Directed by Sam Mendes
Screenplay by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan
Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Bérénice Lim Marlohe, Albert Finney
How long is Skyfall? 143 minutes.
What is Skyfall rated? PG-13 for intense violent sequences throughout, some sexuality, language and smoking.
A thrilling, action-packed installment of the 007 franchise.
Few cinematic icons are as deeply ingrained in our society as the world’s greatest secret agent. From his signature drink to his signature introduction, James Bond has infiltrated and influenced nearly every aspect of pop culture since he first strutted across the big screen 50 years ago. Our latter-day Bond, played to perfection by Daniel Craig, has re-energized the character created by novelist Ian Fleming and encompasses both the class and style typified by Bond in the early years of the now five-decade old franchise. The super spy’s latest outing, Skyfall (a.k.a Bond 23), is not only a humble homage to the earliest films (Dr. No, Goldfinger), but also a gigantic leap forward in terms of the character’s mythology which has been, up until now, rather blurry.
As the film opens, we join Bond on a foot/car/dirt bike/train chase as he attempts to neutralize (in Bond-speak) a target who has stolen a hard drive containing the names, faces and aliases of all MI6 agents in the field. The ramifications of losing the data are catastrophic and Bond refuses to let that happen. When Eve (Naomie Harris), Bond’s beautiful partner, is ordered by M (Judi Dench) to take a not-so-clear shot, Bond is knocked off a train and the unknown assailant gets away. Bond’s body is lost and he is eventually assumed dead.
Several months later, M is attempting to defend herself from the fallout resulting from the leak of the agents’ names. Her new boss, Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), seems to think her time as head of the agency has reached its end, an idea that has yet to cross M’s mind. To make her life worse, MI6 headquarters are attacked and M is sent a message meant specifically for her: “Think on your sins.” Someone from her past has a vendetta to settle and she has no clue who it may be. She relocates the entire operation to an underground bunker left over from the days of Churchill. Just when she needs him most, Bond surprises M by reappearing, having seemingly resurrected himself from the dead. With the help of the new Q (Ben Whishaw), a whiz kid with a sardonic view of antiquated technology, Bond goes to search out whoever is behind the threatening messages M is receiving.
Director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition) marks his first foray into the Bond franchise with Skyfall and does a brilliant job balancing the film’s action, suspense and drama. With Casino Royale (2006), we were reintroduced to the character in a way we had never been before. With Craig, we got a much more physically intimidating Bond as well as one who could convincingly woo any woman he desired. In Skyfall, Mendes continues the character’s development while also using the story as an allegory for the battle of old vs. new that seems to have permeated every aspect of our society. The Bond image is old-school, retro in the best sense of the word. In the post-Jason Bourne world in which Hollywood finds itself, action movies have to give the audience much more than they have over the last 20 or so years. Skyfall is a fantastic marriage of those two worlds.
After the film’s adrenaline-fueled opening chase, Mendes gives the audience a little breathing room, focusing on the wild goose chase on which M and Bond are about to embark. The film’s central villain, Silva (Javier Bardem), is a maniacal evil genius reminiscent of those Sean Connery fought in the early days of the franchise. However, he has no plans or desires to take over the world; he is out for revenge, plain and simple. He is also one of the most intelligent bad guys Bond has ever encountered, matching wits with Q time after time. Bardem is absolutely perfect in the role, playing Silva with just the right amount of energy and color.
The film’s only stumble is in the rather convoluted plot Silva enacts specifically for Bond to play into. Similar to The Joker’s master manipulation in The Dark Knight, Silva’s mousetrap hinges on almost a dozen incalculable variables falling perfectly into place. Screenwriters Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan overplay their hand just a little, but redeem themselves with the film’s climactic faceoff and unexpected ending.
While it is doubtful any of new Bond films will be able to touch the near-masterpiece that was Casino Royale, Skyfall is nevertheless a worthy addition to the Bond library. With just the right amount of action and a sprinkling of humanness for our hero, Skyfall will definitely be held up as among one of the best Bond movies of all time.
Matthew Newlin lives in St. Louis, Missouri and has been a film critic for over six years. He has written for numerous online media outlets, including “Playback:STL” and “The Weissman Report.” He holds a Master’s of Education in Higher Education from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and is an Assistant Director of Financial Aid. A lifelong student of cinema, his passion for film was inherited from his father who never said “No, you can’t watch that.”