by Shawnie Kelly (@DearShawnie)
Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace breathed new life into the Bond series with Daniel Craig’s gritty, emotionally-detached portrayal of 007. The success of those two films left little room for upstaging, but Skyfall isn’t backing down from the challenge. Directed by Sam Mendes, the third film of the series reboot starring Craig is the best of the three, and perhaps the best Bond film of all. A bold statement, yes, but something to consider as the 23rd installment of the franchise expertly balances the charm of classic bond with the cool, calculating authenticity that Craig brings to the character. It’s a fine line to walk, but Skyfall handles it delicately which serves the film well. Viewers aren’t slapped with a heavy-handed “shaken not stirred.” Rather, they can appreciate a moment when Bond offhandedly compliments the bartender on a job well done with his shaken martini. With one strategically-placed “Bond, James Bond” and the Aston Martin DB5 making its triumphant return to the big screen, Skyfall is the most obvious nod toward vintage Bond that we’ve seen from the reboot; old-school fans will be pleased with how it pays homage in a subtle way without trying to replicate the classics entirely.
We know 007 isn’t invincible, but we haven’t seen him teetering on the edge of destruction until now. The opening scene features a haggard Bond in pursuit of his target; he is shot once, then shot again. Aside from the physical afflictions, some of Bond’s decline — like his drinking problem — is administered by his own hand. We see him in a vulnerable position, but it doesn’t detract from his powerful presence. It humanizes him in a way that we haven’t experienced before. The film unfolds with his abilities being questioned by himself and others, but we soon find that his skills are not gone, they simply need to be rediscovered. Age is becoming a factor, and the battle between the old rules of espionage and the new standard is an underlying theme throughout the film. Craig brings excellence as always, and his portrayal of Bond’s slightly-dulled edge is spot on.
Craig isn’t the only star. An extraordinary cast serves as a strong foundation, not backdrop, for Skyfall. Javier Bardem easily steals every scene he’s in as one of the most disturbing Bond villains ever – ex-MI6 agent, Silva. Emotionally disturbed, Silva relies on mind games and staying one step ahead of everyone to carry out his plan of revenge on his former employers. His sights are specifically set on Judi Dench’s character, M. His obsession with her, coupled with his distorted view of reality, sets viewers on edge from the very introduction of his character. He proves himself to be ruthless, yet jovial. Silva’s temperament is the exact opposite of Bond, providing an interesting contrast. Dench and Bardem are both power-players, standing tall and holding their own throughout the film.
With regards to plot, the film is solid. But to the credit of Mendes, it’s the little things that stand out. The general aesthetic is beautiful, with consistent warm tones and textured settings pulling just as much weight, if not more, than any character. One scene jumps out as particularly breathtaking; Bond is running through vast, open terrain. He is silhouetted in black against a night sky that is lit vibrantly in reds and oranges from a burning building behind him. There are several shots like this, purely artistic, that add a rich quality to the look of the film.
Skyfall is an excellent addition to the Bond series that won’t be easily topped. Though dark at some points, it ends on a surprising note that will leave fans excited for the future of the franchise.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars