Director: Sam Mendes
Writers: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan (based on Ian Fleming's James Bond 007)
Starring: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench
A mission to Istanbul ends in disaster, with James Bond (Craig) presumed dead, a list of undercover NATO agents in the hands of a terrorist, and M (Dench) facing dismissal from MI6. But when that same terrorist targets M directly, Bond returns from the dead to hunt down the elusive Raoul Silva (Bardem) and put a stop to his mission of revenge. Thus begins Skyfall, a celebration of the film franchise's 50th anniversary that may just be its best instalment yet.
Nobody does it better...
Skyfall is stunningly gorgeous, and Sam Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins have created the franchise's most elegant film since the 1960s. The style is a complete one-eighty from the chaos of Quantum of Solace, emphasising continuous takes and sweeping vistas and flipping the balance of action scenes to character beats without losing the intensity of either. It also strips back the scale of the action considerably: this 'de-powered' Bond must investigate, use his wits, and grapple with physical challenges as much as enemies, making his victories feel earned and taste sweeter.
Skyfall gives Bond his deepest character arc yet, and by rising to meet the challenge, Daniel Craig cements himself as the franchise's best actor and the iconic Bond. Aided by a fantastic character-driven screenplay that dares to delve into Bond's past, Craig has crafted a unique character that's consistent with its predecessors. This incarnation is a functional addict whose true vice is danger, a man whose dry, sarcastic wit and inclination for violence conceal an arrested development and an innate need to impress those he's placed on a pedestal.
The fanfics are almost writing themselves.
The Bond girls are a study in contrasts. Naomie Harris' Eve is dangerous and somewhat naïve at the same time, and her playful chemistry with Bond will make the ending a surprise to few but a delight to all. In contrast is Bérénice Marlohe as Sévérine, a seductive femme fatale concealing a tragic and surprisingly sympathetic past. But they both play second fiddle to Judi Dench: she's never been better in this franchise, nor had so much to play as M's confronts a past that's central to the plot and themes of Skyfall.
Javier Bardem is a brilliant, scene-stealing presence, whose character gets deeper characterisation and motivations than Bond villains usually enjoy. As Silva, he's childish, flirtatious and compelling, like a twisted cross between Julian Assange and the Joker, and will go down as one of the franchise's great villains. Rounding out the cast is Ralph Fiennes in a surprisingly layered role, a wonderfully warm turn from Albert Finney as someone from Bond's past, and Ben Whishaw as the youthful new Q, who manages to capture the essence of the late Desmond Llewellyn's snarky wit and intelligence.
Neither M nor her bulldog figurine feel like putting up with your stuff, 007.
Skyfall is a brilliant Bond film, but its greatest success is how it thematically breaks down and reconstructs this fifty-year franchise, finishing the work that Casino Royale began. It's classic in every sense, steeped in history and not shy about questioning the relevance of "the old ways". Yet despite age and ignominy, Bond, M, the Secret Service, Great Britain and the franchise itself all prove to be made of sterner stuff. Skyfall celebrates Britain by celebrating one of its icons with style and reverence, by rebuilding the conventions of a Bond film, and by demonstrating how and why James Bond will return.
Highlight: It's a tie. The whole Macau sequence feels like something straight out of the early Connery era, with its lavish style, playfully seductive dialogue and tight action -- yet between Bardem's amazing performance and the character's dynamic with Bond, Silva's introduction is just too enthralling to go unmentioned.
If Skyfall has given you a craving for more Bond, you can find the entire James Bond 007 Retrospective. If you've been with the retrospective from the start, thank you for reading and we hope you've all enjoyed it.