Skyfall delivers a fascinating and engaging plot, the best character development in all of Bond-dom (aren’t you glad I didn’t say ‘Bond-age’?), and a pace and cinematography that refuses to let your attention wander.
It’s the best Bond film to date, but it’s also nearly not a Bond movie.
Here’s the trailer:
Released November 9, 2012
Written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and John Logan (based on the character created by Ian Fleming)
Directed by Sam Mendes
Starring Judi Dench, Naomie Harris, Berenice Marlohe, Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney, Ben Whishaw, and Rory Kinnear
* * * * *
Skyfall opens with Bond (Craig) in pursuit of someone who has gunned down some MI6 agents and made off with a hard drive that contains the name of all of Britain’s undercover agents. (This, by the way, is the only weak point of the film. It’s too easy and begs the question, “WHY DO YOU HAVE ALL OF THEM ON ONE HARD DRIVE?) Bond chases the bad guy through the streets of an exotic locale on foot and motorcycle and then on top of a train. They have a very cool fight and Bond’s partner, Eve (Harris), has a possibility that she could shoot the bad guy from a nearby ridge.
She takes the shot at M’s (Dench) order and.. well.. she misses. Obviously, Bond isn’t really dead, since this happens about 20 minutes into the 140+ minute movie.
Not long later, we see M writing Bond’s obituary and then MI6 coming under attack, presumably by the people who stole the hard drive. Now MI6′s agents are about to be exposed and M seems to be the ultimate target of the attackers. Pan to Bond, womanizing and drinking incessantly somewhere, probably in the Caribbean. He learns of the attack and shows up, ready to take the fight to the bad guys.
Now we have the action-packed cat and mouse Bond movie we’re used to.
Except we don’t. Bond is flawed, vulnerable, maybe even unsure of himself. When the villain is revealed to be someone from M’s past named Silva (Bardem), Bond gets a view of who he might become in the future. This villain has been planning his attack for years and is one step ahead of MI6 the entire way until the final thirty minutes of the film. He is vile, strangely sympathetic, and is played to perfection by Bardem.
The story takes us to the depths of Bond’s devotion to country and queen, and his queen is M. We also learn more about his past and childhood and even get to meet Kincade (Finney), a caretaker with whom Bond has a.. well.. a bond.
All of this, of course, culminates in a showdown. But this is almost an Old West showdown and Bond and M are very much outnumbered and isolated. It’s a glorious, explosive, and heartfelt ending, with Bardem nailing his final scene perfectly.
In Skyfall we get homage paid to beloved Bond tropes, a delightful opportunity to see M become an actual person, and we see a bit of a new guard coming on the scene in the Bond world. We also get the best written, directed, and acted Bond movie we’ve ever seen.
The plot is simple on its face: a fellow from M’s past wants retribution for perceived offenses and goes after her and all those around her, making Bond have to hunt down and stop the fellow. But there’s more going on. The British government is wondering if MI6 is even necessary and there’s a new watchdog keeping an eye on M and her division. Bond, usually an opaque vision of a superspy, has had his vulnerabilities exposed to himself and he needs to find a way to move past them.
The direction lets scenes develop, opting against a frenetic camera and allowing emotional investment and characters’ choices to determine the pace and emotional impact of the events on the screen. We get to watch these people closely, in delicious detail, as they make some of the toughest choices of their lives.
Adele’s rather melodramatic song aside, this is the single best James Bond movie ever, due to its depth, strength of story, and powerful acting. I kid you not, Bardem’s villain is the most creeptastic person you will ever try to avoid meeting.
It’s worth waiting 4 years if we get this kind of movie after the wait.
Content warnings: Plenty of hand-to-hand violence, some scenes of sensuality, some harsh language.
Writing: 5 Acting: 5 Overall: 5
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