So I watched Skyfall…
Pending my viewing of Spectre, this is my favourite Daniel Craig Bond film, maybe even my favourite Bond film of all time. This film accomplishes what Quantum of Solace horrendously failed to do. It shows a broken Bond who is definitely hurting but leaves him an element of swagger and nonchalance. In my mind this is the one and only sequel to Casino Royale.
Okay, basic plot: after a mission goes wrong, James Bond (Daniel Craig) is presumed dead. Bond uses this as an opportunity to get away from it all and enjoy a few carnal pleasures. But after MI6 headquarters are attacked by an unknown threat, Bond returns to service of Queen and country. Bond’s time away has dulled his sharpness, both mentally and physically, but M (Judi Dench) still decides it best to send him on the mission to investigate who’s behind the attack. What Bond uncovers is an enemy with close ties to M who isn’t after world domination or money but rather revenge against his former employer.
It took a while but Daniel Craig finally gets to star in a true James Bond film. Casino Royale was an origins story, Quantum of Solace was a mistake but Skyfall is the true modern retelling of Bond.In this film Bond has all the traditional qualities we’ve come to expect – his arrogance, promiscuity and undeniable charm; but he’s also modernised and has an air of vulnerability to his character. Gone are the days when Bond could fly around the world, sleep with everything in sight and shoot everything else without any of it having an impact on his psyche. They tried to display this in the first two Daniel Craig Bond films but in Skyfall Bond isn’t imprisoned by his demons but rather merely haunted by them.
He is a broken character but there’s greater strength in him than we’ve seen before. Daniel Craig does a phenomenal job in this film displaying the jagged, cracked persona of Bond that’s plastered over with charm and wit. The filmmakers and Craig get the spirit of Bond right to a tee. But it’s not only the character that’s done well, this entire film embraces the true essence of Bond. We finally get a new Moneypenny and Q, characters that while usually have very limited screentime are invaluable to Bond. If you go watch a Batman movie and there’s no Alfred or Commissioner Gordon, you’re going to feel cheated; that’s how I felt waiting for this characters to show up.
I love the direction they took with both characters – making them moving parts of the machine rather than idle sideshows pushed to the periphery. Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw are both great additions to the cast and breathe fresh energy into these beloved characters. Ralph Fiennes also joins the permanent cast eventually replacing Judi Dench as M. All the new cast members felt so organic – from the very first second they all feel like they belong in the story.
This is Judi Dench’s last Bond film. She’s been a permanent fixture in the series since 1995’s GoldenEye and you can tell that the filmmakers wanted to send her off with a big performance. This is the most involved she’s been in the plot and the most screentime she’s ever received. Dench is obviously a world-class actress and seeing her level of involvement in this film’s plot just makes you wish that she had been a larger part of the six films before.
Javier Bardem is this film’s villain and he’s probably one of the most memorable Bond Villains in recent history. His portrayal is unnerving and I wish he had more meaningful screentime because he’s one of the best things about this movie. This film is all about facing the demons of the past and Bardem’s character – Raoul Silva – is one of these demons for M. He has a vendetta against M and this leads to the entire film being more personal than your regular Bond film. The attack is against M and MI6 not some obscure government or multinational corporation. This film brings things back home and we get to see Bond, M and MI6 in ways that we haven’t before.
The majority of this film is slick, intelligent and high-energy and wonderfully entertaining to watch. The last twenty minutes, however, are a bit of an eyesore. In an attempt to catch Silva off-guard Bond and M travel to Bond’s childhood home with no weapons and set a series of booby-traps for Silva. Home made booby-traps like in Home Alone. So a world-class spy and the head of the country’s intelligence division decide on booby-traps instead of…um…I don’t know, other spies, soldiers, weapons. It made no sense the first time I watched this movie and to this day it remains one of the silliest things I’ve ever seen in a film of this quality. Seriously, Home Alone booby-traps in a James Bond movie, why?
The title sequence in the beginning of the film is a classic feature of the franchise. There have been a few cool songs here and there but normally it’s just a thing i have to suffer through as I wait for the rest of the movie to begin but Adele’s Skyfall is such a powerful song that I was actually disappointed when the sequence ended. Here’s hoping Sam Smith does as great a job with his song for Spectre.
Overall, Skyfall is a vast improvement of its predecessor. Sam Mendes coming in to direct this film makes all the difference. It’s lacking the raw adrenaline-pumping action of Casino Royale but makes up for it with its classy and refined showcasing of Bond and his exploits. It’s definitely worth a watch. 8/10