As the Bond franchise celebrates its 50th anniversary, director Sam Mendes delivers a terrific reboot to the series with “Skyfall.” Engaging, modern and lovingly self-referential, “Skyfall” is a definite contender as one of the best 007 movies of all time.
“Skyfall” opens, in traditional Bond fashion, in an exotic locale (Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar) as our hero (Daniel Craig), in all his perfectly tailored glory, knocks over some fruit carts in his attempt to catch the “bad guy”–in this case, he’s stolen a flash drive loaded with valuable information. Rooftop chases and a fight on a train ensue (Bond stopping to adjust a cuff link before reentering the fray); it’s all in a day’s work for 007–until it’s not. When the villain in question uses Bond as a human shield and his fellow agent cannot get a clean shot, M (Judi Dench), via earpiece, commands she take the shot, and Bond apparently dies.
Shockingly, 007 does not die 20 minutes into this film. While he’s presumed dead, some serious dilemmas arise at MI6. M is subjected to her new, deeply bureaucratic boss (Ralph Fiennes), who thinks it is about time she stepped down, and is seriously questioning the role of secret agents in an increasingly digital world. Shortly after this dressing down, M is made the target of a terrorist attack on MI6 itself, and is told to “think on her sins.” All this, and she has to write Bond’s obituary, too?
Happily, Bond returns to London soon enough, but this is a tired and aging Bond. Forced to retake his physical and mental exams, he scrapes by and returns to active duty, gunning for the cyber terrorist targeting M. With the help of the latest Bond girl, he finds the perversely amiable Silva (a blonde Javier Bardem) living on a creepily abandoned island. It turns out that Silva’s an ex-MI6 agent who has major Oedipal beef with M. In an exciting and somewhat expected plot twist, Silva is not so well-caught as MI6 had hoped, and both Bond and M must run for cover until they are able to face Silva on Bond’s home turf.
“Skyfall” is hands down the best action movie of the year, which is already saying something unusual about a Bond movie of late. This film is the rightful sequel to 2006’s “Casino Royale,” and firmly sets up Bond movies for years to come. (Let’s just pass over the blip that was “Quantum of Solace,” shall we?) A super-creepy Bardem is a terrific baddie–always a good sign in the world of 007 successes. With the help of fresh, new cast members (Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw), this Bond screams 21st century, a place some weren’t sure he belonged. Specifically great is a sardonically nerdy Whishaw as the latest Q, who jokes, “What, were you expecting an exploding pen? We don’t really do that anymore.”
Although gone is Connery’s sarcastic, all-knowing Bond, Craig’s more realistically brutal performance is an easy second for best ever 007.
“A dynamic and vulnerable Daniel Craig comes of age in this action packed movie, making this Bond one of the best,” Ava Giuliano ’14 said.
The exuberant references to past adventures, witty script and the unexpected return of a certain Aston Martin DB5 make “Skyfall” one of the best Bond installments, and perhaps even a contender this Oscar season.