For James Bond, things get personal in Skyfall
A revenge plot and some great losses make James Bond’s latest mission very personal in the 23rd entry in the series, ‘Skyfall.’
After a long four years of uncertainty about the future of the James Bond franchise – due to the financial problems of MGM – Bond is finally back in Skyfall. And after the last Bond film, Quantum of Solace, was met with less than enthusiastic reviews (the film went into production with an allegedly unfinished script due to the 2007 writers strike), fans of the agent with the licence to kill may be wondering if the wait was worth it.
The answer is a definite yes! As Bond celebrates his 50th anniversary on film, Skyfall really seems to be striving to get back to basics. I remember when the producers decided to take the series into a more gritty, darker and realistic direction towards the end of Pierce Brosnan’s run, dropping all the campy one-liners and gadgets from Q Division to ground Bond in the world of today, and Daniel Craig’s movies have maintained this attitude, getting even more grounded in reality thanks to another American agent by the name of Jason Bourne. But, I think it’s safe to say that Skyfall may be hinting that the series is about to get back to the classic Bond formula that began with Sean Connery.
And that’s a good thing. Let the Bourne films go for the realism. I like the fantastical elements of the Bond movies, the gigantic sets, the great music, the Bond girls, the snappy comebacks, Q and his gadgets … these things have been missing for some time and they are really what sets Bond apart from other action films.
That’s not to say Skyfall has completely turned that page (the movie doesn’t even open with the usual Bond theme fanfare and look down the gun barrel). The film is still pretty gritty and features a very unusual villain. As the film opens, Bond is on the trail of a missing hard drive that contains the names of all the MI6 agents undercover in the field. Eve (Naomie Harris), who is working with Bond, is put in a position to take a shot at Bond and his quarry and under orders from M (Judi Densch), she takes the shot, but hits Bond, knocking him off the top of a train and into the gorge below. Bond is presumed dead and MI6 carries on, but a terrorist attack on HQ brings Bond out of hiding to help M and MI6. The culprit is a former Double-0 agent who now goes by the name Silva, and has become a cyber-terrorist who is bent on getting revenge on M for leaving him for dead after a failed mission. For Bond, the attack on MI6 is an attack on his country and his friend, so this mission becomes personal.
Skyfall features some terrific stunt work, particularly the opening motorcycle chase and fight atop the train, locations from Shanghai to Macau to Scotland, and new Bond girls Harris and Bérénice Marlohe. Craig has settled nicely into Bond’s skin, and Skyfall gives him a chance to be more human, particularly after he returns to MI6 and needs to go through testing to make sure he’s fit for service, in his relationship with M, and when we find out what exactly Skyfall is. Craig and Densch have some nice scenes together, and they even get to add some humor to the proceedings. Javier Bardem is an appropriately creepy villain, but a cyber-terrorist really doesn’t seem all that threatening. The fact that he’s driven by his revenge vendetta against M makes him extremely dangerous.
New cast addition Harris doesn’t have much to do, but she does get to assist Bond a couple of times and she will definitely be featured in future films. Ben Wishaw, recently seen in Cloud Atlas, is the new Q and he is certainly a welcome addition. Wishaw’s Q is very smart but less doddering as the beloved Q of the past. And he even gets to say Q’s immortal line, “Try to bring it back in one piece,” when handing Bond his latest gadget, a Walther PPK that is coded to recognize Bond’s hand print (and he pokes fun at old gadgets like an exploding pen). Ralph Fiennes also joins the cast but I can’t say too much about his role. Suffice it to say he will be around in future films. Even Bond’s Aston-Martin makes a return to the series … but it may not be back.
Skyfall is a terrific entry in the Bond series, full of action and emotion, and by the end it almost seems as if the series has hit the reset button for the next one, even ending with that missing Bond fanfare while looking down the gun barrel. I’d be remiss in not mentioning the film’s amazing opening credits and the haunting theme song by Adele. It really has that traditional Bond flavor, and you really could imagine the great Shirley Bassey singing it. So if you love the Bond films but were disappointed with the last one, you can’t go wrong by giving Skyfall a shot.