macbeth and they’re all about to go onstage. We should just get it over with and start calling it “the white weather”.

Weekly Blog Posts

  • TUESDAY’S REVIEWS – Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)

I’ve wanted to see the sequel to Kingsman for bloody ages but it never happened. Cinema trips with friends got cancelled and then we missed it at out local cinema. Urgh. So I finally managed to see it this week but would it live up to my expectations? Find out here.

  • BOOK POST – Review of The Underground Railroad

It feels nice to finally be able to review a book again. Find out what I thought after finally finishing this book here.

  • FBF – Spectre (2015)

You watch one spy film and suddenly you start to crave all the spy films. I decided it was finally time to watch Spectre after it kept popping up on my Netflix feed. Find out what I thought here.

Currently Reading
  • Autumn by Ali Smith
Not even going to pretend I read anything this week. I’ve not picked this book up since I returned from London. I’m a failure. I know. I’m going to get better. I have Christmassy things to read goddammit!

Recently Purchased 
  • The Grip of Film by Richard Ayoade – Okay, I’ll level with you. I didn’t actually buy this book this week but I forgot to put in last week’s rundown. I’ve not actually bought a single book this week. I’m feeling pretty smug. I’m concentrating more on Christmas presents cause I’m so fucking selfless. Nah, just kidding, I’ve just been super busy all week. Book shopping has taken a back seat to everything I’ve had to do.
Recently Watched 
  • Netflix Binges: Friends from CollegeThe Good Place, QI
I’ve watched quite a few new shows this week. It’s a new thing for me. I’d been drawn to Friends from College for ages because it had a great cast. Now I’ve watched it I’m not sure what to think. It wasn’t bad but I don’t think it was good either. Maybe I need a rewatch? However, The Good Place was fucking amazing. I managed to be genuinely shocked by the revelation in the season 1 finale and it made everything so much better. I can’t wait for more episodes. I ate these ones up too quickly.
FBF – Spectre (2015)

FBF – Spectre (2015)

So, you may have noticed that this week’s Throwback Thursday post has actually become a Frowback Friday post. Last night was my work’s Christmas party so I was a little too busy to be posting. It also means, considering I started work at 7 am this morning, that I had no fucking sleep so I’m totally exhausted. So, I imagine this is going to be a pretty dire review of Spectre. I meant to write it as soon as I got home but, because I’m such a pathetic individual, I fell asleep instead. I’m not even 30 yet and I can longer cope with a night of shenanigans without every muscle in my body aching. It’s not as if I was even hungover. At least that would make sense. I’m just pathetic. Anyway, I’m here to review Spectre, which I watched for the first time this week. I loved Skyfall so was really interested in seeing how the follow up would work out. There was a time when it was believed to be Daniel Craig’s final time in the role so it was kind of bittersweet. I wasn’t entirely convinced that Craig would make a good Bond but he’s really grown on me. I think he’s perfect so it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role. I love T Hiddle but really don’t think he should get it. Equally, I think Tom Hardy is amazing in every way but I have my doubts. My top choice? Idris Elba. Do I think it’s likely? Well, he’s getting on in age a bit so who knows. Anyway, Spectre has a lot to live up to for many fans. Skyfall had done so many wonderful things and we all felt Craig deserved a decent farewell. Plus, it was the first film for ages without Judy Dench. I bloody love that woman and everything she did within this franchise. I know The Grand Budapest Hotel really turned me around on Ralph Fiennes but I still wasn’t sure he could live up to the Dench. I mean she doesn’t give a shit about the CIA. Her role as M was phenomenal. But I digress and I really do need to get to bed asap.

Spectre takes us to just after the events that ended Skyfall. The old MI5 building is in a state of disrepair and the new M (Ralph Fiennes) is having to cope with a potential takeover from the Joint Intelligence Service. In light of recent events it looks like the JIS will scrap the 00 programme all together; something that becomes all the more likely after Bond causes utter devastation whilst in Mexcio. It turns out 007 got a posthumous message from the Judy Dench M and James is now on the hunt for a secret villain who could threaten everyone’s safety. However, after his actions, Bond is given a suspension from field work so must work in secret with the help of Q (Ben Wishaw) and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris). As James finds out more information, it becomes clear that the present case has a strong link with his past. But who is the mysterious figure at the centre of everything?

