Skyfall (2012) Review

James Bond has trouble remembering his training.
(Courtesy of Francois Duhamel/Sony Pictures)

If you have never been a Bond fan or were disappointed by 2008’s Quantum of Solace, then it’s time to have your faith renewed. Just in time for 007’s 50th Anniversary comes a new adventure called Skyfall, and it might just be the best Bond movie to date.

The twenty-third installment in this long running franchise finds Daniel Craig reprising his role as James Bond, but not in top form. After a failed attempt to recover a list containing all known MI6 field agents, Bond is seriously wounded and thought to be dead at the hands of his own partner, Eve (Naomie Harris). But when a deadly threat surfaces in the form of disgruntled ex-secret agent Silva (played wonderfully here by Javier Bardem), Bond must return and fight to save not only himself, but also his boss M (Judi Dench). If that situation weren’t complicated enough, the list of operatives has been leaked onto the Internet and is endangering the agents as well as the entire MI6 organization, including possible new boss Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes). With Silva wreaking havoc all over London and actively trying to kill M, Bond must take a long look in the mirror and decide if he still has what it takes to be 007.

By now Craig has comfortably settled into the Bond role, and this time around plays him with a wonderful mix of human frailty and damaged ego. In fact, the entire cast here does a terrific job. Dench manages to deliver both a slightly remorseful M and one who can still keep a stiff upper lip when the situation calls for it. As for the villain, there simply could not have been a better choice than Bardem. He steals every scene he’s in, and in one particular instance makes you both extremely uncomfortable then has you laughing a few moments later. Then of course we come to a staple of all Bond films: the girls. This time around we have two amazing talents who more than fit the bill. Sultry French actress Bérénice Marlohe plays Bond’s ill-fated love interest, and Naomie Harris (from Pirates of the Caribbean fame) takes on Bond’s soon-to-be ex-partner Eve.

While the casting is great, enough really can’t be said about the look of the film. In a word, it’s gorgeous. Director Sam Mendes, whose last big movie was 2008’s Revolutionary Road, has successfully delivered one of the best Bond films ever. While the dialogue scenes are engaging, it’s the action sequences that draw audiences to a Bond film. Mendes does a fantastic job grounding multiple chase and shoot out scenes with a sense of reality and danger that seems to have eluded some recent spy thrillers. Cinematographer Roger Deakins, who has worked with Mendes twice before, expertly showcases the film’s many international locations with both his own personal touch and the natural beauty of the surrounding areas. Because of this, Skyfall slips into that rare category of an adventure film that deserves to be seen solely based on the mood lighting that plays in a majority of the film’s scenes.

While going to see a Bond film, one does have to give leeway for a certain suspension of disbelief. It is a well known fact that evil henchmen will be terrible shots, our hero will undoubtedly escape an impossible situation with nothing more than a few scratches, and there will be a large explosion or two that doesn’t really make sense. There’s also a point in the film’s climactic action scene, where it seems they could have shaved off a good five to ten minutes, but the inevitable payoff is worth it, and the final frames should leave the majority of audiences feeling very satisfied.

When fans of the Bond series talk about their favorite films, a few, like Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Diamonds are Forever, and even 2006’s Casino Royale, consistently make the list. Skyfall successfully manages to carve out a new path for Bond while at the same time recalling to memory some of the original concepts that made those films great. 2012 marks Bond’s Golden anniversary, and whether or not audiences accept the film’s allusion to Goldfinger as a reference to the occasion, Skyfall is sure to shine on and be valued as one of 007’s best adventures.