The first Bond film I ever watched was 1995’s exceptional GoldenEye. I became such a devout fan of the series that I made it my mission to watch every single Bond film that preceded it. As I further immersed myself in Bond’s brilliant legacy, I discovered a world brimming with spy-hijinks, beautiful women, and most notably, a frequently revolving star.
Daniel Craig’s journey as 007 has been interesting to say the least. Casino Royale was an incredible, gritty reboot and one of the best films of the decade. Quantum of Solace however, was a disaster – a lifeless action movie with few character moments and a needlessly convoluted story. Nevertheless, I had high expectations coming into Bond’s 23rd installment and I must say, it’s every bit as impressive as I was hoping it would be.
The strongest weapon in Skyfall’s arsenal is undoubtedly Daniel Craig, who just might be my favorite Bond yet. Connery shaped the icon, Moore provided a fresh perspective, Brosnan fit the 90s, but Craig strikes the perfect balance of what Bond stands for in the 21st century. In Skyfall, Craig skillfully blends the character’s steely determination with muted vulnerability into one powerhouse performance. He also gets to tackle a new and compelling dimension: his Bond is an aging operative well past his prime, and who’s struggling to keep up with the demands of his unique profession. Suffice to say, Craig knocks it out of the park and I’m already looking forward to his next outing.
Of course no Bond film is complete without its women, and I was surprised to see Judi Dench overshadow the movie’s other ladies as the film’s standout “Bond Girl.” Dench has always been great, but she was beyond magnificent here. The woman seriously deserves an Oscar for her portrayal of M, a woman with unwavering fortitude and steadfast resolve. Her relationship with Bond as a sort of surrogate mother is the core of the story, and that arc is elegantly handled throughout and remarkably satisfying.
As for the rest of the cast, Javier Bardem is a revelation as the sinister Silva. His performance is spectacular – equal parts charismatic and terrifying. I think he’s the most effective antagonist I’ve seen all year and Bardem capably cements the character as one of the all-time great Bond villains. Berenice Marlohe also does a superb job as the villainous Severine. One of the most gorgeous actresses on the planet, her scenes are short but undeniably some of the film’s most memorable. Naomie Harris unfortunately does not fare as well. Her character is instrumental to the film’s teaser, but soon fades away into the background which is a shame.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Sam Mendes’ direction. The film’s script is dark and layered, and Mendez deftly balances Skyfall‘s tight narrative with an ambitious scope that thrives on almost every level. The cinematography in particular is fantastic. From the skyscrapers of Shanghai to the bustling streets of Istanbul, the movie’s various backdrops are stunningly realized. Moreover, the action sequences are easy to follow and consistently gripping. I’ve heard some complaints that the film doesn’t have enough action but I couldn’t disagree more; unlike the plethora of blockbusters populating cinema screens today, the action in Skyfall is driven by the plot instead of the other way around. And it’s those character beats that amplify and enhance the thrilling moments. Skyfall is simply a rousing success.
(if you haven’t watched Skyfall yet, skip this section and jump straight to the conclusion because it will spoil the film’s most shocking moments).
– My jaw literally dropped when Eve accidentally shot Bond in the teaser. Terrific opener.
– I absolutely detest the theme song by Adele. I may be the only one on earth but I find it tediously repetitive.
– The Shanghai skyscraper fight scene was a joy to behold. The neon lights, the shadows and silhouettes -it’s beyond amazing.
– The tequila shot on Severine’s head was harrowing to watch. That scene might just give me nightmares.
– Horror movie moment with Silva removing his teeth. Chilling.
– The one aspect I didn’t like about the film: the horrendous Komodo dragon scene. Much too campy for this entry in the series.
– The train crashing through the ceiling and almost decimating Bond in the process was outstanding.
– The most extraordinary sequence in the film: M reciting poetry juxtaposed with Bond urgently rushing through the streets of London as Silva attacks. It literally gave me goosebumps.
– The final attack on Skyfall was marvelously well-paced and exciting.
– I loved the Moneypenny reveal. It at least gives Eve a purpose.
– I’m not too fond of the film’s final “with pleasure” line. It could have been much more impactful.
Bond: (to Severine) Well it takes a certain kind of girl to wear a backless dress with a Baretta 70 strapped to her thigh.
Severine: What do you know about fear?
Bond: All there is.
Severine: Well not like this. Not like him.
Bond: So why do you need me?
Q: Because every now and then, a trigger has to be pulled.
Bond: Or not pulled, it’s hard to know which in your pajamas.
Riveting and deeply layered, Skyfall is a crowning achievement in Bond’s 50-year legacy and one of the strongest films of the year.