I didn’t really know what to think about Spectre going in. I was excited but I’d heard mixed things about it when it came out. Obviously there was a chance this was just post-Skyfall fallout where anything the film did would have been seen as not good enough. However, it could just be a fairly underwhelming film. At the very least, the opening song by Sam Smith was the worst Bond song since Carly Simon’s effort. I mean I didn’t like Skyfall but this made that seem fucking amazing. It’s even more of a shame considering the opening title sequence is visually stunning. I’d say it’s one of the best ones ever made. A bloody great start to this film.

Just as the pre-credits sequence is perhaps the best thing we’ve seen in the Daniel Craig era of Bond. We see James in Mexico during the Day of the Dead, wearing a skull mask and walking through the carnival with a beautiful lady. He then leaves his companion and casually strolls over rooftops to spy on his target. It’s such a brilliant and understated piece that just works so well. It’s the kind of gripping sequence that should be saved for the end of a movie not the beginning. It’ll have you hooked.

Which is good because the rest of the film is a little less solid. The storyline follows up from Skyfall’s link with Bond’s past and makes 007’s vendetta with the big bad personal. Apparently, it’s not enough just to want to stop people endangering lives anymore; you have to want to stop them because they’re wronged you personally. There is a lot to this film that just makes it seem like they aren’t even trying any more. It’s a pain by number Bond that you could, genuinely, play 007 Bingo watching. We have the insane gadget that only becomes useful in the final seconds before Bond’s potential death; the two women who get very little development but are lucky enough to shag Britain’s horniest agent; there are enough car chases in weirdly quite cities to satisfy anyone who loves everything Jeremy Clarkson says; and there is the return of a villain who has had more comebacks than the Rolling Stones. This is the perfect Bond film for any fan of the franchise as a whole.

It’s not a bad film though and I really enjoyed it. Daniel Craig’s time as Bond has brought the grit back to the series and, in the past 2 films, we have seen a slight return in the camp comedy of Roger Moore’s era. However, story is becoming a problem. There is so much potential, especially with Ralph Fienne’s M (who deserves his own franchise by the way), that I kind of wish had been used more. This film would have been seen as exceptional after Quantum of Solace but we’re in a post-Skyfall era. This just isn’t quite good enough.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)

Tuesday’s Reviews – Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)

I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed the first Kingsman movie. It was an insane but really enjoyable spy film that even managed to make Colin Firth seem edgy and cool. I never would have thought it was possible but I guess Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman did the same thing with Nicolas Cage in Kickass. Kingsman is one of those weird films that everyone seems to love. Even my mother watched it when it was on Netflix. It had the benefit of being batshit crazy, incredibly funny, and well-made. It was perfectly over-the-top and a perfect antidote for the decreasingly self-aware Bond franchise. In recent years, James Bond has gone from being a camp British icon to something of a Hollywood bad boy. He no longer feels the need for insane and unnecessary gadgetry and, instead, uses her sheer muscle mass and martial arts skills to get the job done. Kickass took us back to a time when spies were gentlemen carrying umbrella guns and exploding pens. It was great. So, I was pretty gosh darn excited by the prospect of the second one. Especially when it was announced that Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges and Halle Berry were all joining the cast as an American version of the UK’s Kingsman organisation. All 3 of those actors are, in their own way, incredibly talented. As you probably know if you’ve read some of my stuff before, I have developed a love of Channing Tatum since I discovered he has a sense of humour about himself and now I long to see all of his films. I swear it’s all about his comic timing… there’s definitely nothing of interest to me underneath his shirt. No way. Never.
The sequel to Matthew Vaughn’s 2005 spy film, Kingsman: The Secret Service doesn’t so much try to carry on the great things as it tries to overshadow them. There is no sense that the second film in the series is going to take things lying down. It is bigger, brasher, more violent and even sillier. Yes, that’s right, even sillier than a film starring an assassin with blades for legs. This one does star Elton John though. Considering how weird the first film is, it’was incredibly unlikely that I’d ever be able to sit and say the second film makes it look almost normal in comparison. But it does. The Golden Circle could certainly do with some refinement but it still contains the same breathtaking stunts and camera work that made the first film so entertaining. As long as your basic requirements for this film revolve around good guys kicking the arses of bad guys then it’ll be satisfying enough.

