It’s been 50 years since the James Bond movie-franchise has begun (not counting the very first adaptation of “Casino Royale” in 1954), and for the anniversary academy award winners Sam Mendes (director) and John Logan (script/ rewrite) presents us “Skyfall“, the latest installment in the Bond-series, and the third one with Daniel Craig as 007. There will be some minor spoilers, but I’ll reduce them to a minimum, or in other words, I will mostly talk about what can be seen in the trailers.
On an important mission to retrieve a harddrive containing the identity of every MI6 undercover agent, Bond gets accidently shot by his colleague Eve (Naomi Harris) on M’s orders, and is considered dead. Months later, the MI6 is threatened and attacked by an unknown cyberterrorist who especially targets M (Judy Dench), so Bond returns from his forced retirement into Her Majesty’s Secret Service. After a rocky-like training montage, Bond is commissioned for duty, and follows a trace to the mysterious Severine (Berenice Marlohe), who then leads Bond to her employer, the master criminal Silva (Javier Bardem).
I won’t tell any more about the story, for it would spoil and ruin your watching the movie.
Four years after the very much disappointing “Quantum of Solace“, Bond is back with a thrilling and compelling adventure. While “QoS” had problems with a weird pacing and quickly cut action scenes, “Skyfall” does the exact oposite: The action scenes are well shot, so that you can observe what’s going on, and the movie takes its time to present action scenes to us. Very often, it takes up to 30 minutes until the next action scene, and in the meantime you get great espionage scenaries.
The movie may also mark Craigs best performance as James Bond, and comparing it to his performance in “Casino Royale“, one could argue that these are two different actors playing Bond. Finally he has got the classic bondesk-charm that was bitterly missed in the last two movies, while still keeping the toughness he brought with him when he first started in “CR“. To be exact, the whole movie feels like a classic Bond movie set in the 21st century. There are also a lot of references to older Bond-movies (I apperently have invented a drinking game for that),and unlike in “Die Another Day“, the references do work.
Dench has got her biggest role in any Bond movie, and does a great job as usual. But a good movie also needs a good villain, and Javier Bardem’s Silva is just brilliant. He is one of the most charismatic Bond villains of the whole franchise, and the movie goes great lenghts to show that he is a match, a tough rival, for Bond. I won’t tell to much about him, but I only say that he could be seen as a dark reflection of Bond himself (Just look at the clothes he and Bond are wearing during their first encounter). They seem to be two sides of a coin. Silva is both charismatic and diabolical.
What would a Bond-movie be without good old Q? And here the brilliant quartermaster returns, this time played by the young Ben Wishaw, who is just perfect for the role (as the late Llewelyn was to the original Q) The Q-scenes are a highlight of the movie, and extremely fun to watch.
Also, the title is very cleverly whooled into the movie’s structure: Bond’s apparent death causes heavy rain everywhere over London. And the true meaning of the title will come slowly but therefore more determined later in the movie. But according to my friend “flip the truck”, “Skyfall” gets also meaning on a metalevel: It brings down the high and “over-the-top” features of Bond to a grounded level. There are still Q-gadgets, lonely villain lairs and action scenes, but they do no longer belong to the fantastic world of James Bond, but are put in arealistic setting.
I have had only two problems with the movie, namely the gunbarrel scene, that once again comes right after the end of the movie, and not at the beginning. When you’ll have finished the movie, you’ll understand why it takes place at the end, but still I found it kind of disturbing not to have it at the beginning. But to be honest, there very opening shot kinda represents a gunbarrel scene for me.
The other, much heavier problem that bothered me was Bond-girl Eve and her relationship with Bond: The two of them don’t have any chemistry, and you’ll understand this issue when you have seen the movie. I understand what the makers wanted to do with her, and I really appreciate it. She is supposed to be capable of a lot of things, but tries not to become the best at them.
The Immortal Bringer of Death
Over the 50 years since his first cinematic appearence (and almost 60 years since his creation), James Bond has evolved and assimilated himself to each decade, from an sly secret agent to a mysogenic parody of himself, to an action hero and multitask-genius. Always reflecting the world’s politics in the process. Most of the time the adventures were set during the Cold War, but since the fall of the Sowjet Union, the line between black and white became more greyish, until it became unclear who friends and enemies really are. After the Cold War had ended, the relevance of having a James Bond saving the day became questionable. Why do people still want to watch Bond movies? The movie knows about that, and in “Skyfall”, M holds a monologue that not only is relevent in the diegesis, but also on metalevel to the question of the relevance of the Bond franchise. “What’s your hobby?”, Silva asks. Bond responds: “Resurrection” James Bond, the government’s hitman, always survives the biggest action events. And like him do his films, today still as popular as then.
I won’t go an raving about this movie. I just say you should see for yourself. This movie is totally worth it.