Directed by: Sam Mendes
Written by: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan
Starring: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem and Naomie Harris
When James Bond takes a bullet and sinks into the depths of Adele and a rather macabre opening title sequence, it is clear to the viewing audience of this year’s highly anticipated Skyfall that 007 will die another day. The character – obviously; the franchise now in its 50th year – revived thanks to Sam Mendes’ spectacular addition to the series, starring Daniel Craig in his third stint as Bond. With an element of unpredictability that deviates from previous Bond films, Skyfall delivers innovations that make the film feel new and present, whilst simultaneously nodding respectfully to Bond pics of the past, making sure every traditional convention to be expected is there. As the cinematography blows you away (explosions to be expected), performances impress, and Mendes proves to be more than capable of the job, it’s easy to overlook weak character motivations and plot development that teasingly holds so much potential, but doesn’t satisfy in a holistic way.
Continuing to rewrite Bond’s backstory in Skyfall, screenwriters Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and John Logan add to the complexity of Bond with a childhood trauma that subtly yet powerfully draws parallels to the role of M (Judi Dench) in the lives of agents, past and present. Indeed, Judi Dench is this year’s Bond woman, and villain Silva – played memorably with natural ease and energy by Javier Bardem – is determined to wreak havoc on MI6’s intelligence using cyberterrorism and a rather long-winded way of getting to one woman.
Even with plenty of high-end technology (handled by a rather young and likable Q), chases (on trains, motorbikes, cars, on foot…), and a sexy shave scene included, Skyfall is most impressive in making the familiar conventions of Bond pics feel fresh and more meaningful than what we’ve seen up till now. Largely contributing to this is Roger Deakin’s cinematography, which is arguably the best since Sean Connery’s days as Bond. The locations may change, but the visual sophistication and ingenuity follows – even navigating boring old London town as a landscape as intricate and compelling as any other exotic destination.
On top of this, the personal and human focus on characters and the performances attached are as well-fitted as Bond’s suits. With his injury early on in the film, Bond is not only pushed to physical limits, but is also dealing with alcohol and pill dependency that only broods his dismal and dark side, which we saw enough of in Quantum of Solace. Politics has M potentially leaving office, and Silva’s connection to the agency only lends a thought-provoking mirror up to Bond himself and where his loyalties lie.
At one point in Skyfall, an Aston Martin DB5 as seen in Goldfinger makes a special appearance, only to be completely obliterated by bullets. In much the same way, the intelligent and sharply sophisticated nature of Sam Mendes’ Skyfall brings James Bond back to the screen but removes the camp, replacing it with 21st Century cool; respects Bond fans of old, but will most certainly bring in a wave of new enthusiasts.