You’re late, 007, but maybe that’s a good thing. After 2008’s Quantum of Solace, a scatter-brained and unworthy follow-up to Daniel Craig‘s first outing as James Bond in Casino Royale, Bond producers knew they’d done wrong, as filmmakers and as torch-bearers of the longest running franchise in movie history, which has now hit its golden 50th anniversary. Four years later, they’re backto prove themselves and Britain’s top spy once again, with Skyfall.
Every time there’s a lag or misstep in the Bond series, the production team comes back guns-blazing, giving it everything they’ve got to make a great Bond adventure. Look at the last anniversary film, 2002’s Die Another Day. For Bond’s 40th, the team set out to make a sort of “mix-tape” of great Bond moments, stunts, gadgets, and gags. The film was too over-the-top, getting more and more campy and self-deprecating as it went on. It was the exact opposite direction for the series to go in a post-9/11 world. However, if it weren’t for this stumble, they would never have taken the risk on Casino Royale and would have missed out on one of the series’ best.
Skyfall is a mix of the two films. There is a lot of emotional development in this story, even more than Casino Royale. They are still keeping the action very plausible, using terrific stunt and set work. Director Sam Mendes‘ theatre background is clear within the actors. This is actually the most ensemble-driven James Bond film. Craig, Naomie Harris, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Rory Kinnear, Ben Whishaw, Ralph Fiennes and many others all turn in exceptional, fully developed performances.
Unlike the formula-bending Casino Royale, Skyfall is through and through a “traditional” Bond movie, and that’s not a bad word at all. The work Daniel Craig and the team put in with Casino and Quantum pays off huge as they set out to hit all the marks that make these films so much damn fun in the first place. Now we have everything we know and love about 007 present, but there’s so much more going on underneath that pre-Craig films rarely ever had. It’s exhilarating to have the emotional depth coupled with the wit and humor Bond fans are accustomed to. This is Bond for our times, and I’m very glad I live in these times.
On the technical side, this might be the most brilliantly photographed Bond film in the series’ history. Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins perfectly show off the film’s brilliant locations, giving every scene, every area its own palette and temperature. Yes, yes, that’s the filmmaker’s job, but don’t forget, this is JAMES BOND, so when it comes to glamorous locations and thrilling action, if it’s not up to 11, get out. Skyfall‘s team delivers and keeps on giving.
Like all Bond films, Skyfall is riddled with implausibilities and plot holes that could sink the whole movie if over-thought. The things that bugged me were few and far between, and perhaps too specific to mention here. The only major gripe is a sequence that pays a little too much of an homage to The Dark Knight. However, the film is so well put together and its atmosphere so well-defined it’s hard to fault it too much. The filmmakers are clearly going for popcorn fun, there are no egos in the room (surprising considering the people who made it).
Bond is pop-culture candy, usually the best candy. Take your Statham films, Takens, Expendables, whatever, and I’ll raise you Bond. They’re the complete cinema package. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the Bond producers make good on their promise. Every penny is on the screen and the ticket is worth the price. Skyfall is a 50th anniversary blowout celebration that genuinely embraces its past while bracing us for a very bright future.