I’ve seen every James Bond ever made and to date Sean Connery is still my favorite Bond, but Daniel Craig runs a tight, tight second. Director Sam Mendes, a perfect choice for Skyfall) takes 007 and his audience on a whirlwind, action packed, physical and emotional adventure that never lets up. With Craig and Judi Dench returning and the addition of Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, and Javier Bardem and delightful moments of homage to previous film, the latest bond adventure, Skyfall, is positively one of the best Bond’s yet!
When the theatre darkens and the film begins, Bond and another operative fiercely pursue a mercenary carrying a stolen hard drive containing the identity of every currently active NATO agent embedded in terrorist sects around the globe putting their lives in imminent jeopardy. With such high risk stakes, Bond and fellow MI6 agent Eve (Naomie Harris) go to great lengths to capture the thief – wildly driving through crowed streets in Istanbul, ridiculously racing over rooftops on motorcycles, careening through market places in an SUV, leaping on to moving trains and risking life and limb to get their man. Bullets, vehicles, fists and debris take to the air – all before the new opening theme performed by superstar Adele and impressive, visually stunning opening credits roll.
Craig has aged beautifully and made the iconic character his own, creating an intriguing and multi-dimensional and still super sexy Bond. With a touch of humor and far more seriousness, he and Dench afford audiences the opportunity to experience a better Bond, a Bond with more surprising twists and all the booze, boldness, babes, brilliant villains and excitement of vintage Bond. I loved watching him casually sort out his cuffs and just as nonchalantly plot impossible escapes. And the interaction between Bond and M gratify with humor and intensity.
Skyfall is equal parts sophistication and downright outrageousness – the story never taking itself too seriously, and offering crisp, interesting writing and exceptional characters. Bardem, a true acting chameleon, plays techno-villain, Silva, with flawless, skin-crawling creepiness and ample threat. From the time he hits the screen, he manages to exude evil and evoke loathing more than almost any other Bond baddie. Dench, whose name M could stand for caring mother or master of puppetry in Skyfall, plays M with ample matronly fervor and somber frigidity.
Fiennes and Whishaw, too, delight. Whishaw is particularly enjoyable and fascinating as Q, the young, nerdy agent in charge of creating 007’s gadgets. His new-age technology doesn’t necessarily mean old-school super-spy devices, which makes for some witty moments between characters. As Gareth Mallory, Fiennes, who (spoiler) will most likely find a home in subsequent films, creates yet another multi-faceted person with which M and Bond can verbally spar. And in a relatively sparse on screen showing Albert Finney garners praise.
Long time fans of the now fifty-year-old series will delight in all the tributes to classic Bond and Ian Fleming’s characters. The MGM Studios bankruptcy fiasco nearly cost us the opportunity to see this new and improved Bond, and after the relatively disastrous showing of its immediate predecessor, Quantum of Solace, the series needed to score big and BIG it is! What an excellent Golden Anniversary present to filmmakers and fans!
Much of the credit must being given, as it is due, to Mendes, for the overall awesomeness of Skyfall.. Yes, the cast is exceptional – I have a feeling Bardem came on board because of this director – and the story (even with all of the implausibilities and plethora of writers), but Mendes’ style and hands are all over it – providing some of the most visually interesting and intense mental and physical moments of all of the films together. Yes, Mendes breathes new life and infuses humor into a series that might have continued to falter under another director.
The PG-13-rated Skyfall runs a lengthy two hours and twenty-three minutes and not once did I check my watch. Exciting and intriguing from start to finish, I am looking forward to the film series’ next installment, which promises to continue to pay tribute to Bond of old. I am placing an A in my grade book. I sat next to an eighteen-year-old student of mine, who held the same giddy excitement as I. Bravo Bond and welcome to my top ten list!