Daniel Craig returns for this third outing as James Bond in ‘Skyfall’ the 23rd James Bond film, which also marks the 50th Anniversary of the franchise. Spoilers ahead!
After the luke warm reception of ‘Quantum of Solace’, and various MGM financial troubles, there was doubt in some peoples minds whether SKYFALL, or ‘Bond 23’ as it was referred to then, would actually be made. However, 4 years down the line, SKYFALL just proves that James Bond can always make a triumphant return.
After trying to retrieve a stolen hard drive, James Bond (Daniel Craig), is accidentally shot down by field agent Eve Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), and plummets into to the depths of a ravine, presumed dead. A terrorist attack on MI6 rocks the Secret Service and M is brought into questioning by Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), the Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, who questions her ability to run the Service, after the contents of the hard drive are still in enemy hands. Hearing about the terrorist attack on british soil, James Bond returns to aid M, and track down the villainous Silva (Javier Bardem), who appears to have a blood lust for Bonds beloved boss.
The plot is brilliantly straight forward, and more importantly, takes it’s time. At 2 hours 20 minutes, SKYFALL is one of the longest films in the franchise, and it feels long. That isn’t a complaint either. The problem most people had with Casino Royale was it’s pacing issues in the final act. However, despite minor pacing issues in the first 45 minutes of the film, Skyfall does nothing of the sort. It feels satisfying, which is probably the most important aspect, considering the reception of it’s predecessor.
If you all thought Casino Royale was the most human portrayal of James Bond’s character, think again. Not only does Skyfall go deeper, it also allows us to see Bond’s traumatic childhood. Daniel Craig manages, fantastically, to bring an even more vulnerable side to the character, be it his inability to complete an exercise programme, desperately trying to hang on to the bottom of an elevator, or failing to miss in target practice. This isn’t the James Bond we know, this is James Bond recovering from substance abuse and depression, which isn’t just a way of making him more human, it’s a way of challenging whether James Bond is relevant for todays world.
Sam Mendes (Director of American Beauty and Road To Perdition) is not an action director, which is why Skyfall is such a remarkable achievement. Not only does Mendes bring depth and character, but also manages to show breathtaking action sequences, which is easily some of the best stunt work to date. Mendes also manages to fantastically intercut action and drama, a prime example being Bond running through the streets of London, intercut with M’s reading of a Tennyson poem…
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Another master stroke for this film, was the casting of Oscar Winner, Javier Bardem, who turns in a completely, camp, hilarious, but genuinely chilling performance as Raoul Silva. Who isn’t even a match for Bond, infact, the brilliance of the film totally resides to how far ahead Silva always is. He is completely underestimated, and surprisingly always has the upper hand. “What makes you think this is my first time?” Bond quips, as Silva seductively unbuttons Bonds shirt and stokes his bare chest. Craig and Bardem play at each other with great effect, which makes it difficult to even consider who steals which scene.
It’s Silva’s total calmness that makes him all the more chilling. “You’re hurt? What have they done to you?” he asks, spotting a bloody wound, on a terrified M. “Finish it for both of us.”, as he pulls her in for a tight hug and forces a gun into her hand, in one of the most moving, and tense scenes in the franchises history. With shades of Max Zorin, and Francisco Scaramanga, Silva will go down in history as one of the best Bond villains of all time.
Skyfall also marks the long awaited return of Q, now played by British actor Ben Whisaw. Which shows us that we don’t need gadgets anymore to make Bond contemporary. The entire film is beautifully written, delivering snappy dialogue and totally oozing dry wit and good old british humour, made more hilarious by Craig, as he delivers the humour dead pan.
The whole thing roars along like a speeding bullet, with beautiful cinematography by Roger Deakins. And despite a few fishy moments of CGI (Which doesn’t even detract from the overall enjoyment anyway) the film is perfect. One of the most remarkable achievements in the film, consists of the beautiful relationship between Bond and M, in which Judi Dench is finally given the chance to show her remarkable acting ability. At the heart of the story lies a tragic and motherly relationship, which doesn’t fail to bring a tear to the eye once everything is brought full circle.
Skyfall is a film that isn’t scared to stray away from the iconic Bond formula. From the opening strains of the Bond theme, as Craig steps into the light in a dimly lit corridor, we can tell that this is not a traditional Bond film. Infact, what Mendes manages to do well, is still incorporate classic elements (The Aston Martin DB5, the James Bond theme, and opening closing gunbarrel sequence), but at the same time, willingly force upon you a fantastic, emotional, gripping, tense and down right hilarious film, that proves that still, after 50 years, nobody does it better than James Bond.