Wednesday, November 14

Skyfall Review

Dir: Sam Mendes
Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench,
and Javier Bardem

50 years worth of films and James Bond is still the icon of secret agents, and to some the gold standard of spy films. However, the past two decades have seen the ups (Casino Royale) and downs (The World Is Not Enough) from the established chronicle. Skyfall, directed by Sam Mendes, reinvigorates and surprisingly reinvents the Bond franchise for future endeavors.

The film begins in Istanbul with Bond (Daniel Craig) on the chase of a man who has stolen crucial, agency threatening data. The opening action is pure 007, using every variable of transportation on the pursuit; the train chase is simply impressive. Bond is slower and lacking a step in this hunt, which leaves his MI6 boss M. (Judi Dench) to question his abilities. M., fearing the worst, makes a decision that sends Bond plummeting off a train and the villain out into the dark. This leaves MI6 at the forefront of blame, M. threatened by the decisions of her past, and Bond pondering the vow of his agent.

Much of the success of this film is accomplished by focusing on the strength of the characters in the James Bond universe.  Instead of relying on typical rehashed archetypes, Skyfall pays homage to these elements with deft refinement utilizing them in satisfying ways. While the narrative doesn’t reinvent much in the world of 007 stories, it does offer greater character insights and interesting motivations. Specifically with an emotional depth that is hardly touched upon in these films. Still, much of the secret and espionage coupled within Skyfall’s story is fairly straightforward, almost too much for a James Bond outing, which will leave some asking for more.

Of the three films Daniel Craig personifies Bond in, each have been a little different. In Skyfall, his best Bond, subtlety and emotion allow Bond to be formed into a character that harbors empathy.  The subtext of Bond’s past plays a pertinent role in this film, he is humanized to an extent not seen in other films in the saga. Javier Bardem is excellent as the maniacal villain Silva, chewing up scenery with striking presence. This isn’t the typical Bond villain either, motivated by revenge and seeking his personal justice by any means necessary, Bardem’s character feels like a legitimate, realistic bad guy. Judi Dench is pleasantly developed completely in this film, an aspect that past films have overlooked. Dench is such an accomplished actor that her character M. is given ample time to shine in great scenes with Bond.  

Mendes, who directed American Beauty, does a fine job of making a timeless Bond film. Allowing action to play out amongst character development, combining contemporary with traditional elements of 007 films; Skyfall proves that these films can richly occupy both the outlandish and ordinary.

Skyfall ranks somewhere in my top 5 in the series, lofty words but I assure you it’s warranted. The direction of showcasing a character driven story around the elements of a James Bond film allows the franchise to move forward with renewed, reinvented motivation. Where Bond goes from here has suddenly become an interesting topic of discussion again.

Monte’s Rating
4.25 out 5.00

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