Directed by: Sam Mendes
Starring: Daniel Craig, Judy Dench, Javier Bardem
So the 007 franchise of films is over 50 years old. The series has seen its share of ups and downs and a variety of leading men playing the role. The most recent re-invigoration of the franchise has been much earthier due to the new leading actor. Daniel Craig brings the slick but he brings it in a much more grounded and emotional sort of way. He doesn’t feel as elitist as Sean Connery was or as campy as Roger Moore was. It’s a modern take on the character. Casino Royale was a fantastic relaunch for the franchise but Quantum of Solace stumbled in a huge way. Skyfall is MGM’s attempt to recover from the disaster that was Quantum of Solace.
This film, like most other Bond films starts in the middle of a story. Bond is chasing a bad guy who really knows how to run in an epic way. The chase is huge and it not only leads into the opening credits but it also sets the stage for the rest of the film in big and small ways. The villain in the film feels almost completely faceless in the first act of the film and throughout that portion of the film the lack of depth for the villain was frustrating for me. I learned later that his faceless nature was purposeful though. When Javier Bardem does appear in the film, and his character is properly introduced the scene is not only one of the most memorable in the film it’s one of the most memorable in the franchise as a whole. I believe that Silva will go down in history as one of the most memorable and unique villains of the 007 franchise. Bardem always finds a way to put his stamp on whatever character he plays and he executes that stamp brilliantly in this one scene. From this point on no other actor could have played the role and as a viewer I had to know his plan and what he was going to do next.
Bond has had many personal stories in the past but Skyfall is easily the best executed and most perfectly personal film of the franchise. We learn things in this film that we never knew about the character before and things that we did know are expanded upon which make Bond even more of a person and less of a caricature. The relationship between M and Bond is explored and the true level of connection between the two of them is revealed as well. Yes there’s big action as always but the heart of this movie is in relationships and drama, not campy drama but real grounded drama, at least as much so as you can expect from a Bond film. Happily the moments of levity don’t take away from the reality of the character development by being campy as was common with previous installments. Often the comedy comes at the expense of previous films. One thing that Skyfall does brilliantly is that it celebrates the previous films, even homages them a little, without making the element integral or necessary to the film. In fact if you aren’t at least a moderate Bond fan you might not notice it happening.
The action and the characterizations are all smaller and more personal in this Bond film. No the villain isn’t out to destroy the world this time around. He’s much more focused than that. Does he want to do a Hell of a lot of damage? Well yes he does but the point is personal. Things happen in Skyfall that will forever effect the franchise and that’s something that hasn’t happened in the film series in a very long time. Skyfall isn’t perfect. There is about 15 minutes in the middle of this two and a half hour film that drags and feels a bit bloated but overall this film is easily in the top five best of the Bond franchise. The ending two minutes of the film left me really hungry for more! The franchise needed new blood behind the camera and finally the owners of the franchise let someone in that is outside of their box of British directors. Sam Mendes, the man behind such films as American Beauty and Road to Perdition brought a new shade to the franchise and it’s a great fresh feel to a series of films that can get a little stuffy. Roger Deakins, the man who shot The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men, and The Shawshank Redemption, made Skyfall one of the best, if not the best looking Bond film of all time.