Bond Takes to the Stratosphere in Skyfall

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

This Bond is different. Anyone who has seen either of Daniel Craig’s previous portrayals of the secret agent already knows this. Craig’s Bond is more visceral, action oriented and serious than previous versions of the famed super spy. This is not a bad thing though, as each new actor is supposed to bring something new to the franchise.

What’s great about Skyfall, the latest Bond entry, is that the movie itself finally embraces this idea. Skyfall knows it’s not your typical James Bond movie, and it runs with it to great effect.

In the pre-Craig Bond era, many of the movies fizzled because they tried too hard to recreate what everyone thought James Bond should be. Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace obliterated this notion by introducing Daniel Craig as the new James Bond, rebuilding the character from the ground up. 

While the movies turned out great, many fans were upset that the films were missing a lot of what made a James Bond movie a James Bond movie. In Skyfall, this gripe is alleviated as the old and new James Bond fuse together to create the perfect mix of old-school sophistication<pls check this revision> and new generation ass-kicking.

Longtime fans of the franchise will find themselves grinning from ear to ear throughout the movie as various references to older Bond movies pop up left and right. However, these aren’t your typical “in jokes,” they actually serve a purpose in the overall plot, and the movie makes these allusions to the past new again by flipping the audience’s expectations on their head. The result is that longtime fans finally get what they wanted from Craig’s Bond, in a way they never would have expected.

What separates the average 007 film from a great one is the presence of an iconic villain, and Javier Bardem’s performance as the villainous Silva is what really pushes Skyfall over the top. He only appears midway through the film, in what is surely one of the best character introductions I have seen, and definitely the best scene in the movie.

From that point on he steals every scene that he is in. He’s menacing, memorable, intelligent, a little psychotic, and most importantly, has a very tangible motive for his actions, making him one of the best Bond villains to date.

One rather peculiar aspect of this Bond movie is that it doesn’t focus wholly on James Bond. For the first time M, Bond’s superior, once again played beautifully by Judi Dench, gets more than just a supporting role. In fact, she has nearly as much screen time as Bond himself. This might sound silly, but in the context of the plot, which mainly revolves around M and her relationship to Silva, it works.

It’s quite rare that a two-and-a-half hour movie stays engaging throughout, but Skyfall seemed to zip by. The intense opening sequence puts a vice grip on your attention span and never lets go. The movie is packed with some of the best action sequences since the Bourne series, and numerous set pieces that are sure to make your jaw drop. The acting is spot on and the plot has you on edge throughout. The result is really quite a marvel of entertainment.

I did have a few gripes, though. There are a few characters that just kind of take up space throughout the movie. They can’t be considered background characters, but they don’t really do anything more than just exist. It’s a minor issue, but a problem nevertheless.

Also, by far the coolest set piece in the whole movie, an entire deserted island city, only gets a few minutes of screen time. I would love to have seen more of it, but instead we are only treated to a brisk walk down one of the streets. Overall though, these complaints are very minor, and they shouldn’t stop anyone from seeing one of the best James Bond movies ever put to film.