Title: Skyfall (2012)
Director: Sam Mendez
Cast: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris
Through the decades, various directors have taken a stab at directing a Bond film. Usually directors chosen to direct a Bond film are not what you’d call “popular” or well known directors. Usually they are directors who have made a successful action film at some point and so they are given the opportunity to take Bond for a spin, but it’s not like we’ve seen a Bond film directed by Steven Spielberg or Peter Jackson. Most Bond directors can almost be labeled as anonymous in the industry; they’ve done a successful film or two, but they aren’t house hold names. It seems that with this new cycle of Bond films, producers are attempting to change that; Skyfall was directed by Sam Mendes, the director behind such amazing films as American Beauty (1999), and Revolutionary Road (2008), two films that have nothing to do with action or espionage, yet are extremely well written, acted and directed. He was also the director behind Road to Perdition (2002), a gangster film that was also heavy on the drama. So I think it’s great that for Skyfall we get a director with a solid background on drama, taking that into consideration, what did Mr. Mendes bring to the world of Bond?
On this Bond film, Bond has to protect ‘M’ from an old foe who wants to exact revenge on her and all of MI-6. Problem is that Bond has taken something of a sabbatical and is simply enjoying the life, hanging out at the beach, getting drunk, partying. He is taking advantage of the fact that the folks at MI-6 think he is dead. But when M’s life is suddenly in peril, Bond decides to step out of the shadow life he’s been living to protect M; considering how out of shape he is in, can Bond still be Bond? Is Bond as indestructible as he’s always been?
One of the elements that I’ve enjoyed the most about the new Bond films is that Bond isn’t the indestructible super spy he’s been in previous films. Unbelievable as it may seem, Bond’s only gotten shot in two of his films and Skyfall is one of them; so we can deduce that Skyfall aims to make Bond a more vulnerable character. On these last three bond films Casino Royale (2006), Quantum of Solace (2008) and now Skyfall, Bond has been portrayed as a hero with an element of mortality to him, he makes mistakes, he gets beaten to a pulp by villains, in fact, on Skyfall he is practically falling apart, no longer able to pass the physical test that MI-6 gives to its operatives. But I like that about this new Bond, it makes him a bit more real and therefore, more interesting. On this one we get a partied out Bond who’s having a hard time readjusting to the secret agent lifestyle. Daniel Craig does a great rendition of Bond; dare I say that he has proven himself to be one of the best and most credible Bonds ever? Well, yes, I do dare say it, because that’s exactly what he’s become. When I compare Craig’s Bond with the old ones, the old ones feel like cartoon versions of Bond, while this new one feels so much more credible and serious. He doesn’t have that smirk on his face so much, he’s not about the classic one liners. He comes off as a Bond with lots of inner turmoil.
Actually, you will notice that this film makes fun of the way the old movies were, for example, when ‘Q’ gives Bond his new weapons, Bond asks “is that it? A gun and a radio?” and Q answers “What did you expect; pens with lasers shooting out of them? We don’t do that sort of thing anymore” making an obvious statement at how much more realistic these next batch of Bond films will be. To be honest I welcome this more realistic rendition of Bond…for now. Chances are that at some point Bond will revert to that jokey version of himself at some point? Who knows, all I know is that right now, I like this super serious version. Daniel Craig does a fantastic job on this one. The filmmakers behind Skyfall have not only humanized Bond more, they’ve also made this film decidedly less technological. By that I mean, Bond doesn’t have all these unbelievable gadgets like exploding toothpaste or cars that turn invisible. On this there’s less unbelievable gadgets; things are made more difficult for Bond this time around. In fact, the car Bond gets on this one is a Silver 1965 Aston Martin DB5, no doubt it looks stylish and slick, but it’s very retro, not cutting edge. It does shoot missiles out of it though, so we still get that. But in many ways, this stylish yet old car represents Daniel Craig’s Bond, he’s growing old, yet he’s still got it, he can still kick ass.
And what is Bond without a good villain and a good cast of characters to populate his world? For years now we’ve had the same actress play ‘M’ the motherly brains behind MI-6, I speak of course of the awesome Judi Dench. But it’s time for her to move on, and I found it interesting how they’ve structured a whole Bond film around M’s retirement. It gives the filmmakers a chance to show the mother/son relationship that M and Bond have always had. Bond’s an orphan, so he sees M as his mother and she sees him as her son. The dynamics that stem from that relationship offer us some of the most heartfelt moments on this Bond film, this is something rare in a Bond film; heartfelt moments. But we do get those, because thanks to the involvement of director Sam Mendes, this film has an emphasis on drama and characterization. This Bond film isn’t about saving the world, this is a more personal film, with a villain who has a more personal agenda in mind. It’s a different type of Bond film in that sense. We get a mad man, but his vendetta is personal. Javier Bardem eats up the screen whenever he’s on proving once again that he is one of the best actors of his generation. I mean, I loved how this film has such an amazing cast, we even get Ralph Fiennes playing the new ‘M’. So expect a Bond film whose emphasis isn’t so much in action, but more in characterization, good performances and a well developed story. It might not be the most action packed of the Bond films, but it’s brilliantly acted, you might find yourself more invested in the characters with this film. But fear not action lovers, the film does have some spectacular action scenes, the opening of the film for example is a good twenty minutes of nonstop action.
It’s no surprise that Skyfall has turned out to be one of the most successful of all Bond films. It’s a well made film, with an amazing cast. Sam Mendes has made a Bond film that pays its respects to everything that came before it, while shaking things up and establishing a whole slew of new characters for future films. Sam Mendes also infused this film with a great visual flare, there are lots of colors, beautiful locations and vistas, the images conjured up are simply beautiful. Aesthetically speaking, this is one good looking Bond film. The opening credit sequence with Adele singing her bond song, awesome visuals! That opening montage was one of my favorite things about the film. It’s like we get the elements that make a traditional Bond film (gadgets, bond girls, sex, martinis, cars and bullets) but with enough new stuff to keep us on our toes. Skyfall redefines Bond movies for years to come; it shakes the status quo of things, nothing is the same after this one, for this and many other reasons, it’s a special Bond film, highly recommend checking it out in theaters.
Rating: 5 out of 5