To celebrate 50 years of James Bond, Skyfall rewards fans with a classic James Bond film that works as a gritty modern entry and a bridge between old and new.
It has all the ingredients that make 007 great: exotic locations, character development, beautiful women, a creepy villain, action, exposition, a slow pace, and a full MI6 staff.
For the casual Bond fan, Skyfall is an outstanding action movie with a few plot holes. For the hard-core 007 addicts amongst us, it succeeds on many other levels, borrowing the best elements from some of my favorite older movies while eliminating most of the fluff and camp.
Sam Mendes’ direction is among the most artistic in the series, reviving the old tradition of slow pans to introduce a new location and favoring plot advancement over non-stop action. He also brilliantly uses silhouettes throughout the film, most noticeably in the Shanghai fight between Bond and Patrice and the fiery climax at Skyfall.
Meanwhile, Daniel Craig seems to have perfected his portrayal of 007 with a wink here, a cufflink adjustment there, and a pun or five for good measure. He does a brilliant job of combining the traditional cockiness of Bond with a healthy dose of humility, humanity, and hurt.
Though Silva’s actual scheme was a bit dull and convoluted, it didn’t matter. Skyfall’s real plot is found in the relationships between M, Bond, MI6, and how they all fit into our modern world. The movie is filled with subtext, action, drama, some of the finest acting in the series, and by far my favorite ending.
Out of 007 possible stars, I give Skyfall a...
My Spoiler-Filled & In-Depth Review
Do not continue reading if you haven’t seen Skyfall yet
A Bridge Movie: aka, Oh, Grow Up, 007
Skyfall feels like a bridge movie between my father’s Bond and a new era of 007.
By the time Die Another Day was released, the Bond movies had lost all touch with reality. Casino Royale stripped that all away, leaving us with only Judi Dench's M and the Aston Martin DB5 as a common link to the past. Bond was reborn and had no need for Q, Moneypenny, or exploding pens.
That arc continued in the frantic Quantum of Solace; which, despite being a lackluster entry to the series, did advance Daniel Craig’s young Bond. Finally, by the end of Skyfall, Bond has lost every connection to the previous 50 years and is ready to start over.
With Judi Dench and the DB5 gone, 007 is finally ready to walk past the hat rack, greet Miss Moneypenny, open the double-leather door, and have a stoic older man present him with a top secret folder. Throw in a gunbarrel sequence for good measure and James Bond is officially back!
This 007 Can Hurt & Bleed
When The World is Not Enough was released, Pierce Brosnan and company raved about Bond’s humanity and vulnerability. In reality, his fall and injury from the pretitle sequence only played a minor role in the plot and mostly gave 007 an excuse to seduce Dr. Warmflash.
In Skyfall, Bond's injury and "death" play a major role in the film, as they force a weakened Bond to come to terms with his own physical limitations. It’s only through extreme hubris and sheer determination that 007 pulls himself together enough to face Silva.
Two wonderful examples of this are seeing Bond collapse after his MI6 physical and watching him dangle by one arm beneath a Shanghai elevator.
Right from the start, Skyfall has an almost an eerie calmness. Despite the tense atmosphere of a gunfight, motorcycle chase, and fisticuffs on top of a moving train, no one loses their calm. Bond, Eve, and M all manage to keep their voices down: except when M orders Eve to “take the bloody shot.”
This calmness sets the pace for the rest of the film and prevents it from becoming overwhelming in its enormity.
Silva: Creepy, for Sure, But was he Memorable?
Blofeld! LeChiffre. Scaramanga. Doctor No… and Silva?
Where does Silva fit into the pantheon of great Bond villains? That’s what I found myself wondering as Javier Bardem walked menacingly - yet calmly - down an aisle of computer servers discussing cannibalistic rats. This calmness continues throughout the entire film, as he always appears eerily amused while giving off a completely creepy vibe.
But does that creepy vibe and a removable set of dentures make up for a convoluted scheme? After two viewings, I’m inclined to say no. We don’t even meet Silva until halfway through the movie and despite leaving a trail of destruction and death, he never really shows us why Severance is so afraid of him.
As for that scheme; let me get this straight...
All along, Silva planned to have Bond kill Patrice, come to Macau to redeem the chip, seduce Sévérine, come to his island, apprehend him, trap him in the underground MI6, have Q hook his laptop up to the MI6 intranet and break out?
Then he had planned where Bond would chase him, down to the exact time he would arrive in the tube station to receive his police uniform and the precise exit he would flee to before dropping a train on Bond’s head and jumping into a police car?
Assuming all that to be true, the ultimate goal of these years of planning was to what? Oh, right; to walk into one of the most secure buildings in London with a handgun and shoot M in the face. Mmmhmm. Riiight.
...One-Off Thoughts on Silva...
The Bond Girls: One Step Forward & Two Steps Back
In Skyfall, Miss Moneypenny is the Bond Girl. Sure, there’s Sévérine and that unnamed beauty he beds while “enjoying death,” but the only gal I remember is Eve.
Even and Bond’s repartee throughout the film is fantastic and reminds me of countess encounters with Lois Maxwell… a connection that I didn’t properly appreciate until learning who Eve actually was.
However, Moneypenny was never meant to be the Bond Girl: Sévérine was. Which begs the question: “why should we care?” Her scene in the Macau casino is memorable, for sure, but I still didn’t care about her death. Neither did Bond, apparently, as he allowed her to be shot in order to launch his own escape.
...Thinkin' 'bout Bond Girls...
M Steals the Show
Skyfall will forever be remembered as “the one where M dies.”
Before that, Judi Dench did a wonderful job fleshing out the character and really made sure that even a first time Bonder would appreciate the poignancy of her death. Dench also succeeded in portraying M as a motherly figured to Bond, Silva, and the entire MI6.
That said, having every character call her “mum” instead of ma’am seemed to be a bit of overkill.
I’m Your New Quartermaster
How do you reinvent the most beloved character in the entire history of James Bond? Apparently, by revisiting a few classic lines of dialogue, joking about an exploding pen, and having classy, fast-moving, and witty banter.
From their first encounter in the museum to their radio exchanges after Silva’s escape, Daniel Craig and Ben Whishaw quickly recreate the quintessential relationship between the Bond and Desmond Llewelyn’s Q.
It’s also appropriate that the first gadget Bond receives from Q is the same one he received from Major Boothroyd 50 years ago: a Walther PPK. Personally, the Q scenes have always been my favorite part of any Bond movie and I’m thrilled to see where they go from here.
...‘Q’uestions & Comments...
Random Thoughts & Things I liked: