After the disappointment known as Quantum of Solace Bond fans will surely cheer for Skyfall – a Bond film that breathes new life into the 50-year-old franchise. Directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty), Skyfall not only delivers the car chases, explosions and gun fights we expect, but also delves into the characters’ motivations more than any Bond film in recent history.
Daniel Craig continues his gritty portrayal of the British Secret Service agent. Craig’s Bond comes across as an actual person rather than just a gin-slinging, über-suave killing machine (there’s still plenty of winking and smooth talking to appease the traditionalists, though). But early in the film, Bond fails in a mission, MI6’s security is compromised, and 007 spends the remainder of the film trying to regain control and redeem himself. Craig uses this opportunity to showcase his character development and acting chops in addition to his biceps: Beneath Bond’s cool exterior, Craig showcases varying degrees of humanity and vulnerability in the character.
Judi Dench is impressive as MI6 leader M. She brings a very realistic toughness to the role – as with all women in power, there is a sense that M had to fight very hard to reach her position and she is not willing to give it up, not even for the new Intelligence Committee Chairman Mallory (Ralph Fiennes).
Of course, no Bond film is complete without the villain and the Bond girls. Bardem is revenge-seeking villain Silva. Motivated only by his vendetta, Silva is a different kind of Bond villain – one who doesn’t care for money or power. Bardem takes Silva and humanizes him, giving us clues into Silva’s past with every line. In fact, he is so effective that there are even moments in which the audience sympathizes with Silva.
And the Bond girls of Skyfall are right on the mark. Naomie Harris is the cheeky, sassy and beautiful field agent Eve, who is quick with retorts and keeps Bond on his toes. The sexy, sultry Severine is played by Bérénice Marlohe. Marlohe is the quintessential Bond girl – voluptuous, dangerous and enticing. The girls are by no means memorable, but they fill the roles we expect them to fill.
Director of photography Roger Deakins and production designer Dennis Gassner ensure that Skyfall is visually stunning. We follow Bond from Istanbul to Shanghai to the moors of Scotland, and each location proves to be more incredible than the last. One of the biggest “eye candy” moments is a fight between Bond and one of Silva’s operatives in an all-glass skyscraper in Shanghai. Each glass wall or door reflects the neon from the surrounding city so that all depth perception is lost, and it is impossible to tell if Bond and his adversary are crashing through exterior or interior glass walls. Skyfall often relies on the setting to provide as much excitement and drama as the stunts and fights themselves.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Bond franchise, and the Skyfall screenplay reflects that fact. With subtle references to past Bond films – like the classic Aston Martin and the original theme song – the film is both a celebration of Bond franchise history and a modern adaptation of it. There is a constant push and pull of the past and the future as M and Bond remain stalwarts of what may be a bygone era of secret agents and espionage (especially considering the biggest attack on MI6 is an information leak via YouTube, and a twenty-something quartermaster (Ben Whishaw) places more value on hard drives than on explosives).
It is refreshing to see 21st Century concerns like cyber-warfare and online security play such a vital role in the new Bond tale. And, it will be even more interesting to watch Bond continue to adapt to a new world where technology is utilized for more than just creating exploding pens.
Skyfall (www.skyfall-movie.com) opens nationwide Friday, Nov. 9. For locations and showtimes in the greater Nashville area check the websites of Regal Cinemas (www.regmovies.com), Carmike Cinemas (www.carmike.com) and Malco Theatres (www.malco.com).Rated PG-13 for intense violent sequences throughout, some sexuality, language and smoking; 2 hours, 25 min. Directed by Sam Mendes; written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan, based on the character written by Ian Fleming. Starring Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Bérénice Lim Marlohe, Ben Whishaw, Rory Kinnear, Ola Rapace and Albert Finney.
*Photos by Francois Duhamel courtesy Columbia Pictures.