The spy film has been around almost as long as cinema itself. While many a spy have graced the silver screen over the years, none have been more memorable than Bond, James Bond. With the “reboot” of the franchise, if you will, with 2006’s Casino Royale, the character was taken in a more serious and gritty approach. The three films within the Daniel Craig trilogy make up possibly the most memorable trio of Bond films yet. How well does Sam Mendes’ Skyfall stack up against the rest? Is it a worthy Bond film, and does it top last year’s nearly flawless Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol as a stand alone spy flick?
Numerous actors have played the Bond character, but none better than Daniel Craig. Dude is the definition of a good looking, suave badass. The only person who could make a better James Bond would probably be Michael Fassbender. But I’m getting beside myself here. Daniel Craig returns for his third go as the popular spy, but this time around giving the viewers a tad bit more personality than we might be used to. Sure there are multiple scenes where Bond manages to nail a Bond Girl within seconds, but in one of the best scenes within Skyfall, Bond is put in a precarious situation with the film’s bad-guy, a psychotic former British Intelligence Operative (masterfully portrayed by Javier Bardem) who also happens to be on the Bi-Sexual side. Silva (Bardem) has Bond tied up to a chair and is swiftly laying down some smooth sexual advances on the spy, in which Bond quips back “What makes you think this is my first time?”. Just the chemistry alone between the two characters was magnetic, but to even hear James Bond acknowledge anything but instant hook ups with random woman, was remarkable and grin inducing.
Javier Bardem’s performance in Skyfall is easily his most menacing since No Country For Old Men. Silva, who is revealed to be a former partner of Agent M (Judi Dench) gone rogue, is now the world’s best computer hacker and can do anything he wants at the click of the button, while residing in a now overrun/empty private island. The game of cat and mouse than Silva and Bond share in the film is a ridiculously fun time to be had. My only complaint with the character is that he isn’t introduced until probably a little over an hour into Skyfall. But the character is so well executed that it makes up for the long agonizing wait to finally meet him.
Aside from Bardem’s incredible performance, the best aspect of Skyfall is Roger Deakins’ beautiful cinematography. One of the film’s visual motif’s is silhouettes. On multiple occasions, Deakins frames the scene to only see the outline of the characters’ actions, as opposed to having the choreography brightly lit. Such as a fight scene that takes place atop a very Blade Runner-esque building in Shanghai. It’s the middle of the night and the only source of light is the glow of electronic Jellyfish moving along panels covering the side of the building, yet there is this elaborate hand to hand combat being silhouetted against these lights, effortlessly utilizing the less is more ideal, in a way.
One thing that plenty of high budget action films have a bit of trouble with is the third act. The movies always have plenty of build up that lead to a finale that doesn’t quite reach the goal. Even The Dark Knight, one of Skyfall‘s biggest influences, has issues witch it’s third act. Director Sam Mendes and Screenwriters Robert Wade, John Logan, and Neal Purvis were somehow able to craft a final act that rarely stumbles. It features a drastic shift in tone for the film, but one that really works. The sequence literally takes James Bond back to his roots and takes a momentary step back from the seriousness and pays homage to the 60s era of the character, bringing back an old beloved Bond car, complete with seat-ejection buttons and machine gun headlights. The action pieces in this entire sequence are super engrossing and packed to the brim with huge explosions and homemade spy gadgetry. Once the entire finale was over, I was so exhausted from the action but in the best possible way.
Skyfall is probably the most fun you’ll have at the box-office this entire winter (that is, until Tarantino’s Django Unchained comes out), despite a slightly overlong buildup to the reveal of Bardem’s Silva. There a only a few missteps, but it’s absolutely a worthy Bond film, even though it might not be QUITE as good as Casino Royale (although only by a slim margin) nor Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. I can only hope that Daniel Craig stays on as Bond for a few more films, and I’d love to even see Sam Mendes stick around and make another film for the franchise.
I give Skyfall 4 Martinis out of 5
By Richard Pepper