After the modern reinvention of Bond in 2006’s universally acclaimed Casino Royale and the misstep of 2008’s mediocre Quantum of Solace, Skyfall, the twenty-third film in the series, finds a good balance between the contemporary and the traditional story. Presented as the “resurrection” of the character, with rubber-faced Daniel Craig donning the suit once again, 007 hasn’t been this dazzling in a long time. Just when you think that a character that recently celebrated its 50th anniversary might be out of date, Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road) steps in and reminds us exactly why James Bond has stood the test of time, putting to rest any ideas of retirement for the series. After five decades, 007 is alive and kicking, and in fact might outlive us all.
Skyfall is guaranteed to leave audiences shaken and stirred, not only by its great action sequences, but also because it’s not quite the Bond we are used to. Where previous installments depicted the character as a cold heartless playboy spy with a gun, Skyfall shows us a little more of his humanity. That’s correct, beyond the rugged exterior, 007 actually has feelings. Mendes refuses to just offer up a two-dimensional action hero. Instead we’re given brief insight into his origins. Coupled with the often dark, thrilling, arty and brilliant “Bourne-inspired” visuals, it’s the slickest telling of the story yet.
Mendes wastes no time jumping into the action. A spectacular 20 minute opening chase sequence leads the way. And right from the onslaught audiences will recognize that Daniel Craig, the sixth official 007, has become even more confident and believable as Bond. Skyfall demonstrates his strongest interpretation of the character to date, posing as a brute, curt and suave spy. Taking Bond, M and Javier Bardem’s Silva, one of the franchise’s more interesting villains, a playful, talkative, funny yet scary villain, into account, the acting performances are nothing short of brilliant. Credit has to go to pedigree director Mendes for challenging the actors to muster up more believable characters. He respects and understands both the soul and essence of the characters and the franchise, without being afraid to break new ground.
The plot is a lot simpler than it makes itself out to be. An unknown traitor steals the names of all MI6’s agents and kills them all. Bond also gets shot during pursuit, but after spending time recovering and becoming an alcoholic he returns. Despite failing a few aptitude tests, boss M reinstates him out of pure desperation. Racing against time, Bond needs to regain his skills and track down the mastermind behind all the chaos before it’s too late.
With Skyfall it’s so easy to forget that you’re watching a James Bond film. Had it not been for the familiarities – the Aston Martin and Monty Norman’s guitar theme from Dr. No – this film could easily separate itself from the series. Traditional fans won’t be delighted by all the changes, but braver viewers will find the experience more than rewarding. If there is criticism to be levelled against Skyfall, it’s the less impressive title sequence, the Adele theme song and the lack of screen time awarded to the remarkable Bardem. A few forgiveable cheesy one-liners also show up here and there, breaking away from the film’s serious tone for a laugh or two.
The new 007 adventure reaches for the sky and soars above many of its predecessors. Polished, well-paced, and extremely entertaining, Skyfall is well-worth watching, renting, owning and adding to your collection.