James Bond has been around for over 50 years now, an achievement the film proudly displays once the credits begin to scroll at the end of Skyfall. Now I am not the biggest Bond fan, nor have I seen most of the films as I primarily started with Brosnan and Goldeneye, but even those films I thought were only ok. An action film is fine, but the stories and tone have always felt slightly cheesy and lighthearted to me; that changed with Casino Royale. Director Martin Campbell (who directed Goldeneye as well) and new Bond Daniel Craig brought an intensity and emphasis on story that previous Bond films lacked. The film was powerful and exciting, and it made me excited to see what Bond would do next.
What happened next was Quantum of Solace and that was…something.
Now Bond is back in what many have actually been claiming is his best film in years, and possibly ever, and I agree. Skyfall is a monumental film that again puts character and story front and center. Skyfall opens with an excellent action sequence that goes on for quite some time. Similar to the opening of Casino, Bond is chasing a fleeing culprit who has stolen a hard drive from MI6 and the scene features some really great ingenuity from the writers and stunt team. Unfortunately the action never quite matches this opening throughout the rest of the film, but that’s not really a slight against the following proceedings, as just a great compliment to the opening. The action ends with a bang, and then the true film begins.
It turns out the files contained on the drive were those of every name of every agent that works at MI6, putting the entire agency at risk of being compromised and worse, killed, if the files are deciphered. The act of discovering who took the files and returning them to their rightful owner is the driving force behind the first act of the film, and the focus on Judi Dench’s M and her command and relationship with her agents is a new and interesting story beat to follow.
The first half has Bond traveling around the globe as he gets closer to discovering who is behind this attack on his employer, and the highlight of these travels comes when he reaches Shanghai and confronts a man who may hold useful information. The scene is shot beautifully, with great attention to detail in terms of the lighting of the scene. In fact, the entire movie is filmed perfectly, with brilliant camera positioning and it actually had me glad that I saw it in IMAX.
The second half of the film begins when viewers are finally introduced to Javier Bardem’s Raoul Silva; the man who has been unleashing hell across M’s company. Bardem delivers an amazing performance here, truly the highlight of the entire film. Raoul is a man who has clearly suffered much mental strain and has finally snapped, lashing out at those he deems responsible. At times he seems in control of himself, and then without warning you are witnessing the savage bloodlust of a true sociopath. The Bond films (that I have seen) have never had a truly special villain in my opinion, someone that is a true test for Bond and someone who is genuinely frightening. Bardem is that character.
The rest of the film is a cat and mouse game between Bond and Raoul that is very much in the same vein as The Dark Knight, with Raoul seemingly in control for the duration, just manipulating and laughing at MI6. The Final act see’s Bond finally sick of being at the mercy of this psychopath and retreating to recuperate and make a last stand. This is where the film faltered for me. This is a long movie, and I usually love that, but once this last bit of the story was being told, I felt it should have ended by now. The final confrontation itself is handled well, and gives you further background and information on Bond’s psyche, but I couldn’t help but continue to think “when is this going to be over?”
But soon enough it was, and after leaving the theater and mulling the film over, I agree with those Critics I mentioned earlier; this is the best Bond film I have seen. The dark and distant Bond that Craig plays is truly formidable, and Javier gives an incredible performance that had me glued to the screen every second he was on it. The story Skyfall weaves is one of personal demons, not of ridiculous world domination. Each character on screen is haunted in some way, and Skyfall explores the various path’s these characters take to clean themselves of these scars. The group I saw the film with felt differently, they were let down, but if you are willing to see a movie that puts character and tension over that of endless action, you should find enjoyment from this latest Bond trek.