The Bond franchise has had its fair share of ups and downs. From classics like From Russia With Love to the utterly woeful Die Another Day. To last 50 years however is a testament to the ideas that drive the stories, and its these ideas that make Skyfall the best of the twenty-three Bond films to date. This story ditches the wall to wall action that plagued many of its lesser incarnations including the last film Quantum of Solace in favour of deep and engaging characters. Its a classy film, an instant classic. You will be hard pressed to find someone walking out of this movie without a sense of satisfaction.
The film opens with a rare Bond failure. Shot, presumably killed he leaves MI6 in a deep hole with the names of every agent embedded in terrorist organisations around the world in the hands of an unknown enemy. It’s a very modern plot where the enemy is unseen, unknown, and not easily categorised. This leads to significant conflict between the Government and M at MI6 after their headquarters is hacked and bombed. Bond and M must not just discover who their enemy is, but what it is that they want.
There are a lot of themes that are thrown about in this very heady yarn. Old versus new, modern terrorism and public discourse, not to mention a not so subtle dig at politics. These themes support the strength of the plots core and provide a wonderful relevance to our society. In possibly the films best scene Bond meets the villain. Issues of globalisation, modern espionage, sexuality, and the temptation of modern evils are woven into a very personal and classic encounter. It’s a credit to the numerous writers and it’s delightful an action movies best moments are in its conversations.
Director Sam Mendes was an unusual choice for a big budget action movie, but he brings some much needed drama. It can be easily argued that his deft touch is what provides the film with its most appealing features. Cinematographer Roger Deakins also brings his A-game with some stunning visual moments in the film. There are several sequences that are visually creative and downright fantastic to watch.
Daniel Craig returns as Bond and continues his edgy take on the character flaws and all, and Judy Dench as M scores a great deal more screen time which is very welcome. But the films best performance goes to Javier Bardem as the villain. He’s as threatening as his role from No Country for Old Men perfecting that vacant stare, but he brings a very camp touch that was unexpected and very enjoyable. With such a personal story the villain was always going to be the critical point for the film to get right and the casting of Barden seems inspired.
Other critics have described Skyfall as Nolanesque, which is just a way of saying that a big budget blockbuster has decided to emphasise it’s characters and its drama. Christopher Nolan didn’t invent this, but it cannot be denied his Batman trilogy is a wonderful example of it. Regardless, if this is a sign that Hollywood has rediscovered the magic of story telling then it is very welcome.