Starring: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw.
Directed by Sam Mendes
Bond. James Bond. Nary a soul alive doesn’t recognize those immortal words or the secret agent they’re affiliated with, aka Ian Fleming’s celebrated fictional spy. The character of Bond has been a fixture of our popular culture for the past fifty years and now, twenty three films. With that in mind, it seems almost inconceivable to imagine them churning out Bond films for another fifty, yet if they continue the franchises reshaping with stories like Skyfall, then they’ll have no trouble doing it. It might seem odd to hear it put that way, but after watching Daniel Craig as the martini-drinking 007 in his third Bond feature, you’ll be left with a renewed exuberance for the future of our favorite British spy.
That was quite unexpected after it seemed like fate had said enough with the disappointment called Quantum of Solace combined with a studio bankruptcy. Once it became clear that another film was going to happen, the producers brought in such top notch talent as Javier Barden, Ralph Fiennes, Judy Dench, Naomie Harris (28 Days Later), Albert Finney and Ben Whishaw (Cloud Atlas) to perform in front of the camera while Sam Mendes (Road to Perdition) sat behind it while helming this masterpiece. Veteran Bond screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were joined by John Logan (Hugo) in delivering this stellar script that allowed the cast to be at their best.
Skyfall begins with Bond trying to recover a stolen hard drive containing a list of every undercover agent around the world. An ensuing chase takes place in the streets and on the rooftops of Istanbul then to the top of a train speeding across the countryside only to end badly. Bond goes missing, is declared killed in action, but when the MI6’s London headquarters is blown up in spectacular fashion, he resurfaces, albeit in less-than-stellar condition. With intelligence and security committee chairman Gareth Mallory (Fiennes) pushing M (Dench) into retirement, she has no choice but to put all her trust into him as they face an adversary who seems to know all of MI6’s secrets - and weaknesses. The adversary is a cyber-terrorist who taunts M while releasing the names of the agents who are quickly turned on and killed by the terrorist organizations they were embedded in.
Once Bond heads out on the trail we are treated to 9-time Oscar nominated cinematographer Roger Deakins’ stunning visuals of the neo-lit high-rises of Shanghai where Bond tracks down the hard drive thief from Istanbul. Then it’s on to Macau. In typical Bond fashion he hooks up with the lovely MI6 field agent Eve (Harris) before setting out to a local casino as old school Bond dressed in a classic tux and ordering his trademark smartly shaken, not stirred, martini. Sensing a connection to his prey, Bond seduces the gorgeous Severine (Bérénice Marlohe), on the way to a strange island city.
Although Craig gives his finest performance to date, no Bond film could ever be considered great without an equally great villain. Here we finally meet the over-the-top fantastical former spy and cyber-terrorist Raoul Silva (Bardem). Bond deftly takes down multiple baddies and manages to bring Silva back to London as a prisoner. It is at this point where the plot point reminded me of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight when the Joker is sitting in a Gotham jail cell. As the new Q (Whishaw) attempts to crack Silva’s computer programs we learn that it was by design that Silva allowed himself to be captured. We are treated to another jaw-dropping chase through London’s underground tunnels before the final showdown on the Scottish moors.
The ending serves as a proverbial ending of one chapter while opening another. Afterwards you’ll be convinced that Skyfall is one of the best Bond films ever. Period.