The Golden Circle sees the unlikely hero from the first film, Eggsy (Taron Egerton), coming up against a dangerous drug baron, Poppy (Julianne Moore), who is essentially holding the world’s drug users to ransom. When Eggsy has a near-death run in with former Kingsman applicant Charlie he finds himself on the tail of the Golden Circle; a drugs cartel who rules the world’s drug trade. When Poppy poisons her merchandise, drugs users all over the globe start showing signs of an illness which leads to a quick and horrible death. Poppy plans to make a deal with President of the United States but, after the rest of the Kingsman were taken out, Eggsy seeks help from his American counterparts, the Statesmen, to bring her down.

It is the introduction of the Statesmen that gives this film such a different feel. Once the majority of the orignal cast have been dispensed with, Eggsy is left with only Merlin (Mark Strong) for company. So we are introduced to American agents in the shape of Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, Halle Berry and Pedro Pascal. All these characters show great potential but they never quite excite as much as the original cast. There is a certain amount of chemistry missing between the newbies and the olds here. You’ll miss the interactions between Eggsy and his mentor Harry (Colin Firth) or his fellow new Kingsman Roxy. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Pedro Pascal’s face but even watching him utilise an electro lasso doesn’t make up for the absences.

There is a lot of bloat in this second film that really slows the film down. Not only have we got to go through the process of finding and introducing the Statesmen, which messes with the pace, but then we find out Harry is alive. It’s not exactly a spoiler because he’s been all over the promotional material but, yes, after his grizzly death in the first film Harry is back… kind of. I like Colin Firth in the first film but his return here takes way too much time away from the main story. It ultimately doesn’t add enough to justify lengthening the film that much. No matter how cool Firth looks in an eye patch.

It is not until late on that the film really gets going. After the opening fight scene, that’s where we see most of the super impressive and visually stunning fight scenes that the first film got so right. I mean, speaking critically, I could have done without the rehash of the original’s “manners maketh man” scene but Pedro Pascal is so phenomenally sexy that I can forgive it. It is these insane and completely cartoon-like fight scenes that make the Kingsman films so fantastic. The visual gags, stunts and CGI all come together to create something so absurd yet so appealing. The filmmakers know what they’re doing by now so they’re all pretty by the book but they will still capture an audiences’ attention.

I can’t say that I liked this film more than the original but I did like this film. Well, most of this film. There is a horrible, creepy and unnecessary plot strand that sees Eggsy have to plant a tracking device in an incredibly intimate area that just feels misjudged…. especially in this current climate in Hollywood. However, the rest of the film is silly and funny enough to keep fans of the first film relatively happy. Even if Channing Tatum is horribly underused and overdressed for the duration.

TBT – Live and Let Die (1973)

TBT – Live and Let Die (1973)

This week, amidst all of the horrors of the terrorist attack in Manchester, we got the terrible news that actor Roger Moore had died at the age of 89. Moore has become a household name thanks to his numerous television and film roles but it is his time playing James Bond that cemented his place in the annals of pop culture history. Everyone has their own favourite James Bond but I guess Sean Connery and Roger Moore are two of the more iconic names associated with the role. Connery was the first Bond and created the basis for the character. However, it was Roger Moore who stepped in, after George Lazenby’s forgettable attempt, to give the character his own spin. For my part, I think Moore is my ultimate Bond. I mean a huge part of me will always love Pierce Brosnan because it’s Pierce fucking Brosnan. He’s ridiculous but wonderful. I’d also be so bold as to say that Brosnan and Moore both approached the role in similar ways, which probably explains why they’re both my favourite. I understand why people think Sean Connery is the best and, I admit, he’s bloody great. I just prefer my Bond to be a little sillier and that’s one thing we came to expect from the Sir Roger. Bur you know what, I’ll be honest, I think it really just comes down to the eyebrow.

