The new James Bond film, Skyfall is a worthy induction to the throwback Bond. Which is to say, it is so easily reminiscent of the best that the franchise has to offer. Many times while watching the film, I kept remembering to be thankful that Skyfall didn’t take on too much. So many Bond films (which are, incidentally, many of the weakest films of the series) assemble themselves around plots that are so needlessly intricate.
And make no mistake, the main objective of a Bond film (of any Bond film) is to please. They’re supposed to be fun and entertaining, and sort of corny and pleasantly ridiculous. With Casino Royale, the producers wanted something different – darker and foreboding and new. Skyfall is all of these things – a fresh mix of the old and new and more.
After Bond’s agency, MI6, comes under literal attack, it is shortly realized that an ex agent, Silva (Javier Bardem) has had a decades-long bloodlust for his former boss, M (Judi Dench) and has finally decided to cash in on it. Naturally, M puts Bond (who is coming out of a debilitating injury) on the mission, and old boy James crosses the globe trying to track Silva down.
Now, what Skyfall does, beyond the basic qualifications of the series, is remind us that just because we’re dealing with a franchise action film, that doesn’t mean it can’t be A.) Smart, B.) Technically masterful, and C.) Flawlessly acted.
To begin technically, director Sam Mendes knows how to make a great looking and great sounding film. His Best Director Oscar for American Beauty only solidifies that. And after his go-to cinematographer, Conrad L. Hall died, Mendes has developed a fruitful relationship with Roger Deakins, who may or may not be the best living DP currently working in film. The way Deakins lights and executes a fight sequence in Skyfall (it is shot in lush silhouette, all in the frame of one unmoving shot), for example, is simply spellbinding. Likewise the way he handles the grand introduction of Silva, from ludicrously far away, waiting patiently for the subject to come to him. If Skyfall deserves nothing else, it is limitless praise for Deakins’ work.
And how ‘bout that Silva entrance? About two minutes into Bond and Silva’s first scene together, I knew I was witnessing one of the very finest Bond villains in history. Bardem’s blonde haired baddie exceeded my wildest expectations and made me count the seconds for him to return whenever he was absent from the screen. Mark my words: their first scene will become as iconic as Bond and Goldfinger’s “I expect you to die,” moment.
But, for most, what a Bond film all boils down to is, “Is it better than the last one?” or, “Is it the best in the franchise’s history?” Yes and no. Skyfall is so far beyond the disastrous Quantum of Solace that we need not waste further time on comparison. But is it more accomplished than Casino Royale, which marked Daniel Craig’s first (and still best) performance as Bond? Nah. But you know what… that’s quite all right.
Skyfall is a little too long (and feels it), but it is a perfectly restrained addition to a franchise that could very well outlive us all. I’d be very surprised if you didn’t enjoy yourself here. B+