When Daniel Craig stepped into the role of James Bond, we were all a bit puzzled at first. Here is a considerably more serious, more emotional version of the classic character, a secret agent suited to the uncertainty of the post-9/11 espionage game. Craig made it clear that there could be something about James Bond we might sympathize with. Maybe that’s what we were most surprised by in Craig’s Bond: a spy who does more than live the lifestyle.
If that came as a shock, the last thing we probably expected was a Bond film that actually cared about the character’s backstory, or even that of his boss, M. And what do you know – the latest Bond flick does just that. Skyfall explores Bond’s origins, and digs a bit further into his relationship with M. Better yet, it still manages to be a Bond film: all the gadgets, girls and gloating villains we want to see, along with some rewarding throwbacks to the franchise. Skyfall is easily one of the best Bond outings in a long time.
We find ourselves in Turkey, as Bond and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris, re-imagining the character as an aspiring field agent) chase an assassin who has stolen a critical hard drive from MI6. As the chase moves onto a speeding train, M (Judi Dench) makes a tough decision, and Bond is knocked out of commission.
With 007 on the sidelines, MI6 is vulnerable from an attack by a former agent known as Silva (Javier Bardem), who has a grudge against M. Silva fancies himself the ultimate result of Bond's trajectory: a mercenary only loyal to himself. To take on the rogue agent, Bond has to piece himself back together and revisit how he became the man he is.
That’s not to say that the story in Skyfall is on par with a John le Carré or Robert Ludlum adaptation, but the film is definitely more personal than Bonds of the past. Silva, a crazed hacker, isn’t interested in the world domination that other bad guys lust after: all he wants is to kill M. In a fun bit of self-aware scripting, Silva even pokes fun at people with grandiose schemes to scam stock markets and topple governments.
The idea of Silva hacking into the secret computer networks certainly sounds more plausible than satellites firing lasers at an ice hotel (ahem, Die Another Day). And it ties in well with everything we’re hearing about cyberwarfare in the news. But Skyfall does another disservice to the world of computer hacking, as heroes and villains alike make it look like a bunch of flashy video game nonsense. I guess I should be grateful, though: it’s better than Blofeld’s spaceship eating other spaceships in You Only Live Twice.
Skyfall is a movie about loyalty: Bond’s allegiance to M, Silva’s hatred of M for a perceived betrayal, M’s responsibility to her country. What’s impressive is that this is one of the only times I can identify a clear theme in a Bond film – a single message the action is supposed to relay. Maybe themes like loyalty didn’t belong in Bond movies of the past 50 years, but I’m all for seeing more of it in films to come.
Some of the most rewarding parts of Skyfall are all the references to other Bond films. We see the re-introduction of Q – who gets some nice banter with 007 – and the appearance of the ejector-seat-equipped Aston Martin from Goldfinger. Even while director Sam Mendes is blazing a new trail for Bond by examining his childhood, he finds time to reaffirm the faith of fans.
Where Casino Royale gave us a totally new Bond, Skyfall finally makes good use of him. It sets the franchise on a whole new course, one that happily acknowledges the campy fun of the past, but leaves itself open to the fresh ideas of the future. Skyfall gets three and a half stars out of four.
What did you think of Skyfall? Were you pleased by Mendes’ more thoughtful take on the secret agent? Or are 23 films too much for you? Join the conversation in the comments section! If you liked this review, share it with your friends and followers, and browse through some of my recent reviews here:
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