After five decades and twenty-two films later, Skyfall fitfully arrives as a love-letter to the classic Bond films that have come before, and an exhilarating demonstration of what the future beholds for 007.
Daniel Craig reprises his role as the elusive and suave Bond where his devotion to his country and his employer (M played by Judi Dench) is deeply tested. Once MI6 headquarters in London is infiltrated by a terrorist attack, Bond, M, and the remaining members of the secretive organization (threatened to be closed down by a bureaucrat played by Ralph Fiennes) make finding the group responsible priority number one.
Paying homage to its predecessors, Skyfall’ s plot is as silly as we’ve come to expect. Silva (Javier Bardem), a former MI6 agent cut loose, wants revenge on M for their unsettled past, serving as the campy villain with no motives besides revenge and providing others with pain. Added into the mix is agent Eve (Naomie Harris) and new-age operative Q (Ben Winshaw).
In the film’s cross-world journey – from Shanghai to Macau to Scotland – there’s a pertinent question that continues to surface: is James Bond needed anymore? Q explains to 007 in an enlightening scene that he can do more from his computer (while sipping coffee in his pajamas) by simply clicking a button, than Bond could do in a year.
Q’s reduction of Bond is analogous to the series. In an age where blockbuster action fare is nothing unordinary, does this slick series still have a place in our society? The answer, as Skyfall eventually rolls around to answering, is yes, it does: but, only in the rights hands.
The juggling act brought on since Craig inhabited Bond two films ago, attempts to balance serious dramatics with action theatrics. Mendes’, who’s well versed in melancholy (Revolutionary Road), does an affable job. The action sequences are surprisingly coherent, which is a shock considering Mendes has never directed such before.
All parties considered have done better though. Bardem as menacing and surreal in No Country for Old Men, Mr. Mendes directing a more affecting and effective picture with American Beauty, and Daniel Craig playing Bond with more charm and allure in Casino Royale.
The saving grace is eclectic cinematographer Roger Deakins. Shot by the man responsible for some of the most aesthetically astounding films of the past 25-years (from The Shawshank Redemption to Fargo), Skyfall is every bit as sumptuous and gorgeous as one could ever imagine.
Underneath all that glitz and glamour, though is a perplexing creation of James Bond. As Craig establishes the role, 007 – especially here and in the dismal Quantum of Solace – lacks the vulnerability that made the character fascinating. Bond is no longer ingrained in the depths of reality, but in a fantasy world where’s become the superhero: one that could organically fit in-between Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark. Beyond misguided recreation, Skyfall is vacant of any sort of romantic interest – another recurring element in the Bond saga that adds emotion and stakes to 007’s reckless actions.
Being the commemoration of fifty-years, Mendes’ playfully brings the film full circle. Younger audiences will fall infatuated with the nifty gadgets and kinetic gunfights, and older folks who cherish the days of Sean Connery will be delighted to see the return of the Aston Martin DB5 and a final scene that may draw parallels to Bond’s beginning.
Speaking of which, Skyfall does a splendid job of providing some unprecedented insight to the upbringing of James Bond. For a film that consistently lacks details in its overarching storyline, Mendes hits all the right notes in a brief foray into our protagonist’s backstory.
Stylishly designed, set to an Adele theme song that has already become legendary, Skyfall is at one time simplistic, crowd-pleasing entertainment, and at another groundbreaking artistry. While it primarily falls into the former description, Mendes has made an optimistic and opulent Bond film to serve as a burning torch to cherish the past and anticipate the future.