Skyfall, Bond’s 23rd Eon film and 50th anniversary outing, delivers on all levels. This is a Bond film, but not a Bond film, if you get my meaning? It’s still a part of the stripped back feel of the series since Casino Royale but certain key elements, such as the humour, are brought back very carefully. This is a personal Bond film. Without giving too much away, there’s no plot for world domination. Javier Bardem’s sinister villain Silva is out for MI6 blood; and his bullet has M’s name on it.
Craig’s 007 is washed up and injured to the point of being a has-been in the field. We’re all aware of how much dedication and effort Daniel Craig has put into the role, but Skyfall is his best yet. It’s different and more personal side to the iron exterior the character is known for. Sam Mendes does an excellent job of developing Bond as a character on screen. Bardem excels as the film’s villain with a paralleled sadistic unpredictability of The Joker. He’s secured his place next to Blofeld and Goldfinger in the Bond villain elite, rather than the Gustav Graves’. “Bond girls” (is that an archaic Cold War-era term?) Naomie Harris and Bérénice Marlohe provide both enough glamour and bravura to break the stereotypical Bond girl mould, although I felt Marlohe was underused in her short screen time. Other newcomers such as Ralph Fiennes and Ben Whishaw weigh-in a solid performances as the sceptical Government chief and Quartermaster, respectively. Then there’s M; Judi Dench continues to shine, as the humorous parental love-hate fight between Bond and her continue. There’s not a single bad piece of acting or casting in Skyfall, everyone is on top form. [**SPOILERS**] Even though it was sad to see Judi Dench leave the films, it was great to see Ralph Fiennes join as the new M. Plus with the superb return of Moneypenny, it was a fantastic closing scene to the film.
The real star of the film for me is Roger Deakins’ beautiful cinematography. Stark contrasts, glowing skylines and rich sets dominate the screen. The core values of producing Dr. No have been restated here in the aim to make the colours of the exotic locations jump off of the screen. It’s back to the pure escapism of a Bond film for the audience. The film looks as cool as Sean Connery does in Goldfinger, and packs the punch the more harder films like Timothy Dalton’s License To Kill. Aside from the opening sequence the action doesn’t really hit the big highs of Casino Royale, this is a much more scruffier type of action with a lot of close-quarter battles. But in the 143 minute run time this was never an issue, there’s plenty to make up for it. I did spend quite a bit of time after the film thinking of all the very subtle references to the 50 year run of the series. They’re not in-your-face obvious like Die Another Day’s Q-branch archives, but nods such as a 1962 (the year Dr. No was released) bottle of Macallan whiskey and the Komodo Dragon encounter (echoing the alligators from Live And Let Die). Something for the die-hard 007 fans without alienating a new audience. The script, by 007 regulars Robert Wade and Neal Purvis along with John Logan, has its mishaps like any film but is central in it’s motivation. You know exactly what the villain’s aiming for and what is at stake for the good guys.
Overall, Skyfall makes you leave the cinema with the same back-to-business feeling Casino Royale did. Bond is back, and he’s still a top of his game.