If you don’t count Never Say Never Again, which a lot of people don’t because it isn’t canon, then Roger Moore played James Bond in the most films. If you do count it then he ties for first place with Sean Connery. No matter how petulant you are, it’s clear that these two actors are pretty important when it comes to the character of James Bond. Both had very different approaches to the role and, in quote you’ll have seen a lot since his death this week, Roger Moore himself suggests that Connery played the character as a killer whilst he played him as a lover. I think this sums up the differences quite well. Sean Connery had fun with the role but it was Roger Moore that really got to grips with the funny. He played to his strengths and presented the character as suave, sophisticated and very silly. Moore’s own sense of humour is evident in his interviews and he was always well aware of the absurdity that went with the Bond brand. So he used it for all it was worth.

As he got older, Moore’s bond relied on humour more than the physical side and some of his films are up there the best of the franchise. His first film, on the other hand, is fairly forgettable and. until I rewatched it for the purposes of this blog, I couldn’t have told you a lot about it. James is called into action after 3 British agents die in mysterious but connected circumstances. He finds that a dangerous Caribbean dictator, Dr Kananga, is running around town as his drug baron alter ego Mr Big. The plot itself is very convoluted and overly complicated. We see Bond stick out like a sore thumb in African American communities as the Bond franchise embraced the blaxploitation films of the era. It makes for kind of uncomfortable viewing nowadays but the film was a financial success at the time.

The problems with Live and Let Die aren’t necessarily that it’s a bad film. I mean it’s not great but there are some interesting ideas floating around. The main issue is that it’s a bad James Bond film. We lack that super villain presence and the crazy gadgets. Instead we just have groups of drug smugglers chasing Bond through the Louisiana marshes in speedboats. It’s exciting to a point but we’ve had better chases. And ones that weren’t punctuated with the world’s most annoying and stereotypically Southern Sheriff. This is a film that just doesn’t really know where it’s going or how to make it big enough. People had come to expect great things with James Bond and they wanted to see him fight a villain who could destroy the planet. Instead we see him chasing voodoo loving drug dealers. We were on more realistic ground but the simplicity of the plot gets lost in a confusing narrative. It should have kept things more basic.

Roger Moore takes some time to get used to the character and this is definitely not one of this greatest moments. Although, there is a certain twinkle in his eye that suggests he is constantly aware of how crazy this all is even if he keeps his poker face on for the entire film. It’s got all the aspects that will become Moore’s trademark but he isn’t quite self-assured enough to pull it off yet here. There are some pretty great moments, though, and it’s a good start. He also works really well alongside his female co-star, Jane Seymour. As much as I hate the huge 24 year age gap between the pair, I think they have great chemistry. and Seymour has to be up at the top of the most beautiful Bond girls of all time.

After watching this film again after so long, I’m kind of upset that I picked this film to celebrate the life of Roger Moore. It’s an overly complicated, lengthy and fairly forgettable film in the entire franchise. There are some great elements and some fantastic scenes but it never really feels like it’s on steady ground. It has a lot of things we’ve come to expect from a Bond film but it lacks the finesse and grandeur of the rest. It’s just not outrageous enough. We’ve seen with the Daniel Craig era that realistic Bond can be successful but it still needs to be over-the-top to give the character room to move. Instead, things just awkwardly plod from one location to the next. Despite all this, I still love Roger Moore and, when it comes to James Bond, nobody does it better.

