Verdict: 3 out of 5 stars. Daniel Craig has more than grown into the role of James Bond, and the 23rd installment of James Bond pays loving homage to its predecessors. But it’s about half an hour too long, despite the great action, and the lack of a compelling villain seems to have become a perennial problem for the Bond franchise. 

No one had told Daniel he was actually starring in a car commercial. ©MGM Films

I should confess: I’ve never quite fancied the 21st century version of Bond. It’s become too deadly serious, and all the joy has been sucked out of it, as if by some deadly device invented by Blofeld. But to use a tired turn of phrase, it is inevitable that a post-9/11 world can no longer take an invulnerable super agent seriously. And if box office figures are any indication, the rebooted Bond – all angst and secret pain and vulnerability – is a hero that speaks to modern audiences.

But if nothing else, director Sam Mendes, who has said he set out to make a Bond film he would want to watch, restores a little bit of fun to the character in Skyfall. And he pays loving homage to the franchise by bringing back the classic Bond theme, some painful wordplay and the ever-popular Q, this time in the form of the fresh-faced Ben Whishaw.  All the requisite elements of Bond are there too, from exotic locales – the action shifting from Istanbul to Shanghai to Macau – to glamorous women like Severin (Berenice Marlohe) and Eve (Naomie Harris) doing duty as eye candy.

Berenice awaited the next terrible pun with trepidation. ©MGM Films

And of course, what would a Bond movie be without an over the top villain? Step forward, Silva (Oscar-winner Javier Bardem), a mysterious villain with an agenda all his own. Unfortunately, while Bardem goes for chilling, he comes across as more creepy and cheesy, and his blonde hairdo does him no favours. Sadly, Silva ends up being the latest in a long line of forgettable Bond villains since the days of Pierce Brosnan. Oh, for  the days when Bond villains were memorable, charismatic and an actual match for Bond. Are there truly no more Scaramangas or Dr Nos out there?

Javier knew he should have gone with a different hairstylist. ©MGM Films

Right from the start, Mendes takes us into the thick of the action with a car chase that becomes increasingly frantic and explodes into a firefight. We then see Bond in a – yawn – bike chase scene that seems to have become de rigeur in action movies since Jason Bourne did it in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007). Then before you know it, Bond is chasing baddies on top of a train, all the while remaining almost immaculate in tailored suit and tie. But for all the well-choregraphed action, the pacing of the film is a huge problem – proceedings could have been cut short by about half an hour, and the storyline seems to meander along with no real focus.

The best thing about Skyfall is the relationship between M (Dame Judi Dench) and Bond that comes squarely into focus in this film. The two share a wonderful chemistry, with M almost a mother figure to him, albeit a caustic, sharp tongued one. Craig exudes a confidence and a swagger that can only come from playing the role multiple times, matching Dench stride for stride. On her part, Dench positively burns with a quiet rage in what may be her last outing as M. “Oh to hell with dignity. I’ll leave when the job’s done,” she snaps at bookish bureaucrat Mallory (Ralph Fiennes).  But this time round, it’s M’s turn to have her past catch up with her, and Bond is the one who has to save her.

The iron-willed M. ©MGM Films

Besides Dench, Craig has a more than able supporting cast around him. Fiennes is the very epitome of unlikeable civil servant, and is certain to play a much bigger role in future Bond films to come. Whishaw as the new Q also gets one of the best lines of the film: “Were you expecting an exploding pen? We don’t really go in for that anymore.”

All in all, a worthy Bond – but not one of the classics.

Have you watched Skyfall? What did you think of it?