All the classic Bond elements are brought together to make SKYFALL (12: Sony), the 23rd film in the series, one of the very best.
Released in cinemas 50 years after the first, Dr No, it not only pays tribute to 007 films in style, but fine-tunes the franchise for the future.
Daniel Craig starts his third Bond outing all washed up, having been left for dead after a mission backfired.
National security is compromised when a mysterious criminal mastermind orchestrates a terrorist attack on M16 headquarters and exposes the identities of undercover agents around the world.
A bestubbled, battered and booze-soaked 007 returns to duty and casts serious doubts on his fitness for the job. And the future of M (Judi Dench) is called into question by a parliamentary committee eager to see her made accountable for her department’s failings.
Hannibal Lecter-like villain Silva (a rather too campy Javier Bardem) has a pathological need to settle old scores and is given the best lines.
Director Sam Mendes provides a breathless pre-credits sequence through Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, yet the best stunt he pulls off is creating a convincing human drama.
Add to that an intelligent, witty script, a fine supporting cast (Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney), Adele’s emotionally charged theme song and an appearance by the ultimate Bond accessory, the original Aston Martin DB5.
> The first Taken movie was an unexpected success and established Liam Neeson as a bona fide action star in his mid-50s. Inevitable sequel TAKEN 2 (15: Twentieth Century Fox) is, plotwise, much the same as the first film.
The twist is Neeson’s retired CIA agent Bryan Mills taken hostage along with his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) in Istanbul by an Albanian gangster, whose son Mills killed while bringing down a kidnapping ring. It’s left to their daughter to help free them.
Certainly a dafter set-up than the original, with unintenionally funny moments involving the haphazard use of grenades. At least it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It rattles along entertainingly and, at barely 90 minutes, doesn’t outstay its welcome.
> Riveting splatter thriller TOWER BLOCK (15: Lionsgate) sees top-floor residents in East End high-rise flats due for demolition come under attack from a psycho sniper.
With the lifts booby-trapped and the exits obstructed, the killer is watching every move by the panic-stricken sitting targets, waiting to gun them down one by one. Once the well-choreographed shocks have fallen into place and the eerily run-down interiors have come into their own, nothing stops the gory action building into a perfect nail-biter, although the stretched budget sometimes shows.
> Woody Allen’s European soujourn continues with TO ROME WITH LOVE (12: Sony), another likeable but lightweight ensemble piece, starring Penelope Cruz and Jesse Eisenberg.
The lives of several people in the Italian capital overlap as an architect encounters a young couple and is reminded of his own painful past. A director prepares to meet his daughter’s fiance and an ordinary man finds himself the city’s most famous resident.