Fifty years ago, Ian Fleming’s James Bond starred in his first big screen movie “Dr. No.” Since the 2006 series reboot—“Casino Royale” and its sequel, “Quantum of Solace,”—Bond-fans have been subject to a new evolution of the character in his early days of espionage. Now we see 007 step out of the shadows of the previous two films and assume the role we recognize from the other James Bond films.
Daniel Craig has this character down. At this point he is as much James Bond as Sean Connery ever was. Thankfully, Craig’s performance is slightly more gritty while still being charming and witty. Landing in a train as the back of it is torn clean off, and making a quick check to his cufflinks, Craig is purely Bond. Through recognizable glances and speech patterns, the character has embodied Craig. The same can easily be said by Dame Judi Dench as M. After so many years, it’s hard not to become the character, and Dench has always pulled M off so well.
This is the first time in all the films in Bond’s 50 year run that we get a really deep look at his orphaned past. Sam Mendes does not stop there, however. He directs a movie that shows us the true James Bond, reveals far more insight into the character M, and sets up the rest of the series beautifully.
“Skyfall” is a symphony of events that build into what we know and love about the Bond Films. While the action is good and the stunts are impressive, the movie at most parts feels like homage and tribute to the 50 year history of 007. The Goldfinger Bond-car, Aston Martin, makes a return. Complete with the classic gun-in-headlight trick. Q is finally introduced in the reboot, excellently played by Ben Whishaw. The flipped reversal roles of Bond being the older agent who has seen more field work while Q is the young, quirky and polite tech-geek is a welcome change. But there is more to Q than just his ability to whip out a laptop and hack into various networks around the world. That is where Silva comes in.
Raoul Silva is played by Javier Bardem, and he is a unique, twisted, insane villain like we have never seen in the Bond series before. With surface-level-only references to Sean Bean’s 006 as well as a polite nod to the villain Jaws, the franchise has a new character to truly haunt Bond’s dreams. His attempt to destroy MI6 from the inside-out, return to the shadows that created him and use those very shadows and their very technology to destroy them is rather brilliant.
The pitfalls are a bit obvious. If you are a fan of the entire Bond series you might wear your fan-goggles tight through this one. Nostalgia is wonderful, but there are some definite eye-rollers. Especially when you can smell the set-up coming a mile away. Thankfully, the story is still entertaining and exciting enough that, though you may roll your eyes, you are always rolling them right back to the screen. Something new keeps happening and tensions never really let up.
Another downer is the setting. While the last two films have had their climax scenes in exotic locales with intense shoot-offs and fist fights, this movie resolves itself (and most of the story even takes place) in the U.K. From London (MI6 headquarters) to Scotland, the locations are unique in their own rights, but it was hard not to miss Morocco, Columbia and other exotic locales. Though the whole point of the film is that this is the first time we have ever seen 007 on the defense. For once, he is not the attacker, but rather he is the one being attacked. The settings back this point up, so it makes sense in a disappointing way.
What can be argued about “Skyfall” is that this is where Craig does not just become James Bond, this is where he surpasses Sean Connery. It cannot be understated enough that this is where the series really chooses a track and commits itself to sticking to it. A suave, bold and sophisticated direction that will settle once and for all who and what James Bond, 007, truly is. Badass.