There was something old, something new, and a lot of things borrowed in 'Skyfall', James Bond's 23rd screen outing.
Sam Mendes was the Oscar-winning director given the daunting task of providing a completely up-to-date blockbuster in a post-Bourne age, while honouring 007 in his 50th anniversary year on the big screen, a balancing act he pulled off - just.
For a start, every vintage box got a big stonking tick. The requisite pre-title sequence was stunning with a chase scene that took in all manner of vehicles and landscapes, and even had Daniel Craig pausing to check the cuffs on his immaculate Tom Ford attire. Later, we found 007 where, arguably, we like him best - tanned and tuxedoed at the casino tables, 'casually' meeting a girl, and they don't come more Bond-beautiful than Berenice Marlohe, dripping with sultry sadness.
We got to enjoy once more the cars, the gadgets, the bemused MI6 contingent as they struggled to contain their loose cannon of an agent - still their most able, and most uncontrollable.
But we got to experience all of this nostalgia through the prism of a knowing nod from the contemporary world, with such bridge-builders from past to present as Ben Whishaw's Q playing their part to perfection.
"What were you expecting?" he asked Bond, after presenting him with... a distinctly ordinary-looking accessory.
Gender stereotypes got a fresh outing. Villain Silva (Javier Bardem) was a distinctly androgynous creature even without the blonde wig, while the Bond girls - both Marlohe and Naomie Harris shining in their roles - were sassy and smart, not just seductable. And they weren't the only ones propositioning Bond, either. Don't ask.
The plot was the smartly pared-down, simple tale of an ultra-capable rogue from M's past returned to do some mighty mischief-making that threatened M, her organisation and her country. So all the usual.
What was different was a deliberate stripping of the parts so that the engine around the Bond was far more visible than previously, such as the motivations of MI6 - even while M had to explain to an impatient government committee that her operatives worked in the shadows, and therefore couldn't be accountable. Sam Mendes, by contrast, was intent on bringing them out into the sunlight, including the hitherto inscrutable M, an energetic Judi Dench, doing far more here than in her previous outings.
Whereas the first two-thirds were a fine mixture of plot and pyrotechnics, culminating in a mighty chase across central London - well, it's been a quiet year for the capital otherwise - as well as the far-away locations of glossy Shanghai and ravished Macao, the final third felt almost too familiar in its leanings. Obviously, a little bit of 'Bourne' is inevitable these days, but there was also a remnant of 'Silence of the Lambs' as Shiva got too close for comfort to his opponents, a glimmer of 'Dark Knight'-ness at a couple of moments, a fair bit of 'Tinker Tailor' as M dealt with the existential complications of the gig, and even - I hardly dare say it - some 'Harry Potter' business, as Bond's... back-story, alas! - got thrown in for good measure, and we were all off to a blowy, cobwebbed castle - complete with a Hagriddy figure to help - for the final blow-out.
We're not meant to know this much about Bond, I'm sure, and hopefully now he's poked his head out for a sentimental look around on his half-century, he'll go back into the shadows where M knows he belongs.
Despite this, 'Skyfall' is one of the year's great screen pleasures. The fact that Mendes and Co managed to juggle so many components, keeping old fans happy, building bridges to the new era and constructing a story that could stand on its own as well as carrying the weight of the 50th year, is all testament to the bruised but unbowed warrior of Daniel Craig at the centre of it all, and one fine decision made eight or so years ago - the bold choice of Barbara Broccoli to walk up to the table with her famous family's most prized possession in her hand, defy the doubters and put all her chips on blonde. Just like M, she "got one thing right" and now, after his third outing, clearly, nobody does it better...
Skyfall is in UK cinemas from Friday 26 October. Some pictures below...
Suggested For You
SUBSCRIBE AND FOLLOW
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements.Learn more