The highly anticipated 23rd James Bond film "Skyfall", the third outing of Daniel Craig as James Bond, screened on Friday night to select press in both the United Kingdom and United States. The reviews that have begun pouring out are nothing short of spectacular, calling it as good (and in some cases better) than "Casino Royale", a massive improvement over the letdown of "Quantum of Solace", and one of the best Bond films in the history of the franchise.
Praise has been given all around to the performances, the balance of character which gives 'M' much more to do this time around, Roger Deakins' cinematography, Sam Mendes' directorial work, and a script which puts the emphasis on character and story. The tone is said to be both a mix of classic Bond era staples updated with a contemporary feel, some have even called certain parts of it "Nolan-esque".
The few nitpicks have generally been that the runtime clocks in a little long, a few wanted a bit more action, and a few weren't as blown away by the third act as they were by the first two. Here's samples of some of the reviews below. As a 007 nut I'm sad to say my own review is a good five weeks off - even us film news writers here in Australia won't get to see it until at least a week after the U.S. general release:
"[This] feels more seriously connected to real-world concerns than any previous entry, despite the usual outlandish action scenes, glittering settings and larger-than-life characters. Dramatically gripping while still brandishing a droll undercurrent of humor, this beautifully made film will certainly be embraced as one of the best Bonds by loyal fans worldwide…" Todd McCarthy, THR
"Putting the 'intelligence' in MI6, Skyfall reps a smart, savvy and incredibly satisfying addition to the 007 oeuvre. In Sam Mendes' hands, the franchise comes full circle, revealing the three-film Daniel Craig cycle to be both prelude and coda to the entire series via a foxy chess move that puts these pics on par with Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy as best-case exemplars of what cinematic brands can achieve… Skyfall radically breaks from the Bond formula while still remaining true to its essential beats, presenting a rare case in which audiences can no longer anticipate each twist in advance…" Peter DeBruge, Variety
"5/5. Skyfall is a great British bulldog of a movie. From the moment the orchestral sound of Adele belts out, sending a nostalgic shiver down the audience's collective spine, we know this will be a triumphant return to classic Bond. Sam Mendes, the director, deftly balances fanboy worship of 007 tradition with sophisticated film-making, and (apart from early Connery), nobody does it better than Daniel Craig…" Kate Muir, The Times
"5/5. This Bond adventure directed by Sam Mendes is pure classic 007 fare , back on firm footing after the less than memorable 'Quantum of Solace'. Skyfall was a fantastic combination of 007 meets 'Bourne' meets 'Spooks' meets 'Home Alone'…" Baz Bamigboyle, The Daily Mail
"B+. Sam Mendes has essentially made a Christopher Nolan Bond film before Christopher Nolan got the chance. That's not quite fair to the "American Beauty" director, who makes his own mark on the series (and possibly his most satisfying film so far). But it's also true that many of the qualities that Nolan brought to the "Batman" series are present and correct in "Skyfall," both in the good and the bad…" Oliver Lyttelton, The Playlist
"4/5. Sam Mendes's frequently dazzling, utterly audacious entry in the franchise has less in common with its much-loved predecessors than Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight. Mendes is unafraid to let the quieter dramatic moments breathe (a loaded conversation between Bond and Silva drew cheers at last night's preview screening), and ace cinematographer Roger Deakins makes the wildly ambitious action sequences the most beautiful in Bond's 50-year career…" Robbie Collin, The Telegraph
"4/5. It's a 007 movie confident enough in its writing to dial back the action sequences when it needs to, and instead rely on suspense and wonderfully dry dialogue to carry large chunks of the film. "Skyfall", perhaps better than any of Bond's modern adventures, manages to reconcile the wood panelling and Cold War scheming of the character's origins, and the high-tech, post-Internet requirements of a modern spy movie…" Ryan Lambie, Den of Geek
"4/5. Skyfall's clean, direct narrative, blistering action sequences (a neon-lit Shanghai showdown deserves to be singled out) and strong performances across the board elevate it to the upper end of the Bond movie spectrum. There may be an awful lot of Heineken and a few minutes too many, but you won't walk out of this disappointed. Turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks…" Simon Reynolds, Digital Spy
"3/5. The makers of Skyfall have taken the bold decision to open Bond up – to probe at the character's back-story and raise a toast to his relationship with M. Don't they realise that 007 has always been at his most convincing when he's at his crudest and least adorned; when he's serving as a blank canvas for macho fantasy…" Xan Brooks, The Guardian