Published: November 15, 2012
For the 50th anniversary of perhaps the most culturally significant film series ever, Eon Productions bestowed upon us arguably the best Bond movie ever. This point is clearly evident in that Skyfall has been received for its content, rather than its star. Connery or Moore may have been the better Bond, a debate that will undoubtedly continue for centuries, but frankly, neither actors were given material of this calibre to work with. When we walk out of Skyfall, the talk of Daniel Craig being too old, too blonde, or too small to act the part has suddenly disappeared, and instead we are thinking only of the adorably self-indulgent yet insightful roller coaster ride on which we were just taken.
M (Dame Judi Dench), the head of MI6, is gettin’ old and is under pressure to retire. As is our eternal hero 007 (Daniel Craig). Bond is “killed” in the opening chase sequence of the film due to a shot called by M that missed its target and hit him in the shoulder instead, but, as the character himself says, resurrection is his trade. He makes a somewhat lackluster comeback, not doing well on his physical or emotional tests, but M decides to put him back in the field anyway. When tracking down the guy who shot him, Bond discovers a connection via the beautiful Sévérine (Bérénice Lim Marlohe) to evil mastermind Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), who is threatening to destroy MI6 with technology. With the help of Q (Ben Wishaw), the young computer genius quartermaster at MI6, and Kincade (Albert Finney), the gamekeeper at Bond’s boyhood mansion, 007 tries to save himself, M, and the agency.
The Bond series is known for films that are very much stuck in the time in which they were made. Through self-referential humor and a brief but effective exploration of our hero’s past, Skyfall nobly attempts to tie in with the rest of the series instead of ignoring it and going on its own muddled path, the way I believe Quantum of Solace did. The film maintains the famous traditions of the series; there’s a Bond girl, a Bond villain, the Bond theme song, the famous Bond gun barrel sequence, and even a randomly placed old-fashioned Bond car for good measure. We also see the return of Q, who had been absent from the two previous Craig films, and he and Bond constantly crack inside jokes about the technology of the series. The movie becomes self-aware in the best possible way by making us sentimental.
To add to this effect, the plot is fueled entirely by personal goals and vendettas, rather than some strange notion that taking down a drug lord in Harlem is James Bond’s business (sorry, fans of Live and Let Die, but it was a bit much). Silva, our villain, was actually an agent at MI6 before going bad, and his actions are fueled by a desire to take revenge on M. Bond, in the meantime, is only out in the field again because M vouched for him. Then there is the little bit of entertaining backstory we get from our visit to Bond’s childhood estate, from which the movie takes its name. Everything has consequences not only for England and its ordinary people (who never seem to know what’s going on) but also for the characters themselves.
I’d like to take a moment to gush over Javier Bardem. Fair warning. If you’ve seen the Coen Brothers’ 2007 masterpiece No Country for Old Men, you know exactly what I’m talking about; you could tell Javier Bardem to stand in the corner for the entirety of a movie and not utter a word, and he’d still scare the living daylights (pun intended) out of the audience. He is comfortably evil as Silva; he’s got the ease, menace, and slight femininity of Heath Ledger’s Joker, while carefully keeping one step ahead until, of course, the very end. If you have no other reason to see Skyfall, do it for the best damn screen villain in years. You won’t be disappointed.