To satisfy the highest expectations, to be worthy of a golden anniversary, to make sure that nobody does it better and won´t make it better in the future – all of these missions SKYFALL not only handles magnificently but uses to tell its story with elegance, wit and a clean view of what has come before and will come in the future.
SKYFALL is the perfect film to celebrate the cinematic legend of James Bond.
After being on a forced hiatus due to the financial troubles of MGM the press was having a field day constructing doubts about 007´s future. It could not have come at a worse time since with CASINO ROYALE and QUANTUM OF SOLACE the new, edgy and unconventional Bond Daniel Craig had silenced critics and made the franchise even more successful than before. The momentum was there to build on that… and then the attorneys came and once again threatened to delay a new Bond film during the battle for the ailing MGM studio including the complicated rights situation of the Bond film franchise. Daniel Craig surely must have felt like Timothy Dalton who under similar circumstances lost his chance to do a third Bond film or more after his two outings. But this time the situation was resolved earlier AND Craig still wanted (and was wanted for) the next film. And thankfully so.
But Daniel Craig was only one piece of the puzzle. To make a great Bond film there has to be a worthy script, cast, crew and director. EON got all that, and that´s where the press constructed new doubts: Sam Mendes, the arthouse Oscar winner and theatre-genius, at the helm of an action thriller? Javier Bardem again as a villain after his Oscar-turn in “No country for old men”? Dame Judi Dench in a more prominently featured role? And John Logan re-writing the script after his franchise-threatening work on “Star Trek”? So many people were wandering: have EON lost their mind? Do they want to turn 007 into an Oscar-baiting chamber piece since tabloids were reporting that Mendes would be cutting action sequences and the budget had been slashed considerably?
Well. We should all learn from the sheer idiocy of those claims when the first rumors about BOND 24 will surface – because all those fabricated worries were sheer lunacy.
SKYFALL not only features Daniel Craig´s best performance as James Bond. Sam Mendes is a wonderful director who effortlessly pushes Bond to new heights in every aspect – and that means also action-wise. Javier Bardem´s portrayal of villain Silva is not only completely different from his work in the Coen Brothers´film, he also creates one of the best Bond villains ever. Dame Judi Dench has more to do, yes, but is integrated into the plot so wonderfully that it never feels forced at all, and she also gets the chance to have her best turn as M yet. John Logan, also known for his splendid theatre work, rises to the occasion just as well, writing fantastic dialogue for the with insightful swagger air-tight constructed plot by Neil Purvis & Robert Wade. And by the way: Thomas Newman´s score fits the movie like a glove.
Despite its running time of 143 minutes, SKYFALL is so massively entertaining that it can allow itself room to breath amidst its high tension. Characters are so well-drawn without overlong explanations. Every scene has just the right length. And the atmosphere, created by Mendes and by legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins, is so rich and delicately designed you cannot help staring at the screen wide-eyed like a child seeing his or her first Bond movie – or any movie for that matter.
SKYFALL succeeds because every component was chosen so masterfully that it fits together as a crowning achievement of the series. But strangely the film not just turns out to honor the great films that have come before – it uses the formula to constantly bend it, showing how much life is in all of this. How many more discoveries lurk within it. The Bond formula has survived for 50 years not just because it can adapt to the changing times. SKYFALL shows that it can also survive because it can be changed from within – and there are still so many other ways to do this and to rejuvenate it again and again. I don´t want to spoil any surprise because SKYFALL is filled with them and delights at every turn because of them. But let me say this: SKYFALL is not only a traditional Bond film with a capital B (as Craig has coined the phrase), it is also the first Bond film that is at the same time a first rate psychological thriller. In a few weeks when you have seen the film we will be free to talk about all this in much more detail.
But even though I´m sure that I will have to watch the film many, many more times to appreciate all of its splendor, I can already say this: SKYFALL is one of the best Bond films and definitely in my top three.