Skyfall celebrates the 50th anniversary of the James Bond franchise with its first billion-dollar picture and one of the best films to date.
James Bond (Daniel Craig) is in a much different place following Quantum of Solace. He’s no longer a rookie agent. But the thing that sets this film apart from his previous outings is that he fails repeatedly throughout the film. It’s a recurring theme that kicks off almost as soon as the film begins. Bond fails to save the list and he fails to save M (Judi Dench).
Adele’s Oscar-winning theme song aside, what this film does is mark a welcome return of both Q (Ben Whishaw) and Miss Moneypenny (Naomie Harris). Longtime staples of the Bond franchise, neither character was seen in the previous two films starring Craig. It’s a welcome return and but unlike previous films, this one sees Moneypenny out in the field. Obviously, things change by the end of the film but it adds some layers to Moneypenny’s character. I like this approach to Moneypenny because she comes off as a badass in a way that you wouldn’t see from Lois Maxwell or Samantha Bond, to name a few.
The gist of the film is that James Bond investigates the attack on MI6 and it leads back to former agent and current cyberterrorist Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem). Silva’s presence is felt for half the film even if he isn’t on camera. When we do meet him on the screen, he presents his worldview. He’s a far different villain than that of Dominic Greene, who you could walk by on the street without batting an eye. Visually, you could mistake him for WikiLeaks’s Julian Assange. It comes as no surprise when Silva kills Sévérine (Bérénice Marlohe).
When it comes with Silva and Bond, they have a far different relationship with M. M is mother figure to Bond but Silva faults her for abandoning him when she disavowed and betrayed him to the Chinese government in 1997. At the end of the day, Silva is one of the most complex villains in the entire franchise.
After Bond thwarts the attack on Parliament, he takes M with him to his childhood home , Skyfall, in the Scottish Highlands. It’s here where we meet Kincade (Albert Finney). One of the initial ideas would have seen all the previous Bonds come back for the climax. Alas, this was not to be because of Sean Connery’s retirement. That and the idea of stunt casting taking away from the film. Can you imagine Daniel Craig teaming up with Sean Connery? But anyway, Judi Dench bids the role of M goodbye after seven films. She’s replaced by Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) as M as he moves over from his role as Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC).
Skyfall is one of the most beautifully shot Bond films in no small part due to Roger Deakins. Deakins, of course, gets one of his many Oscar nominations for the film. Other collaborators also returned for the film including production designer Dennis Gassner. After stepping aside for a film, Daniel Kleinman comes back to design the main titles.
Thomas Newman becomes the ninth James Bond composer. A frequent San Mendes collaborator, he replaces David Arnold as the film’s composer. Naturally, there are high expectations. One, he’s a member of the musical Newman family. Two, this is a James Bond film. He has to bring about suspense both on the screen and off. Regardless, Newman’s work earns himself his 11th Oscar nomination at the time. Winless so far in his career, he’s due for an Oscar at some point.
When you look at the history of Bond directors, Sam Mendes is one of the biggest ones to date. He gets the franchise back on track following the slightly messy Quantum of Solace. Mendes brings solid direction to the film’s nice balance between characters and action, too. What this film seeks to ask is who is James Bond in the modern world. It’s not the world that found Bond being introduced in 1962. Sean Connery could not get away with some of his on-screen actions in the 21st century. I love what the first three films do when it comes to reinventing James Bond for this century. Chances are likely that we’ll be talking about a reinvention in another few decades.
Skyfall is an anniversary film and delivers on every note.
DIRECTOR: Sam Mendes
SCREENWRTERS: Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and John Logan
CAST: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Bérénice Marlohe, with Albert Finney and Judi Dench