Daniel Craig dons the mantle of James Bond for the third time, becoming the third most prevalent actor to be the seductive secret agent. If he continues to make such a stellar performance as he does in Sam Mendes’ Skyfall, then he is well on his way to becoming the most recurring and fan favorite Bond of all time.
This is the first time that Mendes has ever directed a Bond film; however, the 23rd installment of the franchise is littered with nostalgic nods to previous films. The opening car chase is incredibly fast paced with amazing camera work that uses a minimal amount of cuts. Not only does the lack of cuts make for a far more thrilling and tense moments in the chase, but you are actually able to follow the two vehicles and are able to fully discern the varying twists and turns. Then, we see Bond shot not once but twice, the latter of which allows his target to escape and encourages him to take some R & R, circa The World is not Enough.
Before long, we are introduced to our villain, Silva, played by Javier Bardem, who has a very simple goal: publically humiliate, psychologically torment, and finally execute M, who is again played by Judy Dench. The refreshingly simple premise adds to the grit and realism that fans of the franchise have come to appreciate from films featuring Craig. Silva may be the best Bond villain since Blowfeld. Never before has Bond been so equally matched physically, experienced as a double-0 agent and strategically sound. Silva was a former agent who was betrayed by MI6 for repeated infractions during a job in China. As a result, he righteously bitter and has his sights set on his former mentor. Silva actually demonstrates on more than one occasion using his computer skills he can acquire anything he may want. He is able to hack M’s personal computer, has full access to every undercover NATO agent currently deployed and has sufficient cyber terroristic capabilities to get into any bank in the world; however, none of those things are his endgame. It is the simplistic savagery of his plan that makes him so powerful, his execution that makes him so ruthless, and his training and resources that make him such a threat. Add to the fact that Bond has been reeling since his injury at the onset of the film, and it being established that he is an aged agent in comparison, and we have a situation where we aren’t sure that Bond will be victorious.
With the success of the Bourne franchise and the critical failure of the oft-thought over-the-top and juvenile Die Another Day, Craig’s Bond is grittier and firmly based in reality. There is still a fantastic nature to Bond; the ability to get the girl regardless of the situation, ability to survive what would kill a lesser man and never surrendering despite insurmountable odds. Yet with Daniel Craig, we never feel as though Bond is an indestructible British Superman who only takes time out stopping the bad guys to sleep with the impossibly beautiful woman and deliver witty one-liners. He is human and has an indomitable spirit. He gets shot, he chuckles at what might be an inappropriate time and even trips and falls from time to time.
Perhaps the only downfall of this film is the franchise it’s a part of. After all, as the 23rd film in a franchise, there is a lot of backstory to deal with. There was acknowledgement of other films from later Bonds (Felix Lighter mentioning James’ previous marriage in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in Timothy Dalton’s License to Kill for example); however, Craig’s Bond is a complete reboot. If that is the case, then why has he been in the game so long that everyone is noting how old he is and the fact he should be ready to retire? They are trying to take the character in two different directions and it is somewhat jarring.
Despite the overtly ambiguous age of the characters, Skyfall is the perfect Bond movie. The villain is a very real threat that adds to the tension and excitement of the plot. Craig has taken Bond to a grittier and sometimes darker place that is more at home than some of the more grandiose or ridiculous previous incarnations. The cinematography is genius and the plot, despite some lulls toward the end of the second act, is very intelligent and engaging. This is a good film for any action fan, and a must for anyone who loves James Bond
Three stars out of four. Watch the trailer.