Two times now, on the brink of death, Daniel Craig has saved James Bond. After Pierce Brosnan’s last film portraying Bond nearly made audiences gouge their own eyes out, Craig responded in his debut as Bond (Casino Royale) by successfully reinventing the character for the 21st century. Skyfall isn’t necessarily another reinvention of the famous central character, but a reboot for the franchise. This film finds the right notes to play such that the time spent righting the parent company’s financial ship was not a waste of time.
In fact, the story is quite fitting in that regard. Just like the franchise itself, Bond is seemingly rising from the ashes with fists of fury to counter new foes that are arguably more challenging than anything he has encountered before. Here we have a deep, complex, and exciting story written to such a high degree that few other Bond films have shared. It is the type of story that was missing in the last Bond film, and an artistry that hasn’t been seen in the franchise since the 70’s. Credit Daniel Craig for maintaining the same level of performance as he did in Casino Royale. Credit Sam Mendes for crafting a well-made film that will certainly stand the test of time. Credit Javier Bardem for giving us something (or someone) we haven’t seen in a Bond film yet. Overall, Skyfall finds Bond at his best.
But is this the best Bond film ever? No. In adapting to 21st century entertainment needs, the franchise has understandably changed perspective. That certain swagger and charm that used to make Bond films fun has been replaced with doom and gloom. Skyfall does manage to dish out its fair share of homage to the past, but this effort results in little more than passing references. James Bond doesn’t shoot from the hip anymore, he’s a blunt object. Fortunately though, the film makers seem to understand and their herculean efforts here have put the franchise back where it was in its heyday. Skyfall feels like it is the last brick in the foundation, finally putting the franchise back on level ground after many years of being off-balance both on the screen and behind it.
Story: When James Bond fails to recapture a hard-drive containing a list of secret agents, MI6 suddenly finds themselves on the defense. Now, a cyber-terrorist is threatening to release their secrets. Bond barely has enough time to lick his wounds before he is thrown back to the wolves. Will he succeed in defeating his high-tech foe, or will the revealing of MI6’s secrets cause Bond to question his own motives?….Good (23/25)
Acting: Daniel Craig is back at being Bond and is just as good as he was before. While the previous films explored the character’s emotions, Skyfall instead focuses on Bond’s strength of character when questions start to arise about his competency. Craig masters this new side of Bond. Judi Dench plays a much larger role than in any previous film as the down-to-business M, and puts on a memorable performance. What people will be talking about is Javier Bardem, playing the sinister adversary Silva. Bardem does a fantastic job and does make for one of the best Bond villains ever, but is hampered by lack-of screen time. Three new faces to the franchise round out the supporting cast. Ralph Finnes, Ben Whishaw, and Naomie Harris put on fine performances and will be welcomed additions to the franchise in future years (hint hint). Good (24/25)
Direction: Competency behind the camera goes a long way, and Sam Mendes really shows why. This film is brilliantly structured and the camera work and visuals really do look fantastic. No Bond film in the last 30 years has been as artistic, creative, and substantial as Mendes makes this one. The tone, the environment, and the details are all handled exceptionally well. The action scenes, while not as over-the-top or physics-defying as in past films, are captured clearly and really have a substantial feel. Great (25/25)
Special Effects/X-Factor: As I said above, the film doesn’t have as many big-time action scenes as the last few Bond films have, but that could be a good thing. We’re getting so used to ridiculous action spectacles that it is actually refreshing to see a film show some restraint. Don’t take that the wrong way either. That doesn’t mean the film is boring, quite the opposite. This means there is more time to develop the characters and weave a complete story. The music of the film is fitting as it is moody and mostly low-key, but the title song by Adele really works well. Therefore, when compared with past films, Skyfall may feel relatively mellow. It goes without as many edge-of-your-seat moments as Bond films have in the past, but it is sophisticated and thrilling nonetheless. Good (23/25)
Rating: (95/100) = A (A Historic Achievement)
- What’s Good: Sam Mendes brings competence and adds a welcomed artistic touch to his Bond film, the character-driven story means that it is sophisticated, thrilling, and makes for some memorable performances by the well-rounded cast.
- What’s Bad: The action is more plotting than heart-racing, very dark tone.
Verdict: Re-solidifies the Bond franchise as a pop-culture staple.