James Bond cannot die. He does however, age. This admission of fragility, one that has really never been thought of in any other previous Bond film, is what grounds Skyfall and keeps it from being the typical, campy romp of tropes and espionage cliches. Skyfall is fresh, exciting and another classic entry into the Bond cannon.
Sam Mendes is at the helm for Skyfall. More than anything, the movie is visually stunning. The prerequisite exotic locations are all here, but Mendes finds a way to make them look different and even more exotic if that’s even possible. Bond arriving at the Macao casino, the opening chase in Turkey, the Scottish countryside–all masterfully shot.
Skyfall’s plot centers around a former MI6 agent (Javier Bardem) gone rogue after a perceived betrayal by M (Judy Dench). His motivation is revenge, but doesn’t mind causing some cyber terrorism in the process. Bardem is a formidable opponent for Craig, but goes more for the psychological and technical smarts over the traditional muscled megalomaniac with hoards of weapons. (But don’t worry, there’s plenty of guns).
The main theme of the film is the battle of old vs. new. The juxtaposition permeates the script but does not beat you over the head and never feels preachy. Is Bond’s classic training still relevant is today’s world? Is technology more dangerous than a man with a gun? How do you fight enemies who operate in the shadows? There are no easy answers.
Skyfall also achieves an emotional connection and back story that few films in the series have done before. (Really, Casino Royale was the first because I don’t count George Lazenby’s wife being killed, because I do not recognize George Lazenby as Bond). Bond is left for dead and returns. His childhood is explored and his character is given greater motivations that just saving Britain (again).
For the die-hard Bond fans, the greatest moments of the film are the not so subtle nods and winks to past films. The most obvious–an appearance of an Astin Martin DB9 provides a great moment of levity in a tense situation. Mendes does not fall into the martini trap and the sexual innuendo is left for Bardem to play with. The final epic scene is probably the most un-Bond action scene in the last 50 years. It’s raw, void of gadgets and quippy dialogue–just Bond verse the villian. Let the best man (or rat) win.
As a Connery purist, I loved the final scene (though I could have done without the “introduction”). Mendes and company obviously took the job seriously and did their homework.
James Bond will return. If MGM and producers were smart, they’d lock up Mendes and Craig right now.