Things aren’t looking too great for anyone when the film opens: super-spy James Bond (Daniel Craig) is presumed dead after a botched mission that simultaneously lands M (Judi Dench) in seriously hot water with the powers-that-be – including Ralph Fiennes – who calmly but pointedly suggest it might be time for her to pursue a voluntary early retirement. Then a bomb blows up a good chunk of MI6 and everyone’s back in the game.
Which is a good thing, since this film’s colorfully coiffed and kinda campy villain, Silva (Javier Bardem), is just getting started on his mission to unleash vengeful mayhem on our heroes.
Blissfully electric right from its opening frames, Skyfall starts fast and then keeps right on flying, whether it’s a rooftop motorcycle chase through Istanbul, a reflective shootout in Chinese skyscrapers or an explosive subterranean chase sequence from station to station on the London tube. Despite a beefy running of time of nearly two-and-a-half hours, the action never really slows down or lags… and neither does the story, which (this time around) is infused with a sense of emotion and melancholy that adds a little extra depth and feeling to the proceedings.
Thankfully, Craig has the chops to make his Bond believable as a brute as much as a broken man, and he will no doubt send many hearts a’flutter as his James Bond puts the pieces of his life back together. Dench is likewise (and not surprisingly) adept at allowing glimmers of humanity to shine through well-guarded cracks in her usually impenetrable veneer. And Bardem… well, he sort of chews on the scenery a bit as the deranged mastermind in their crosshairs – he’s as goofy as he is creepy, which is a combination that goes back and forth between “this works!” and “no, this is silly.”
The supporting cast are delightful across the board, but special attention must be paid to the brand new Q (Ben Whishaw), a bespectacled young computer geek who’s as good with a microchip as Bond is with the ladies. Fiennes is perfectly stiff and solemn; Naomie Harris and Bérénice Marlohe are fine, if not outstanding, as the requisite Bond bombshells; and Albert Finney pops up in a nice tough’n’cuddly role for the film’s final third.
Spectacularly shot and paced (under unexpectedly genre-savvy director Sam Mendes), Skyfall is an excellent addition the oeuvre, a fun way to spend a night at the movies and the first holiday-season offering that demands to be seen on a big screen.
Took me a few hours to figure out what was “wrong” with Skyfall… yes, it’s beautifully filmed – though after the opening sequence, the action was fairly rote. Craig is again amazingly perfect for the role, and Bardim is one creepy SOB… though he appeared a bit late for my liking, and some of his screen time were chase scenes that seemed beneath the character.
What was different with this installment is that M is the de facto “Bond Girl” here. The chemistry between Craig and Dench has always been potent and fascinating, and I loved the additional interaction on display in Skyfall. I would’ve cut the skyscraper-sniper scene entirely, given the literally throw-away Bond gal assigned to this film even less time, brought in Bardim earlier and even badder, and extended Bond’s and M’s “lo tech” journey at the end even further. Would’ve loved to have seen them being chased – or chasing – through England in that Aston-Martin.
Skyfall is an atypical 007 film, and I commend the franchise for making it. I realize why they made it, but it would have been nice to have had one more, completely”non-origin” installment before it.
Skyfall’s not even close to Casino Royale in chemistry or emotional punch, but is very much in the same league, tone-wise. The darker, grittier From Russia, With Love and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service are clearly influences on these new films.
Highly recommended, but not quite up to the hype machine’s claim of “Best Bond Ever.”