TBT – Goldeneye (1995)

TBT – Goldeneye (1995)

On Monday I’m finally going to get to see Spectre. I know there have been a few dodgy reviews but I always love a Bond film. It comes back to those lazy weekends as a kid where I had nothing to do but watch Roger Moore on his hover-gondola. Younger me loved James Bond because it was silly and camp. Twenty years ago this week the James Bond franchise changed completely. Pierce Brosnan stepped into the role and helped create one of the best bond films of all fucking time. That’s quite a bold statement and part of me does worry my love of the game is clouding my judgement. However, there is no denying that Goldeneye took the womanising, drunk spy in a more modern direction. Without it we wouldn’t have ever met Daniel Craig’s brooding and parkour-ing 007.

If nothing else, Goldeneye starts with a bang and doesn’t let up until the end credits role. We first see Bond as he traverses down a dam and uses a laser to cut his way in to a Russian munitions factory. Literally catching the enemy with their pants down, James reappears in a toilet cubical where he takes out a henchmen with as many raised eyebrows and sassy quips that you’d expect. This is Bond as you know him but just bigger.

Goldeneye’s plot involves a mysterious entity, Janus, taking control of a weapon that emits a deadly electromagnetic pulse onto any chosen target. In order to get to Janus, James must battle his deadly female sidekick, Xenia Onatopp, with thighs that are more than capable of crushing a man to death. Of course it’s not that simple: turns out the mission has a deeper personal meaning for James as a Russian Colonel who is mixed up in the scheme was responsible for killing a fellow agent 15 years earlier.

There are all the trappings of classic Bond here despite the fact that this is the first script written completely independently from Ian Fleming’s novels. The gadgets come into play in a timely fashion, the girls are still creepily obsessed with the creepy lothario, the baddies take part in an overly complicated plan, and plenty of people die. It’ll keep everyone who knows the formula happy enough. Just keep ticking off that checklist.

Goldeneye, however, appears to be in on the joke this time though. The whole affair is very tongue-in-cheek and every line is said with a knowing wink. The script is littered with subtle references to the Bond tropes that have become famous. The franchise helped Roger Ebert create the term Talking Killer but he is only visible here in a throwaway line about “proper sinister interrogation”. Goldeneye is aware of where it came from but it’s going to make damn sure you know it’s understands how silly things were getting.

So when Bond changed faces he also changed attitudes. Still the incessant womaniser but one with some amount of emotional depth. The scene where James and his latest squeeze have some quiet thinking time on a beach in the Carribbean is one of the cheesiest things you’ll ever see but it’s also not the kind of thing you’d see in pre-Bronhom Bond. He kills people for a living but don’t think for one second that he’s not fucking upset about it.

Our 1995 Bond also gets a bit more resistance from the female population. There have always been attempts to give James a strong female cohort but it wasn’t until Judi Dench stepped into the role of M that things got fucking serious. M wastes no time in telling Bond that exactly what she thinks of him and that his bullshit won’t wash with her. Judi Dench is by far the greatest fucking thing that happened to this franchise. I’m still recovering from her Skyfall departure.

M’s first encounter with Bond on screen shows her telling him he’s “a sexist, misogynist dinosaur”. That was becoming painfully clear by 1989’s Licence to Kill. Goldeneye went some way towards rebranding the man without losing any of what made him so compelling in the first place. I have no shame in admitting that Bronhom is my favourite Bond because he has the most fun with it. He knows what he has to do and just goes with it. I also have no trouble admitting that he’s nowhere near being the best.

Goldeneye is a great spectacle but it’s not necessarily a great film. It gives you everything you need from a spy film and all the traditions you need for a 007 film. The stunts are as spectacular as you’d want and the plot as outrageous as possible. This film holds an important place in James Bond history. And that’s not just because of the fucking awesome tank chase through St. Petersburg.

