Skyfall is a rather unique specimen in the 007 franchise. While it is the third installment with Daniel Craig playing the coveted role of James Bond, and the 23rd Bond film overall, Skyfall feels more like a true Bond reboot than its predecessor Casino Royale and the disappointing follow up Quantum of Solace. This is not to say that Casino Royale was not a great Bond film; it is one of my favorites. However, it focused simply on Craig as Bond. However under the hands of director Sam Mendes, Skyfall beautifully blends character, plot, action, and gadgets in a film that come to prove why James Bond has been on screen for the last fifty years.
Like any Bond film in recent memory, Skyfall opens with a huge set piece, this time taking place in Turkey. A gun for hire has stolen some files from MI6 with intel on undercover field agents, and so they must send their favorite agent into the field to retrieve it. This opening sequence beautifully re-introduces filmgoers to Bond after a four year hiatus, while also introducing a new Bond girl Eve, played by Naomi Harris. It was great to see another field agent work alongside Bond, especially one who is just as capable as he is. The sequence is action packed and riddled with some amazing Bond moments, in which I won’t spoil, that perfectly depict how well Mendes can direct action, and how crisp and seamless he can make it appear. By the time the sequence is over and the opening theme by Adele begins to play, you already feel like you have already watched a beautifully orchestrated action film, while it really has only been twenty minutes. That is what makes Skyfall so amazing, as you really get into the action and those set pieces-all together forgetting there is another two hours to the film, and what an amazing two hours it is.
Early on in the film M angrily looks to Bond and says: “You know the rules of the bloody game. We’ve played it long enough” – a phrase that could not be more true with this year being Bonds fiftieth anniversary on screen. While the film follows the basic Bond plot- receiving a mission, going to exotic locations and meeting beautiful woman while kicking all kinds of butt- it is for a different reason. While every Bond film has focused on a relentless baddie set on world domination, in which Bond must search the planet for, Skyfall’s main villain, Silva, is different for the simple reason that he is only after one thing, or rather one person-M. Of all the Bond films, Skyfall’s plot is so minimalistic, and yet so enticing. He is after someone who Bond, as well as fans, has come to respect and admire over the last fifteen years, which makes him much more of a personal villain than ever encountered before.
Fortunately, Silva does not disappoint as a Bond villain. Beautifully brought to life by the ever so talented Javier Bardem, Silva is both menacing and terrifying. “She sent you to me knowing you are not ready, that you will most likely die…Mommy was very bad,” Silva utters to Bond at one point. This beautifully sums up Silva’s relationship both with M but also Bond. Silva is what Bond could become. Throughout these last two films we have seen Bond and M come to clash on multiple occasions- the biggest instance occurring at the beginning of this film. Silva represents that darker side of Bond- that side, if chosen, could easily come to not only cripple MI6, but M as well. This is what makes Silva such a grandiose villain, one whom stands up to the most iconic Bond villains. He is someone who lost faith in Queen and Country, but more importantly he lost faith in M, and now has nothing to lose.
While Silva certainly stands out as one of the best villains in Bond’s long history, some characters come to make their long awaited return- namely Q . Played by Ben Whishaw, Q is no longer an elderly gentleman with a set of unique, and often insane, weapons. He is a young, intelligent, and above all else, practical. Gone are the absurd gadgets and crazy cars (well for the most part). This new Q is practical in his manufacturing of gadgets for Bond and fit into this new Bond universe quite well. I particularly love the new Walter PPK that is coded to Bond’s palm prints. It is not overly extravagant or absurd, while still being a nice technologically advanced tool in Bond’s arsenal.
Another nice character introduction is Gareth Mallory, played by Ralph Fiennes. Playing a sort of middleman between the British government and MI6, it was nice to see how this top secret organisation works in relation to government. More importantly however, is the fact that Mallory is not a complete bureaucratic tool. He defends MI6 and comes to protect M and Bond- in more ways than one. This character could have easily been overdone, but thankfully Fiennes adds a sense of respect and nobility to the character that makes him stand out even amongst so many great actors.
While Skyfall will undoubtedly become one of the most well respected Bond films, it is not without some minor issues. While some many criticise the pacing of the film near the beginning (excluding the opening sequence), a more dominant issue that arises is the lack of Bond girls. Naomi Harris and Bérénice Marlohe, can be classified as the Bond girls in the film, they are not around for all that long. Naomi Harris’ Eve is seen the most in the opening of the film and then quickly comes to fade into the background, while Sévérine, played by Marlohe, is not in the film for all that long altogether. However, this can be because none of them are the true Bond girls of this film. That honor belongs to Dame Judi Dench, who more so than a Bond Girl, can be seen as a Bond Mother. M has constantly been there for Bond all these years, and now this time it is Bond’s turn to be there for M in her time of need.
At one point in the film Q ask Bond a question that comes to reflect both the British Government’s opinion, but filmgoer’s opinion as well – is Bond relevant? With so much new technology that can and has done better, is a field agent required? In James Bond’s fiftieth anniversary, Skyfall answers this question with a bold yes. James Bond is already a finely crafted machine; all it needed was a little tuning up, in which Sam Mendes does capably. Skyfall is not your average Bond film. It is a film that boldly depicts a hero seeking relevance in an ever changing society. However in the end maybe society did not need stirring- all it needed was a bit of shaking to merge the old with the new. Welcome to a bold new era Mr. Bond.