Synopsis: Bond’s loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost
Stars: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Dame Judi Dench, Naomie Harris, Berenice Marlohe, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney, Ben Whishaw, Helen McCrory, Ola Rapace, Tonia Sotiropoulou
Director: Sam Mendes
Running Length: 143 minutes
TMMM Score: (10/10)
Review: The release of the 23rd Bond feature film inspired me to take a look back at the 22 films that have come before it. Starting with the 1962 of release of Dr. No and continuing on through the 2012’s Skyfall, audiences around the world have come to know, trust, and count on James Bond to show up on Her Majesty’s secret service to get the job done. Though the faces of Bond have changed over the years and the man himself has gone through some character development, one thing remains true…this is a gentleman who loves his country, his women, and his martini’s shaken not stirred.
Now, as the franchise celebrates its 50th Anniversary, a Bond adventure has been crafted that surpasses every expectation one could have and reaches levels I’m not sure anyone involved could have ever imagined or hoped to reach. It’s as close to a perfectly made action film as I’ve seen in my years of going to the movies, one that will hold appeal to those well acquainted with 007 and those that are just starting out. Skyfall is, in my opinion, the best James Bond movie ever produced.
Bold statement, right? Well…let me try to explain it the best way I can – and know that this review is going to be spoiler free so as not to ruin the experience for you. The less said about the scope of the picture the better because one of the key ingredients to its success is the not knowing what’s lurking around the corner for Bond, M, and his colleagues at MI6.
I can’t go further into this review without mentioning a few new faces behind the camera for Skyfall. New director Mendes draws on his theatrical background to help his cast dig deeper than ever before in service to the dynamite story/script provided by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and exceptional screenwriter John Logan. In his first true action film (let’s not mention 2005’s Jarhead), Mendes works like a master to create the most fully formed Bond experience one could hope for.
Mendes brings along Oscar nominated cinematographer Roger Deakins, another artist not readily known for his work in the action genre. Deakins keeps the camera moving in such a way that though the action is fast, furious, and delirious, we never lose track of what we’re watching and where it’s going. Production designer Dennis Gassner returns to Bond after Quantum of Solace to create a bar-raising world of exotic locales, abandoned islands, and misty moors. It’s all set to Thomas Newman’s hat-tipping score that’s quite thrilling. When Monty Norman’s original Bond theme starts to play at a key point in the movie, I had chills from horn to hoof.
Now this all would make for a very pretty picture…but if you didn’t have the right people to stick in front of the camera you’d be up the creek. Thankfully, Mendes has populated his film with intriguing cast additions and welcome return visitors.
Craig should now be considered the fully formed embodiment of Bond. No disrespect to the the other actors that have come before him but Craig is as close to the James Bond found in the novels of Ian Fleming as anyone yet to suit up for the part. A reckless Bond in Casino Royale and a vengeful Bond in Quantum of Solace, in Skyfall Bond has become someone that is genuinely afraid to feel anything that he can’t control. It’s a brilliant move for the film to give the actor (and us) the opportunity to see under the skin and it’s Craig’s best performance on screen in any film.
Is there anything bad one could say about Dame Dench at this point in her career? Her involvement with the Bond films since GoldenEye have been nothing short of excellent but it’s with Skyfall that M becomes a leading character along with Bond. She sits atop a plot that hinges on how much we really want to know about her…had M stayed on the sidelines during her tenure this film couldn’t have happened in the way it did. M has always been illustrative of a surrogate mother to Bond and that relationship comes into play several times.
In a series that is famous for its outlandish villains, you’d be hard pressed to find one as genuinely menacing as Silva. Bardem takes a huge risk with his character that could have crashed and burned but winds up making him even more terrifying. Even without the bleached hair and eyebrows, it’s the actor’s eyes that tell the biggest story with thinly veiled rage boiling deep down. His personal vendetta against M and MI6 takes the place of any kind of global domination, allowing the film to hit close to home. It’s a terrifying performance that doesn’t merely replicate his Oscar winning role in No Country for Old Men from the man my friend (let’s call him R for Bond-time sake) calls the Spanish Meryl Streep for the way he totally immerses himself in a role.
Supporting players are nothing to snuff at either. Fiennes has a nifty role as one of M’s colleagues and Whishaw is a wonderfully nebbish Q. Bond Girls are a dime a dozen but Mendes has found two shiny silver dollars in Harris and Marlohe. Harris is a spunky field agent that helps set into motion the action of the film in the breathless prologue and Marlohe may have one of the single best meet and greets with Bond in memory. Both actresses are splendid but aren’t featured as prominently as the ladies of the past. Still…Mendes and co. are smart enough to see that this story is ultimately about Bond and M.
Adele’s powerful theme song is a real winner as both a throwback to the Shirley Bassey Bond themes and a mysterious clue to what the film has in store for us. Playing over a gorgeously designed credits sequence by Daniel Kleinman, the haunting melody is nicely incorporated by Newman in several music cues along the way. And what of the mysterious Skyfall of the title? I’m not going to give that secret up but it acts as yet another way the film opens up to audiences the mystery that is Bond.
Everyone has their favorite Bond and reasons why they lean towards one or the other. Having reached the end of my Bond journey, Skyfall just happens to be the best of the bunch. It’s a fantastically entertaining, surprisingly emotional, and stupendously produced action film that once again redefines the spy genre. James Bond will return…this much we know from the closing credits. How he’ll top himself after Skyfall is the next big mystery to figure out.
Want more Bond? Check out my reviews of the previous 22 James Bond Films: