Aside from a couple questionable/unexplained maneuvers, Skyfall takes the James Bond franchise to epic levels.
The 143 minute saga sees the atmosphere of Ian Fleming’s famed character evolve with the times, yet also stick to what elevated the suave and daring secret agent to pop-icon status. And this is all balanced effortlessly by director Sam Mendes (Road to Perdition).
James Bond (Daniel Craig going for the trifecta – and nailing it) is assigned by his longtime commanding officer M (Judi Dench) to recover a disk that contains the list of all of their secret agents embedded in terrorist factions. With M making some questionable calls on this mission, and a few new powers-that-be (led by Ralph Fiennes) probing Bond’s current tactics and state-of-mind, a mastermind (Javier Bardem) – who is using the modern-day weaponry of computer viruses to infiltrate MI6 headquarters – is alarmingly always a step ahead of the once lauded agency.
The Bond character goes through a similar arc as seen in Christopher Nolan’s recent Batman trilogy. Questions about his skills and motivation come into play as he struggles with relationships with his superiors along with trying to understand his recluse and daring enemy. That being said, one relationship that gets revived in the franchise is between Bond and the new Q (Ben Whishaw). The wet-behind-the-ears tech-savvy guy engages in vintage banter with 007 which amused fans for decades. While some of the “jabs” feel a bit recycled, Craig and his younger counterpart sell it well enough to earn a few laughs.
And then there’s the charismatic antagonist who actually feels threatening as a worthy rival to 007. Complimented by a screenplay encompassing all those patent Bond theatric action sequences and set designs, the mad and calculated Bardem is able to bounce off his surroundings as an engaging bad guy (think a mix of Heath Ledger’s Joker and Bardem’s work as the baddie in No Country for Old Men). Plus, his dialogue with Bond always instigates one of those hanging-on-every-word moments.
For Bond enthusiasts, the one element they may find lacking is the toys (gadgets). The arsenal wield in this go-around is fairly basic; though there are some nostalgic nods to the history of the franchise at choice points. But don’t let that get you down, for there are plenty of suspenseful and graceful action sequences (motorized vehicle chases, hand-to-hand combat, machine gun shootouts, etc.) that are clearly caught by the focused cinematography. It’s almost as if Mendes was giving us a Bond “Greatest Hits” with a modern flare.
Overall, Skyfall is solid on all fronts and does warrant the praise of being one of the best Bond films ever.
Skyfall is rated PG-13 and opens in the Tampa Bay market on Friday.