Casino Royale re-invigorated the James Bond series, and with the bitter aftertaste of Quantum of Solace, fans across the world are desperate for the latest Bond film Skyfall to be a success. They won’t be disappointed. The film stars Daniel Craig, returning to the role of the modern era brute-Bond, along with Judi Dench as M and Javier Bardem as the villain Mr. Silva.
The film opens with James Bond and partner Eve (Naomie Harris) chasing down a man who has stolen a hard drive with the identities of all undercover NATO operatives. While on a train-top chase Eve mistakenly shoots and seemingly kills Bond instead of the target and loses the hard drive. Cue opening credits with everyone’s favorite female sexy silhouettes and guns. Skyfaaaaaaaaall! Months later we see that 007 is not dead, because this is his movie. He returns for duty after an attack on MI6 headquarters targeted at M. British Intelligence is coming down hard on M for the attack as well as the massive intel leak. M tasks a less-than fit for duty 007 to head to China to put a stop to the chaos in the Motherland. After having the obligatory dalliance with the beautiful Sévérine (Bérénice Marlohe), she leads him to a deserted island where we meet the villainous Mr. Silva. Silva was once a prized pupil of M’s similar to Bond, but after being abandoned by M he wages his war on her and MI6. The remainder of the film sees Bond and his allies scrambling to protect M and keep her from the considerable grasp of Silva and his mercenaries.
The Daniel Craig era of Bond films emphasizes the realism in the fantastic hero of 007, similar to the Bourne or Dark Knight trilogies. The films don’t have absurdly intricate gadgets or billionaire egomaniacs seeking world domination of some sort, but rather they place an emphasis on raw human emotions. If there is an overarching narrative of Daniel Craig’s series it is his relationship with Judi Dench’s M, which can even be found among the wreckage of Quantum of Solace‘s “too complex for its own good” plot. Skyfall takes this relationship to another level by taking Bond and M’s mother/son relationship and adding a bitter older brother in Silva. Silva’s complicated love/hatred for the woman drives Bond closer to her as a loyal son.
Like Casino Royale, Skyfall maintains a healthy amount of respect for films past, with Aston Martin, Walther PPK and several other franchise familiars making cameo appearances. The thing that sets this film apart is its third act, where it defies convention and boldly sets up the final showdown between Silva and Bond in a unique and surprising way. Without spoiling anything, it is certainly unlike any 007 finish that has occurred leading up to this point. Javier Bardem provides a very intriguing performance as Silva, but unfortunately his character isn’t fully explored. Daniel Craig excels at being a less than perfect 007 but could benefit from taking a little more pleasure in the role. American Beauty director Sam Mendes hits the emotional target that Quantum of Solace was aiming for, taking the story into an interesting direction at the tail end of the film. Skyfall is a James Bond film that is a little bit of Casino Royale, GoldenEye and believe it or not Home Alone.
Final Grade: ★★★★½ 4.5/5