Old dog: new tricks.
You’re not gonna see this one coming. No matter what you expect to get from Skyfall, I promise you it isn’t what you expect it to be. Yeah, its a high-adrenaline action film featuring Daniel Craig, yet again, as the double-daring, martini-sipping secret agent known as James Bond. I think we all pretty much understood that from the film’s trailer. But oh, is the experience much more than just being a simple action film. Much more.
Skyfall takes place a few years after the events of Quantum of Solace. After a bomb threat has been declared on the headquarters of MI6, James Bond (Daniel Craig) is ordered by M (Judi Dench) to find and apprehend the ex-MI6 operative known as Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), a cyberterrorist who has some deepening grudges with Bond’s superior officer. As Bond begins to follow the trail and find out who Silva really is, he uncovers a secret in his past so haunting that it will impact the entire nation of Britain and shake the foundations of MI6 forever.
Here is a Bond movie lived to the fullest potential, an action movie that begins with a sensational chase sequence and refuses to let up on the excitement as the movie progresses. Written by John Logan (Gladiator, The Last Samurai) and directed by Sam Mendes (Jarhead, 1999 best picture winner American Beauty), Skyfall is a full-blooded action film, a spy movie that completely embodies everything great about Bond, from the lively, exotic locations to the pulse-pounding action that overflows you by the minute.
But this film doesn’t just succeed as another action movie: it also brilliantly serves its purpose as a drama piece. Being one of the more personal and more deeper Bond films to date, Skyfall is a profoundly mature film that has a deeper introspective into Bond than what we were expecting. Unlike other Bond movies (including the dreary Quantam Of Solace), where Bond is just an emotionless action hero that goes through the motions, Bond actually has an arc in this movie when compared to other ones. In the film, Bond struggles with both his morality and past, and both of these conflicts come into full circle in ways nobody expects nearing the end of the film.
The film remembers something important that Quantum Of Solace has forgotten: that James Bond isn’t just an action hero. He’s a movie character that holds a popularity entirely in his own bracket, a character who holds an iconic presence similar to how Indiana Jones does in his own series. Daniel Craig inhabits the role well in Skyfall, and shows us the truth about James Bond: that he’s at a level of character fascination entirely in his own caliber.
At the same time though, it isn’t just the hero that makes the film what it is: the villain must be equally as motivated, and interesting, as the main character is.
Enter Javier Bardem as Silva, a villain who is as imposing and daunting as the action itself is. Bardem is brilliant and chilling as Silva, a man whose past and pains haunt him, M, and Bond through the history that he remembers. This shouldn’t come as a big surprise. He did, after all, portray Felix in 2002’s Collateral and Anton Chigurh in his Oscar-winning performance for No Country For Old Men. Here, he’s just as chilling as ever as a villain who is as deceitful, conniving, and crafty as Silva. He’s one of the more memorable Bond villains to date, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was in the top five for IGN’s top 25 Bond Villains list.
This is a great movie. The cast is great, the plot is fresh, the action is refined and thrilling, and the story is told through the lens of cinema master Roger Deakins as he flows from one beautiful shot to another. There is much to love about this movie.
The only weakness, if there is one, is that the film doesn’t go deep enough. The idea of Skyfall is great, the idea being that Bond is mortal and vulnerable and, like all of the other characters and villains in the Bond series, has a history where his issues have not been resolved. Writer John Logan was brilliant for making this idea, and Mendes was smart in heading into this great direction.
The problem is that he doesn’t go deep enough. The film dominates as an action movie, and granted, its a great action movie. Still though. Hasn’t there been other action movies that have been as deep and profound as they were exciting and fun? Inception, for instance. The Dark Knight. The Terminator. The Bourne Identity. Movies like these succeed not only as action movies, but as compelling dramas. Skyfall has a tint of that “drama” category, but it could have gone deeper. It might seem like a small thing, but that’s all it takes. One small thing would have turned Skyfall from just another great action movie into an instant classic.
This is a weakness on the film’s part, but am I really going to hold it against Bond? No. I am not. Despite the supposed weaknesses, Skyfall is a fantastic thriller. It revives Bond in ways similar to how Batman was revived in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy, and it assures us that not only will Bond survive throughout the years as cinema progresses: it will also thrive on its success and its legacy.
P.S.: You will never guess what Skyfall actually is in the movie. Seriously. You will never guess.