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)

There are plenty of films that I get excited about but am too embarrassed to admit to. No matter how much I try and hide it, I’ll always have the soul of a 12 year old boy. The bottom line is that swords, guns and explosions are fucking awesome and if your film trailer is full of them then I’m gonna want to see it. It’s led to a lot of misguided film experiences and is the main reason that I don’t completely hate Michael Bay’s Transformersfilms. Upon first seeing the trailer for Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman: The Secret Service, I knew it was the kind of film I wanted to see but without anyone finding out about it.

Back in 2010, Matthew Vaughan and co-writer Jane Goldman re-imagined the world of superhero movies with Kick-Ass and introduced us all to the profanity spouting Chloe Grace Moretz. It was a fucking superb film that achieved massive success and spawned a less than great sequel. Obviously feeling comfortable adapting Mark Millar’s work, Vaughan and Goldman are back to reinvent the classic spy film by bringing The Secret Serviceto our screens. No matter how fucking amazing Skyfalland the rest of Daniel Craig’s Bond reign has been, there has been something lacking of late. No longer is there any room for the raised eyebrows, timely quips and batshit crazy gadgets. Thankfully, Vaughan has noticed a gap in the market and adapted Millar’s story to fit the bill. Kingsman does for Roger Moore era James Bond what Guy Ritchie did for Sherlock Holmes… only better.
Kingsmanis refreshingly self-aware and is littered with cheeky nods to all aspects of pop culture. Colin Firth’s suave Harry Hart wear Harry Palmer-style glasses, wields an umbrella in a way that John Steed would be proud and casually references 80s classic Trading Places. Of course, it is Bond that prevails over all and Ian Fleming’s much-loved agent is regularly alluded to or mentioned out-right. In an attempt to make amends for a past mistake, Harry takes urban youth, Eggsy, under his wing to turn him into a gentleman and a trained killer. The first part of the film is a delightful mix of My Fair Lady, The Apprentice and The Ipcress File. The moments between the pair are full of chemistry so it’s a massive fucking shame that the plot strives so hard to split them up.
For, whilst Eggsy is taking part in the most stressful job interview ever, Harry’s time is spent trying to find out what internet mogul Richmond Valentine (Samuel L Jackson) is planning. Valentine is a megalomaniac with a keen interest in environmentalism. As classic spy villains go, he isn’t up there with the best but does provide a few memorable moments throughout the proceedings. Ultimately though, he is woefully eclipsed by his blade-legged, assassin side-kick, Gazelle. A powerful opponent who can easily chop you in half with her prosthetics: the paralympics meets Kill Billif you will. Of course, regardless of his ranking in the super-villain hall of fame, Valentine is a pretty good foil for Hart and the rare moments that they appear on screen together are fucking brilliant. I’m never normally sure what I think of Colin Firth but there is no doubt he had the time of his fucking life. There is the now infamous scene set in an extremist Church when Harry, not fully in control of his senses, takes out an entire congregation of angry Christians. Graphic it may be but fun it most certainly is.
That’s the thing about Kingsman, the fact that it was independently funded meant that Vaughn was able to get away with more without fear of censorship. The violence is perhaps over-the-top but is handled in such a cartoony way that it might not matter. For every potentially dubious moment of unnecessary there is the fucking genius scene of henchmen’s heads exploding in time to Land of Hope and Glory. Whatever your thoughts on the violence argument that will always be raging within Hollywood, there is no doubt that Kingsmanis a stylish, brash and incredibly fun film. The only real let-down that I can see is Vaughn’s treatment of the class system. He makes several attempts to openly criticise the upper-classes whilst simultaneously celebrating their lifestyle. Kingsmanplays with a certain tradition of spy thrillers and inadvertently places the men at the centre of that genre on a pedestal. This is understandably at odds with all of Harry’s reassurances to Eggsy that it is the man underneath that counts. Still, it makes little difference in Matthew Vaughn’s joy-filled celebration of a certain style of cinema. You’ll make it through to the credits perfectly happy and, if you’re like me, excited for the next one.
Skyfall (2012)

Skyfall (2012)

