“Skyfall” with Daniel Craig, Dame Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, and Rory Kinnear
Directed by Sam Mendes
The latest installment of the Bond franchise marks the twenty-third in the series as well as the fiftieth anniversary of the very first Bond film, “Dr. No.” Not only are the stakes and expectations high, but Daniel Craig is still relatively new to the character and has only just surpassed Timothy Dalton’s two-time efforts with the newly released “Skyfall.” Craig has some big shoes to fill. Does he hit the mark…does he hop and surpass it?
Yes, with resounding success, and the resultant is “Skyfall” being the best James Bond film to date.
It opens very traditionally with the titular hero chasing down a wanted criminal with the aid of another MI6 field operative. Bond pursues the escapee in a superb chase scene that spans terra-cotta roof tiles and narrow ledges; the two adversaries ride motorcycles through crowded markets and buildings in a lengthy scene that dwarfs the introductory ‘race’ scenes in “Quantum of Solace.”
However, besides the aforementioned Bond introduction the rest of the film completely breaks convention, but that is what makes “Skyfall” the best James Bond film.
Bond does not use the traditional lines or the quick quips that we have all come to expect. Instead the writers aimed to pay homage to the franchise by referencing to its predecessors. With a bit of dialogue, Bond commands his fellow operative, Eve, to remove her hand from her ear in a direct reference to Craig’s debut, “Casino Royale.” In a similar fashion, the new Q makes a jab to the absurdness of an exploding pen, which was of course used in Pierce Brosnan’s “Goldeneye.” These are just but a couple references amidst a myriad. There are several films that are referred to directly by name, but being used in dialogue throughout the film. Even his trademark, “I like my Martini shaken not stirred,” is switched out for a brief scene depicting Bond telling the bartender that she made his drink “perfectly.” The drink is still the same Martini, and the bartender obviously shook the drink rather than stirring it, but it is all handled within the scene rather than passing it off to Bond in dialogue.
But, besides this shattering of shackles and subsequent retelling of a classic character “Skyfall” aims higher. It ponders questions of loyalty and global warfare, but through the lenses of cold war throwbacks. Are individuals like M (Dame Judi Dench) and Bond meant to exist in a constantly shifting realm? Are there any shadows left to skulk in? It turns out there is.
For the first time “Skyfall” divulges some of M and Bond’s backstory. Rather, than keeping with this shallow persona of what a secret agent should or should not be “Skyfall” rounds them out by adding substance and history to them. It essentially serves as the conclusion to an ad hoc trilogy of films. In “Casino Royale” we see James Bond become a 007 and flounder a bit as a new agent. He is talented, but new to the trade–arrogant and hotheaded. In “Quantum of Solace” the plot solely revolves around his want for revenge. He possesses the skills and has been dealt the sorrow of experience, but in “Skyfall” we get to see what James Bond might look like if he lost his ‘oomph’ for the game. It is the perfect end cap to the overarching plot.
And, not only does the plot dig deeper than ever, the acting is top-notch. Silva (Javier Bardem) is the best Bond villain since Stravos Blofeld. He is crazy and demented on a whole level on his own. He is not about toppling the Crown or reaping the rewards from some nefarious plots; he is only bent on revenge. It is personal for him, and not in the way that 006 (Sean Bean) grappled with 007 in “Goldeneye,” but in the way that an asylum patient stews over forgotten events by blaming the voices.
Although, Desmond Llewelyn is a legend and played Q with a certain sort of finesse that will never be matched, Ben Whishaw plays the part for modern audiences. He represents the modern era–forethought, rather than odd ingenuity.
Exploding pens? No. Radios. Yes.
Ralph Fiennes plays his part wonderfully. He fits into the Bond-a-verse with ease, and I am excited to see how his part expands into the future.
Overall, the film is exquisitely crafted. It pays homage to its roots, but firmly moves forward. It dismisses convention, and dives into the causation of Bond not Bond’s causalities. I cannot recommend this film enough–even non-Bond fans will be surprised…who knows maybe you’ll become a fan?
Here is a trailer for “Skyfall” by Sony Pictures:
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