Wonderful. Another cheesy dumbed down B action movie starring the 72nd incarnation of the emotionless, martini drinking James Bond with a new director, Sam Mendes, that I have never heard of.
But wait, what is this? Skyfall is the twenty-third James Bond film in the Bond Film Franchise. In it, James Bond (Daniel Craig) must come out of hiding to protect the head of MI6, M (Judi Dench) from a terrorist who is targeting the agency. This James Bond movie, like those that came before it, is an action film. However, Skyfall shines because it is first and foremost a drama about the complicated relationship between a man and his loving, but sometimes heartless and manipulative, mother figure.
Skyfall opens with an intense chase sequence that lasts almost twenty minutes. While the action is entertaining, what is really important to take away from this sequence is Bond and M’s relationship at the opening of the film. The events in the opening sequence result in Bond’s hiatus from MI6, which sets up the rest of the film. When M, who is up to this point the only person who has been a constant in Bond’s life, is targeted personally, he comes back to her aid. In the process of finding the mastermind behind the attacks on MI6 (Javier Bardem), Bond, of course, kills some criminals, beds a Bond girl, drives an Aston Martin, and all the usual antics one would expect from a James Bond movie. Luckily, none of these cheesy throwbacks take away from the meat of the story, which is a thrilling cat and mouse game between M and Javier Bardem’s Raoul Silva.
The acting in this movie is something to behold. It is really the glue of the film. No previous James Bond cast could have held this movie together the way this cast did. Craig is perfect as the tortured Bond, while Judi Dench, who becomes a full fledged co-star in this movie, gives the best performance in any Bond movie to date. You can’t help but care about her despite her poor and sometimes reckless decisions that endanger other characters. Bond and M are provided with great dialogue, and that combined with the performances of Craig and Dench makes the scenes between them the best parts of this film. Newcomers Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, and Ben Whishaw all nail their roles as terrorist Raoul Silva, Gareth Mallory, and Q respectively. Never did I think I could praise a James Bond movie’s acting in a year filled with performances like in Argo and The Master, but the praise is well deserved.
On a more technical level of film making, this movie was directed, shot, and edited very well which is surprising for first-time Bond director, Sam Mendes. The cinematography has been the target of some criticism, however, due to its lack of grand scale and shots after the opening sequence. I wholeheartedly disagree. The more personal and tragic story that Skyfall tells requires more close up shots of the actors to convey emotion, something that is lacking in the rest of the Bond series with their grand locations. The story needs to be put first for this type of action film to work, and Skyfall does this. It is penned by screenwriters Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and John Logan very well, but the film does lag in parts.
Despite a few shortcomings, Skyfall delivers. There is no escape from being sucked into the emotionally gripping story where characters you have come to love over the course of two and a half hours, or decades are humiliated, discredited, and emotionally beaten. Bond cries, you might too. Well worth seeing, especially if you are a James Bond fan. This is the best Bond movie to date. 3.5/4 stars.