Skyfall is a great movie, not just a great James Bond movie, but a film which stands on its own outside of the long running film series. Daniel Craig’s third outing as James Bond is his best yet (even though I was a big fan of the unfairly maligned Quantum of Solace). It’s truly epic in scope, something which has drawn comparisons with Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, however, it is best to remember that Nolan “homaged’ certain Bondian elements for his Bat franchise (and Inception).
The opening sequence drops us straight into the action, following Bond and ‘Eve’ (Naomie Harris) as they attempt to track down a stolen hard-drive which holds the names of undercover spies throughout the globe. The mission is a disaster, Bond is presumed dead, while Eve is deskbound (read into that what you will). Back in London things aren’t looking so well for Judi Dench’s M. MI6 headquarters has been attacked and Ralph Fiennes’ Mallory is forcing her to resign. The world of espionage is not what it used to be, and soon M has to justify her actions to a committee – something which is very current in today’s political climate.
Bond can’t let Queen and Country go to waste; he pulls himself together and goes off in search of the mysterious Silva (Javier Bardem), a charismatic computer genius with a personal dislike of M. Along the way he hooks up with Sévérine (Bérénice Marlohe) for the obligatory, if short lived, ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’. Sliva is captured and brought back to England, for a sequence which is very reminiscent of Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs. However, things go awry and Silva escapes. It is left to Bond, aided by his trusty Aston Martin, to protect M in a journey which means that he must face his past along with Albert Finney (in a role which was surely written for Sean Connery).
What sets Skyfall apart from all the other Bond movies is the sheer amount of character development, not just for Craig’s Bond, but everyone else around him. Director Sam Mendes delves into more of Bond’s character here than the previous twenty-two films combined, delivering a rich and fully rounded character. Judi Dench is also very good here, giving her best performance as M, while Fiennes is also great – but underused – however, I feel that we haven’t seen the last of him.
Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace ditched certain iconic elements of the Bond franchise, many of which make an appearance in this fifth anniversary film. Q is back (played by Ben Wishaw) as a cyber-geek, a foil to Bond’s antiquated ways, boasting that he can do more damage than Bond aided by nothing more than his pyjamas and laptop. There is also a good amount of humour, something which has always been inherent in the franchise, but missing over the last decade or so. Writers Neil Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan have delivered a script which pays homage to multiple Bond films, without being overly obvious. It’s a fine line, but the trio walk it well. Bardem’s Silva is a memorable villain, probably the best since (if not better than) Christopher Walken’s turn in A View to A Kill. Comparisons have been made between his character and Heath Ledger’s Joker, but it must be noted than Bardem’s equally menacing Anton Chigurh (in No Country For Old Men) hit the screen in 2007. Bardem plays the role with a blend of camp and evil, he’s unhinged – he doesn’t care for world domination – he wants revenge.
Director Sam Mendes is clearly a fan of the franchise, giving Bond fans exactly what they want (and may have missed in recent films), whilst also making the franchise feel fresh. Bond is no longer trying to keep up with Jason Bourne, he has gone back to his classic roots and much of Skyfall feels like a period piece, set firmly in the 1960s. Roger Deakin’s cinematography is luscious, particularly the Hong Kong portion of the film, while Thomas Newman’s score is the best Bond soundtrack in recent years, making liberal use of Monty Norman’s iconic theme.
Skyfall brings together many integral (and long dormant) James Bond elements, many of which were thought too silly in a post-9/11, post –Austin-Powers world. These elements come together in an organic way, feeling fresh and exciting. Daniel Craig is now clearly relaxed in the role of Bond, and while he may have been a controversial choice back in 2005, few would doubt his suitability for the role of Ian Fleming’s creation. The franchise is now in the perfect position to deliver exciting future Bond films, which now have the potential to recreate the feel of classic James Bond films.
James Bond will indeed return.