A hard drive containing the identities of MI6 undercover agents is at risk of going missing, so James Bond (Daniel Craig) is trying to catch the thief in Istanbul, with the assistance of field agent Eve (Naomie Harris). When Bond is shot and presumed dead, his superior, M (Judi Dench), takes the blame, but when Bond returns from the grave, he must track down the files to save not only his country, but his boss.
Now, before I get any grief over the warning-free spoiler in the opening paragraph, did anyone really expect Bond to die in the opening, pre-credits sequence to the film? No? Well then shush. Also, I didn't really talk about anything that doesn't happen in the first 20 minutes of a 140 minute film, so I think it's fair game.
I've mentioned before that I'm not necessarily the biggest Bond fan, but I was looking forward to this movie because a) it looked amazing in the trailers, b) Daniel Craig is pretty decent as Bond, c) Berenice Marlohe looked stunning in the marketing campaign (and, indeed, continues to do so in the film), and d) the cast and crew working on the film are pretty epic. Other than series stalwarts Craig and Dench you've got Ralph Fiennes as an MI6 chairman, Albert Finney in a brilliant role that I won't reveal, but appears in the second half of the film, and Javier Bardem as the decidedly creepy looking baddie, Silva. When Bardem was announced as being the next Bond villain I was far from surprised, given his stellar work in No Country For Old Men in which he proved he had the level of intensity and unhinged brutality to do just about anything. In fact, the only real surprise was that it wasn't Christoph Waltz or Jean Dujardin, Hollywood's other Europeans du jour. Oh, and e) Q is in this film, in the guise of Ben Whishaw, and the gadget-aspect of the more classic Bond films has been one of the few elements that appealed to me.
Everyone performed admirably, and I think given the extended screentime she was given there is every chance of Dench nabbing a Supporting Actress Oscar nomination (but she probably won't win). I particularly liked Whisham as Q, with his younger, tech-savvie nerd (he has a Scrabble mug) adding a fresh dynamic to the Bond/Q relationship. Fiennes managed a lot with a little time, and Bardem stole a lot of the scenes. My only minor gripe is that Bond and Harris' Eve lacked chemistry, with their playful banter feeling at times stilted and forced. I've not read this elsewhere, so this could just be me.
Unusually for a Bond film, the plot was fairly straightforward with regard to what Silva wanted, even if his scheme had some Dark Knight levels of complexity and convolution that could probably have been avoided or performed far more efficiently. It was a shame that Silva, one of the best aspects of the film, didn't show up until past the 70-minute mark, but this was only really noticeable because I was looking forward to his presence so intently. There were a few developments that were fairly well signposted but still seemed to come as a surprise to the rest of my cinema's audience, but guessing they were coming didn't detract from my enjoyment. For Bond super-fans, there are lots of nods and winks to previous outings, most notably Live and Let Die's crocodiles (Exotic animals are back in Bond films! Yay!) and the DB5 from Goldfinger. There's also a direct mention to Bond's Scottish ancestry.
The action here is some of the best I've seen from any Bond film, particularly the opening sequences, which sees Bond embarking on a motorcycle chase across rooftops, and then onto a moving train. The trailers may have spoiled the best moment - Bond jumping into a train carriage that's been opened like a tin can, before adjusting his cuffs and continuing on with his day - but it's still thrilling to finally see it in context. I don't hold a lot of truck with car chases, but if the participants are on two wheels instead of four, I become far more engrossed, probably because I've always been more of a cyclist than a driver. References to Bond aging and perhaps being past his best were nice, I think this is a first for the series, even though at 44 Craig is still younger than Roger Moore was when he first picked up the Bond baton.
The film does fall into a couple of 007 traps - under stricter criticism, the plot doesn't necessarily hold up, the London underground looked fairly empty for a supposed rush hour and at one point Silva walks away from a situation Bond could probably escape from without making sure he's dead - but these points aside the film is bloody good. The proof of this? My girlfriend is a self-confessed Bond-hater (though she's only seen Die Another Day and Casino Royale all the way through, with odds and ends from others) but at the end of Skyfall she turned to be and said "That was really good!" Oh, and it doesn't matter how Adele sings it, Skyfall does not rhyme with crumble.
Choose film 9/10