The James Bond series is massive and has set certain expectations, especially since Daniel Craig has taken the helm. “Casino Royale” transformed the series known for its chauvinistic camp into a balance of amazing action and drama with a touch of the charming comedy. Ignoring the slightly disappointing “Quantum of Solace,” “Skyfall” is a perfect continuation of the infamous character. With a Fall season release, “Skyfall” was planned to be the biggest movie of the weekend (you might have bought evening tickets early) and probably one of the biggest of the whole year in 2012.
James Bond celebrates his 50th big screen anniversary in style with Skyfall, a significant improvement on its ramshackle predecessor Quantum of Solace. Producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson have pulled out all the stops for 007’s landmark birthday – Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes is in the hot seat, Daniel Craig returns for his third mission, Adele sings a belter of a theme song, and there’s some serious new acting clout onboard in Javier Bardem and Ralph Fiennes.
All this pays off, because in Skyfall 007 fans have a film that respects Bond’s lengthy screen history while pushing its hero into new territory. This tension of old vs new, tradition vs innovation, has kept Bond on his toes over the years, occasionally resulting in offerings that fail to strike a chord with mass cinemagoers (eg the violent License to Kill) or give the series a shot in the arm (GoldenEye‘s clever winks to series tropes).
James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Eve (Naomie Harris) are thrown into immediate action as they track a missing hard drive containing sensitive information involving MI6. M (Judi Dench) is left accountable for the disaster but soon experiences another terrible blow. Tracking the source of their dilemma, Bond faces a formidable opponent in Silva (Javier Bardem), a computer genius.
In the Daniel Craig world of 007, audiences have come to expect awesome action and “Skyfall” does not disappoint. From the very first chase scene, the adrenaline is high and sure to please. The editing is not choppy, so each fight scene and action sequence seems so realistic and daring.
The direction by Sam Mendes is perfection and the acting is fantastic, but the star of “Skyfall” for me is cinematographer Roger Deakins. Deakins is famed in his field with many Academy Award nominations and displays his mastery and balance of the light and shadows in “Skyfall.” The imagery throughout the entire film is gorgeous, crisp, and clear, though my favorite focuses on a fight scene done by silhouettes.
Bardem, who created such a memorable screen villain in No Country for Old Men‘s Anton Chigurh, repeats the trick with Silva. He’s camp, creepy and reptilian, and his first encounter with Bond is enough to make you laugh one moment then squirm the next.
Also ticked off the Bond checklist is Q, reinvented by Ben Whishaw as a cardigan-wearing computer whizzkid whose gadgets are stripped down to the bare essentials: a Walther PPK with hand-print recognition and a radio signalling device. “This isn’t exactly Christmas,” Bond quips. “Were you expecting an exploding pen?” Q fires back. There’s a glamorous woman, too, in Bérénice Marlohe’s underused Severine, but the most significant relationship Bond has in Skyfall is with M and his own past.
Mendes and writers Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan play with Ian Fleming’s original ideas of the character, circling back to 007’s Scottish heritage (itself Fleming’s hat-tip to Sean Connery) for a sensational finale at Skyfall lodge. Where Fleming mourned the loss of the British Empire in his novels, here there are questions about MI6’s political value and if it’s possible for them to “fight in the shadows” anymore. In M, though, Craig’s Bond has someone to fight for.
“Casino Royale” set an extremely high standard for 007 films and somehow “Skyfall” meets the mark. Comparable in quality, “Skyfall” will probably be better liked by mass audiences because it has a more consistent amount of action that is paced well. 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.