It's pretty damp in London during the opening moments of Sam Mendes' outing as a Bond director. It makes for rather groggy mise-en-scene as Judi Dench's M loses her grasp on her professionalism, committing a series of accidental interior errors. These errors force a change in the air which signifies upheaval for Bond, too, both fictitiously and for the actor's that populate the film: this will be Dench's final appearance as M; and Ralph Fiennes' first. Fictitiously, M's failures leave the characters open to the wrath of some fishy biz lurking deep within the well that is spy-operations.

This entire breakdown is harnessed within the sunken pipes of a certain Adele, who nails that classicist, (dare I say Bassey-ist?) reach in Skyfall - its 'Best Original Song' Oscar makes it the most in-vogue 007 theme of all time, and has established Adele post-'Someone Like You' on the world stage. The track is melancholic and suave; no doubt a safe bet, but what else is needed? Its show-y sound works with a sort of quaint force - enough to deter the Garbage fans from rallying for another pop.

Classic, show-y and in ode to svelte 007s of times past, but It's not just the rhythm that Skyfall owes to tradition. You'd be a slow, slow mover not to clock within seconds that Mendes is a massive, outstandingly unabashed James Bond nerd-veteran. In fact, a billion references arise before popcorn even reaches gob: take the motorcycle chase in the opening credits straight out of Tomorrow Never Dies. Further, Severine's (Berenice Marlohe) teasing boat trip with the intention of forging introductions to Javier Bardem's wiry villian is acutely similar to the watery scenes in Goldeneye. Marlohe is even the spitting image of thigh-clenching femme-fatale Natalya Simonova.

This acute interest in pertinent throwbacks is played with during a rich, classy soundtrack which reminds us where the franchise began 50 years back. The illustrious big band is the vehicle, the infiltrator, from Fleming's era, Monty Norman; the composer behind 'The James Bond Theme', which gets a comprehensive airing.

It's not that Mendes exploits it; the brilliance is in his subtle placing: much like Dench's bags of nails in the Scottish Highlands, timing is key. Duly, we catch a first glimpse of the original shivery brass ensemble (other than the obligatory opening credits pomp) during the unveiling of Bond's classic Aston Martin DB5 as Craig quips 'trouble with company cars is they all have trackers'. This is elite fanboy material.

Later, as if to round things off, the distinctive wails of 'The James Bond Theme' are played over the DB5 as it is symbolically ejected from our screens, engulfed in balls of fire.

This early sound is all over, but never is it spread more thickly than with Naomie Harris's formal introduction to her bond-heavyweight status: '"'m Eve Moneypenny" she quips, to the sound of the foreboding bass. Mendes uses branded sounds with a real sense of importance, with their drops he negotiates a comfy medium, rigidly nodding to bygone Bonds whilst warming the chair for fifty more years of filmic progression.

There's fresh composition too which demands attention. In one of many heartbeat moments, 007 hotfoots London's tube network in pursuit of Silva to the beat of extra-tough rolling drums, filthy violins and a hasty percussive unit. It's all hyper-sensitively streamlined to the action: a euphoric rat-race, bipolar by way of its thrilling and tragic tendencies.

Aside from a lot of well-suited big-band-noise, there's a single moment of slapstick camp which accompanies Bardem's Silva (a performance which aches of integrity) as he arrives at the Highlands retreat where the film sets its finale.

Mendes and crew, finding solace in the detailing of a torturous mass-murderer with a sensitive side, display Silva jetting in on his genocidal pilgrimage via helicopter, equipped with huge woof-y speakers which terrifically blaze The Animals' 'Boom Boom'. The rock n'roll hit aims to spook Bond, and the audience, all of us in hiding by this point, via a masterful edit which features killer line "Gonna shoot you right down - I'm in love with you." It's all criminally masochistic, teasing shivers from even the hardiest psycho-crime nerds.

There's transcendent, stoic and definitive musical decoration all over Skyfall, which works by forging new paths alongside the other traditional values and virtues that has kept Bond alive for 50 years. If the balance is up kept, the franchise will be relevant for years more.

Tracklisting:

  • 1. Grand Bazaar, Istanbul (05:14)
  • 2. Voluntary Retirement (02:22)
  • 3. New Digs (02:32)
  • 4. Severine (01:18)
  • 5. Brave New World (01:50)
  • 6. Shanghai Drive (01:26)
  • 7. Jellyfish (03:22)
  • 8. Silhouette (00:56)
  • 9. Modigliani (01:04)
  • 10. Day Wasted (01:31)
  • 11. Quartermaster (04:58)
  • 12. Someone Usually Dies (02:29)
  • 13. Komodo Dragon (03:20
  • 14. The Bloody Shot (04:46)
  • 15. Enjoying Death (01:13)
  • 16. The Chimera (01:58)
  • 17. Close Shave (01:32)
  • 18. Health & Safety (01:29)
  • 19. Granborough Road (02:32)
  • 20. Tennyson (02:14)
  • 21. Enquiry (02:49)
  • 22. Breadcrumbs (02:02)
  • 23. Skyfall (02:32)
  • 24. Kill Them First (02:22)
  • 25. Welcome to Scotland (03:21)
  • 26. She’s Mine (03:53)
  • 27. The Moors (02:39)
  • 28. Deep Water (05:11)
  • 29. Mother (01:48)
  • 30. Adrenaline (02:18)