Movie Review: “Skyfall”

Rating: PG-13
Length: 143 minutes
Release Date: November 9, 2012
Directed by: Sam Mendes

In the 50 years since James Bond first landed on the big screen, the character has experienced almost everything under the sun. Every time a new film comes out, fans wonder how the director will make it stand out amongst the others. Although “Skyfall” may not be the best film in the series, the latest edition confirms to audiences that James Bond is not going anywhere anytime soon.

The twenty-third film in the franchise picks up with James Bond (Daniel Craig, “Munich”) on a secret mission with a young woman named Eve (Naomie Harris, “28 Days Later”). When things take a dark turn, Bond finds himself shot and left for dead. MI6 sadly announces that the titular character is missing and presumed dead. Not long after the announcement, an explosion rocks MI6, and M (Judi Dench, “Notes on a Scandal”) must pull everything together even as others believe she cannot handle the job. Meanwhile, Bond finds himself tracking Tiago Rodriguez (Javier Bardem, “No Country For Old Men”), a man with a dark connection to MI6.

“Skyfall” straddles the line between a modern action film and a classic James Bond tale. All the elements that fans expect are represented, including the silhouettes shown in the camera lens at the beginning of the film. Craig’s version of Bond brings something to the table that previous reincarnations lacked. When Craig first gained the role, some fans were upset at seeing a blond James Bond. However, once the action begins, no one will give a second thought to his hair color.

One of the best scenes in “Skyfall” comes minutes after the opening scene. Bond and Eve need to track down a stolen hard drive, and they end up chasing a man through the streets. The unusual camera angles and loud music make the chase seem almost non-stop. These early scenes ask viewers to suspend their disbelief for a moment though, especially as Bond climbs behind the wheel of a Caterpillar and ruins a truckload of cars while in pursuit of the villain.

While much of the film revolves around Craig, Judi Dench is the standout of the film. Her M has a serious side previously unseen in Bond films. When Eve has a chance to shoot the thief, M commands her to do it, even though it might mean shooting Bond, her top agent, too. Her anger and sadness at making that fateful decision is palpable, especially when she begins to write the obituary of the man who did so much for her organization. “Skyfall” is Dench at her best, and watching the film, it’s easy to see why the actress has such a long history of awards and nominations.

Javier Bardem is another highlight of the film. The actor knows how to play the slightly creepy villain, gaining fame for his role in “No Country For Old Men,” but he adds an almost campy quality to his role here, paying homage to top villains from past films. The same cannot be said for Harris, who seems like she lacks the acting chops for her role. When she reveals her full name at the end and her connection to the legacy of the films, some fans might find themselves disappointed.

Although Director Sam Mendes (“Away We Go”) realizes that fans come to these films for the action and excitement, he makes a misstep by following the script a little too closely. Part of the appeal of James Bond’s role as a top secret agent is that he does whatever it takes to get the job done. However, “Skyfall” offers a few scenes that delve into the backstory of the iconic character. Do fans need to know about his parents or his life before joining MI6? When Bond travels to Scotland to show the audience more about his history, some viewers might find the detour a little boring and unnecessary.

While “Skyfall” suffers from a few problems, it is easily one of the best Bond films of recent years. Craig’s early versions of Bond were a little too bland and boring, making the character feel like an ordinary action star instead of the hero everyone loves. In this film, the screenwriters introduced a few elements that act as a wink and a nod to the other films. When Bond asks for a martini, finds himself enchanted with a lovely lady, or slips behind the wheel of an Aston Martin, long-term fans will want to cheer. “Skyfall” is the new era of James Bond, and after watching the film, viewers will understand why Craig has signed a contract to portray the character again.