British director Sam Mendes has a stellar track record. With films like Revolutionary Road, Jarhead, Road to Perdition, and American Beauty, Mendes has consistently turned in quality work, but he may have delivered his best film to date (and celebrates the James Bond 50th anniversary in style) with Skyfall.
Skyfall doesn’t necessarily follow your traditional Bond formula – it is because of this that Skyfall trumps its predecessor, Quantum of Solace. Just recently, Mendes said in an interview that he drew from Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight in his approach the Bond franchise. The film feels more real and grounded, even in its villain – whereas villains in past Bond films have felt a bit cheesy. From a visual standpoint, the film is gorgeous; when offered in IMAX, the viewer can absolutely tell that a lot of the sequences were made for the format. Cinematographer and nine-time Academy Award® nominee Roger Deakins takes us from the cluttered back alleys of Turkey, through the urban terrain of London, to the beautifully sprawling landscapes of Scotland. It’s no surprise that Deakins’s work on the film is outstanding considering his past work – True Grit, Revolutionary Road, Doubt, No Country for Old Men, A Beautiful Mind, The Shawshank Redemption, The Big Lebowski, just to name a few.
The movie immediately puts the viewer in the line of fire after the familiar roar of the Metro-Golden-Mayer lion, where we see a stunning chase sequence in Turkey as Bond is desperately trying to recover a stolen hard drive containing the identities of MI6 agents. We are then brought to the traditional Bond title sequence, this time accompanied by the popular and wonderful “Skyfall” theme song by Adele. Because of the success of Casino Royale, it’s only natural that comparisons can be drawn between these two films. The reason why Skyfall surpasses its predecessors is because of the superior acting seen throughout.
Daniel Craig turns in his finest performance and seems perfectly comfortable in his third turn as MI6’s greatest secret agent. Unlike what we have seen in past Bond films, Craig brings a more human element to the character. After being shot and declared KIA by MI6, Bond returns in a way that we’ve never seen from this character. Bond seems old, a little washed up, and run down – which are central themes throughout the film – while we also see an emotional weight to the character that has been lacking in previous installments in the franchise.
The film’s best performance is delivered by Academy Award® winner Javier Bardem, who threatens to steal the show from the first moment he appears on screen. Bardem gives us the best villain since Craig took over Bond as he plays cyberterroist Raoul Silva, who can also definitively be added as one of the great Bond villains. Silva’s first meeting with Bond is one of the best scenes of the film and is sure to give viewers a laugh or two. Bardem’s Silva is creepily charming and spirited, making some of his violent outbursts all the better. Silva is the villain that Daniel Craig’s Bond deserves and will be hard to top for anyone trying to tackle the role of the villain in future installments.
Bond: Everyone needs a hobby.
Silva: So what’s yours?
Judi Dench returns as M and is more of a central character here than we have seen in past films. The relationship with M is the most significant relationship Bond holds throughout the film. Like the suggestions that Bond is becoming washed up, portions of the film focus on M’s suggested removal as head of MI6. Naomi Harris plays a refreshingly stellar role as Eve, field agent turned MI6 secretary. Cloud Atlas star Ben Whishaw reinvents Bond’s gadget whiz-kid, Q. In past Bond films, we’ve seen elaborate and sometimes silly weapons along the lines of exploding pens and more. Q returns Bond to weapons of simplicity: a Walther PPK with handprint recognition and a radio tracking device. Ralph Fiennes rounds out the supporting cast as Gareth Mallory, a former lieutenant colonel in the British Army and Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee.
With Skyfall, Sam Mendes and company ring in James Bond’s 50th anniversary by resurrecting the character from irrelevance in what could be the best installment in the franchise to date. Brilliant performances, stunning action sequences, and ultimate consequence return the franchise to classic form all while setting a new standard for Bond films. Skyfall definitely lives up to the hype and is certainly a must see for Bond fans and movie fans alike.
[All images are copyright to Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc.]