Daniel Craig’s time as James Bond has certainly had its ups and downs since the announcement that he would take over from previous incarnation Pierce Brosnan. Although, I think it’s safe to say that, despite what you may have thought about Quantum, Craig has shown that he has more than enough skill to take on the challenge of such a renowned figure. This was a Bond for the modern age; a Bond who takes on the physical challenges expected of a super spy whilst still looking every part the traditional English gent. That was the greatest thing about Casino Royale, we had a film that took a character rooted in the British tradition of stiff upper lipped patriotism and turned him into a gritty action hero with just enough heart. Casino Royale changed the rules for 007 and remains the best film of the series. This has, of course, meant that all future films will be compared to it. Something that didn’t go well for the disappointing and much criticised Quantum of Solace and something that will mean that Skyfall won’t get the full appreciation that it deserves. It is no Casino Royale but the latest offering is the perfect celebration of 50 years of Ian Fleming’s literary construction.

For this is the ultimate purpose of Skyfall; respecting the past whilst accepting that times have changed and Mr Bond has had to move with them. The film makes several key nods to the Bonds of the past whilst maintaining that he is still the same, dark, moody and damaged super spy that we are used to nowadays. In keeping with the current craze of Nolanesque sensitive and broody heroes, Bond has a certain amount soul searching to do in between the Jason Bourne style stunts. Forget Connery, Moore and co., this is the James Bond for the 21st century. The storyline itself shows a deeper awareness of current events as it leads us through strands based around cyber-terrorism, the theft of sensitive data and government inquires. Providing the perfect opportunity to introduce the 007 to his new quartermaster and techno wizkid, played by the always brilliant Ben Whisaw. Gone are the amazing but nevertheless rather quaint gadgets of old; no more exploding pens, jet packs and submarine cars for our slick, modern spy. No, we find ourselves in a simpler, more realistic world where it is computer hacking, a personalised gun and a radio that will save the day.

Despite this focus on a more stately, up-to-date action man, Mendes goes through the motions and offers the audience all of the traits that we have come to expect from a half-decent Bond film. The director obediently ensures that the credits sequence, the sexy ladies, the cars, the exotic locations, the gadgets and the ruthless villain all get their moment. Unfortunately a lot of it is done rather half-heartedly and simply to keep the fans  happy. Particularly in regards to the token Bond girls, namely Eve (Naomie Harris) Bond’s flirty MI6 colleague and femme fatale Sévérine (Bérénice Marlohe), who come across as underwhelming and pretty unnecessary. I don’t want to find myself in a feminist anti-Bond girl rant because, frankly, I feel like a Bond film without at least one sexy foil slightly misses the point of Fleming’s original creation. However, in this film it seems that there should only have been one leading lady in Bond’s adventure. For the past seven Bond films, Judi Dench’s M has been standing on the outskirts disapproving of the eponymous spy’s trigger-happy behaviour and his eye for the ladies. It was about time that she got her moment in the spotlight and given the chance to show what she could be. Forget the scantily clad ladies that have graced our screens and James’ bed for the past 50 years, it is M who is the quintessential Bond girl. She is the feisty, strong and ruthless matriarch with a string of men eager to lay down their lives at her say so. Quite simply, M is the Queen of the Bond girls.

Once the necessities are out of the way the film is able to really get going. Skyfall is the first Bond film to really make use of home soil and the set pieces in London and the Scottish highlands are a wonder. It is all very familiar and shows the real concerns for 007. In Silva’s plot for revenge it is the innocent London commuters that get caught up in the action. Bond must save the country he has spent 50 years serving whilst his boss must justify the department she heads up. Writers Neal Purvic, Robert Wade and John Logan provide us with all of the in-jokes and references that you would expect from this celebratory production but present us with a fresh and engrossing story that shows us the franchise still has something to offer its fans.

