Bond is back and in a big way. Skyfall is the best James Bond movie ever and a movie no one should miss. Starring Daniel Craig in his third turn at the classic role, the film follows M as a dark secret from her past comes back to haunt her, forcing Bond to chase one of his most ruthless enemies ever. The film was directed by Sam Mendes and includes a cast with such names as Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomi Ropace and Judi Dench. Watch the trailer below and then read my review.
For a movie that had a lot to live up to, Skyfall delivers on every level. After Quantum of Solace was released in 2008 to poor reviews, the possibility of Craig being recast and of the series losing its way after 22 movies brought some bad light to the franchise. Then MGM nearly went bankrupt and the fate of the franchise was stuck in limbo as Eon tried to get another company to finance the film. Eventually, Sony Pictures signed on to split distribution with MGM and the movie was pushed forward, to be released in celebration of 50 years since the first film, Dr. No.
The wait sure paid off, as everything in this movie is top notch, from the acting to the story to the cinematography. The series has changed dramatically from the Connery era. This is a very dark film that touches some very dark themes, yet still manages to include classic Bond quips and references. The movie frequently makes reference to Bond’s age and the computer evolution, especially seen through the new Q, 32 year old Ben Whishaw. These changes to the formula require a delicate hand and Mendes; known for dramas like American Beauty and Revolutionary Road, is up to the task. He successfully brings everything together into a movie that is more than just action (though there are tons of that) and give Bond more character development than ever before seen on screen. The final product will truly surprise anyone, as this is a film, not just a popcorn flick.
The acting in Bonds of past has never been anything special. The villains, though creepy, are always really stupid and lack depth. And Bond usually lives in a surreal world where everything goes his way, and the actor simply has to say some quick one-liners and throw some punches. Not in Skyfall. With one of the largest and most talented casts of any Bond movie, everyone performs superbly, with Craig in the lead and strong support from Dench and Fiennes. Craig plays the old man learning new tricks route perfectly, showing pain in his face and grizzle in his speech. This man has been through hell and back again and just looking at Craig’s facial expressions shows that. Dench plays a larger role than ever as M, with her own problems and emotions to deal with. Fiennes role is small, he plays a government official from the Prime Minister’s office, but he stars in all his scenes and fits into the Bond universe very well. His role will expand in future movies and it will be interesting to see what kind of M he can be.
But the star of this film is easily Bardem as the main villain, Silva. Bardem’s performance brings us back to his role as a serial killer in No Country For Old Men, where he is completely crazy and deadly, yet mesmerizing whenever he is on screen. He controls the room with his speeches and is way more powerful than Bond, creating what essential becomes a reverse action movie where the hero is on the run. But there is one scene that will secure Bardem at least an Oscar nomination for supporting; his opening monologue where he discusses rats, and the conversation he has with Bond right after. Here we see a terrifying man who not only wants to kill Bond, but also affect him psychologically, by slowly unbuttoning his shirt and stroking his knees. The whole performance is as scary as Heath Ledger’s Joker (the bar set for all action movie villains) and it is safe to say Bardem nearly dethrones Ledger from the top. That is how great Bardem is here and his performance alone is worth seeing this movie.
The production value of this film is top notch as well. Roger Deakins leads a cinematography team that showcases some beautiful landscapes all around the world. One particularly exciting scene has Bond chasing a thief atop a train, a scene that is well lit and fast paced, while still providing some amazing views of the mountains in Turkey. But as the movie progresses and things become more dark and dreary, the camera doesn’t falter and the final scenes in a dark church are presented very clearly while capturing the emotions all the characters on screen feel.
The script is great too. For the first time, Bond has something personal to fight for and the audience actually sees him cry. It is powerful prose that tells a story older Bonds would never dare, yet still makes sure to include clever quips and references. One such reference is the ejector passenger seat in the classic Aston Martin, first introduced back in 1964’s Goldfinger. The script makes sure to touch on dark themes, like death, but still incorporates humour and references. But the most impressive thing about the story is that the characters grow. Most action movies see the hero punch people and win, without learning anything. Here Bond and the other characters change dramatically and the events of the film will affect who they are in the future films. It is very impressive that this series was able to go in that direction and shows how over 50 years the character can remain interesting and exciting.
Skyfall is the best Bond movie ever made, and potentially the best movie of 2012. It is a special Bond movie that everyone needs to see. We finally see Bond experience something personal that affects him and hinders his abilities. He is no longer the immortal agent who can escape anything like he was in the classic 60’s and 70’s films. Quantum of Solace may have lowered fans expectations for this film, but Skyfall delivers in every way and deserves all the award nominations it will receive.