After the void that was Quantum of Solace, Bond is back to his best in Skyfall. In Daniel Craig’s third outing as Bond, he is shot by friendly fire in a vital mission to retrieve a hard drive full of classified information about undercover agents all over the world. M is forced to make a snap decision during the latest of Bond’s furiously paced chase sequences, the result of which sees Craig falling from a train to the river below in spectacular fashion. After which Bond is presumed to be killed in action. As he is “enjoying death,” M16 is faced with the threat posed by M’s past.
Skyfall is largely contrary to what one might expect from Bond, continuing a personal theory that this iteration is the most complex to date in the way that these aren’t Bond films. Both Casino Royale and Skyfall are films set in the muddy and complex world of espionage in which James Bond is a character, a world away from the old days where everything was secondary to Bond, the character. Another element that continues this theme is that there is very little globetrotting outside of pre-title sequence and his fact-finding mission in China. It predominantly takes place in Britain, making it one of the most grounded films in the franchise in more ways than one.
Sam Mendes has imparted a thematic depth, whereby a struggle between old and new permeates throughout. With multiple references to Bond being part of a bygone age, his age in a young man’s world as elaborated by the casting of Ben Whishaw as the new Q, and the narrative thread whereby Bond has lost his edge and is a psychical wreck.
That is continued more unswervingly through the methodology of Silva, played with an uncompromising amalgamation of resentment and friskiness by Javier Bardem. Silva isn’t seeking to take over the world, he doesn’t have unlimited fortunes, he is just a man possessed by his goal and is able to manipulative computers and information to its fullest. The true nature of his vendetta is revealed in a sequence that echoes The Dark Knight (just like his character has shades of the Joker) in which Sam Mendes demonstrates he isn’t taking his role as director of Bond lightly; Silva’s past is a dark one.
As well possessing depth and thematic aspirations, Skyfall also appeases the series need to be a thrilling action spectacle. An action spectacle that is driven by huge chase scenes, tight and tense exchanges of gunfire, fist fights in exotic surroundings and selective editing that only improves the already hefty impact. The latter example sees Judi Dench delivering a monologue at a government inquiry, edited together with slithers of the action that is methodically heading her way; it’s one of the best scenes in the film. Generally speaking, this is much more traditional territory, especially by the time the well-travelled action archetype finale comes around.
Saving the best to last is Roger Deakins (regular cinematographer for the Coen Brothers), who has filmed the most expressively beautiful Bond film to date, and one of the most striking films of 2012. His use of light, silhouette and colour offers up many occasions throughout where you can let the film wash over you.
The film’s weak theme song deserves special mention, as otherwise this is one of the best Bond films one could imagine and everything a fan would expect to follow Casino Royale, even with Quantum of Solace as a buffer. The titular sequence is without doubt the most visually arresting since Craig took over, but Adele singing “Skyfall” over and over between mumbling passages of inert lyrics, is not enough to constitute a tune, even by the low standards of recent films this is a weak theme.
Daniel Craig is bringing much to his role whereby he is strongly challenging “the best Bond” Timothy Dalton for the top spot. Skyfall isn’t as good as Casino Royale; nevertheless, this is a brilliant entry into Bond lore that makes bedfellows out of emotional depth and the sheer entertainment of the spectacle.
– Rob Simpson
This article is part of our 007 marathon. You can find all the entries by clicking here.