Although, there is a sense that the film has been too influenced by the new breed of superhero and the latest Hollywood trend of exploring the emotional damage at the heart of every half decent struggle with evil. I must admit that my heart sank when there was mention of the tragedy surrounding Bond’s parents as I was sure a Nolanesque tale of a damaged orphan dealing with his loneliness was looming. Thankfully these references are short-lived and don’t distract from the most important feature. Skyfall flirts with a more introspective and emotional attitude but there is no doubt that this is an all action flick. Sam Mendes was brought in to bring back a certain amount of credibility to the franchise after the much criticised Quantum of Solace and in the pre-credits sequence he certainly proves that when you place a train-top fist-fight in his lap he can deal with it. Mendes plays down the Bourne style action that created such disappointment in Quantum but still provides us with several memorable sequences of high-octane drama. I’m sure that pretty much every review you may have read about Skyfall will have made at least a passing reference to the amazingly talented cinematographer, Roger Deakins. After their previous collaborations on Jarhead and Revolutionary Road, Mendes and Deakins join forces once more and offer the audience some of the best visuals of the entire series. Skyfall is, quite simply, a feast for the eyes. You need only take another look at the moments in China to see how good these two are; scenes such as the one that takes place in an office building where a gorgeous light show accompanies an assassination, show us that action films can also be beautiful films.

Of course, the film isn’t just a success thanks to the two key figures behind the scenes. It is thanks to the awesome trio that lead the plot and their great interactions that really make Skyfall such a triumph. We are presented with an obviously older and more careworn 007 who has clearly been through quite a lot since his double 0 debut in Casino Royale. Craig’s Bond is as harried, stern and deadly as ever and he leads us through Bond’s beardy, physically and emotionally damaged period better than Bronhom ever did in Die Another Day. He has something to prove to himself and, most importantly, to his superiors. He not only has to save everyone but show that his boss’ continued faith in his skills isn’t as ill-advised at it may seem. It was about time that more weight was given to the turbulent relationship between Bond and M and Judi Dench and Daniel Craig have such a great chemistry that it’s a shame that they couldn’t have shared even more screen time. The relationship has been one of respect, loyalty, subtextual (and fairly oedipal) eroticism, and, to steal a phrase from Peter Bradshaw, “smouldering resentment”. M demands everything from her agents but is more than happy to risk their safety and their lives to succeed. It is something that Bond has, so far, not questioned and has enabled him to enjoy pushing their bond to its limits. That is until a rather terrifying face from M’s past returns to force her into atoning for her sins.

That face belongs to a blonde and creepily eccentric Javier Bardem who presents us with one of the most dangerous yet enigmatic Bond villains of all time. In line with the rest of the film’s visuals, Silva is a sight to behold. I have seen comparisons with Julian Assange, Larry Grayson and Jimmy Saville. Whatever you’re view, there is no denying that Silva looks unsettling thanks to his intensely blond appearance. Silva is the Mr Hyde to Bond’s Dr Jekyl; they both share the skills of a super spy and share a rollercoaster relationship with M. Bardem’s villain is sensational. From his utterly captivating entrance, spouting his parable about rats in a barrel, onwards he gets under Bond’s skin and forces him to question the foundations of his whole life. Even his love of women thanks to an eerily flirty encounter whilst Bond is tied to a chair. It is the interactions of these three figures and an excellent supporting cast that drive the action and intense storyline of the 23rd outing of Fleming’s hero.

There is little doubt that Skyfall is a great Bond film; it more than makes up for the previous film and allows both old and new fans to see how, important, enjoyable and exciting the last 50 years have been. It is not perfect but Mendes does a remarkable job to mix the old with the new and make a bloody good film at the same time. His turn is sombre, thoughtful and incredibly brash all at the same time. It takes some time to get going but once the obligatory Bond guidelines have been adhered to the film really opens up. We are taken on a wild adventure through Turkey, China and London and end up in an explosive finale in the remote Scottish Highlands. The lead actors and their supporting cast (with a vital but short appearance from the outstanding Albert Finney) we have a Bond film worthy of the character and the fans. With its slight emotional core adding to, and not distracting from, the action, Skyfall just goes to show there is still a place for the likes of James Bond in our society.