Movie Review: Skyfall

Bond & M

What do you get when you make a Bond film with an Oscar winning director, an Oscar winning and nominated cast, the Coen brother’s cinematographer, long-time Bond scribes, and a heavy dose of nostalgia with a clear eye towards the future?  You get Skyfall, the best Bond film in decades, if not ever.

I honestly cannot contain my excitement for how great it felt sitting in the theater with my family and having this be my kids first Bond film.  I was seven when my dad took me to see Moonraker, and my love for everything Bond stemmed from that moment… my youngest is seven, and immediately following the film she said, “best movie ever!”  Mission accomplished!  We then went home and I held court on the 50 year history of the franchise… and in doing so, answered many of the questions they had as to why so many people laughed, cheered, and clapped at moments they didn’t understand… such as the arrival of a new, and substantially younger Q (Ben Whishaw), or the reveal of the original Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger (that’s not quite a spoiler… just look at the pic above, it’s in the background).

From the moment the film opens, we are in familiar territory… Bond is in pursuit of a baddie through the streets of an exotic locale… this time Istanbul (not Constantinople), in search of a hard drive.  Working with a new agent, Eve (Naomi Harris), and the ever present M (Dame Judi Dench), Bond finds himself riding a motorcycle across rooftops, fighting on top of a train, and eventually… getting shot by his fellow agent on order from M and falling to his apparent death.

Fret not, the movie is longer than ten minutes… Bond is not dead… but MI6 is in trouble, and M is being hounded by a government official (Ralph Fiennes) to “voluntarily” retire her post.  Meanwhile, Bond is on some tropical island getting drunk and getting laid… until news of a terrorist attack on MI6 headquarters reaches him, and resurrection ensues.

Giving away any more of the plot would be criminal, and going into this film as spoiler-free as possible is ideal.  What I will say, and reiterate, is that many of the qualities and traits of a Bond film that many felt have been lacking in the previous two Craig films, are present and never feel forced for nothing more than fan service.  Best of all… a classic Bond villain in Javier Bardem’s cyber-terrorist Silva.  Creepy, intelligent, physically deformed, completely over the top, and seemingly always one step ahead of Bond and MI6.  Silva may be the best villain since Blofeld… and that is saying something.  He even has his own lair!

I wonder how people will feel about Silva as the bad guy… his techniques are somewhat similar to WikiLeaks’ methods… I had my issues with WikiLeaks from the get go, and this film illustrates exactly why.  I’m guessing there are some that will have a problem with this depiction… if they put two and two together.

One of the larger issues facing the franchise over the last twenty years has been the difficulty of knowing who or what is a global enemy these days.  Skyfall addresses this problem directly, and lays out the groundwork for why the old ways are still often times the best.  The British government no longer sees the necessity for physical espionage in a modern era without a clear cut enemy in the form of the former Soviet Union… and M makes the greatest argument for why they must continue to work in the shadows, because the enemy is now unknown… stateless and without reason.  Gone are the villains after money… gone are the villains aiming for world domination… the new bad guys have other motives, and those are never clear… until it’s too late.

Another strong thread throughout the film is the idea of aging, which resonates in every frame of this, the 23rd Bond film, on it’s 50th. anniversary.  There was a time in the early 60’s where Bond was the very definition of cool… as the decade aged, he became less the paragon of cool and more the vision of the very establishment youth were revolting against, until Bond eventually devolved into a light form of camp in the Moore years, and further into a near irrelevance during the Dalton and Brosnan years.  It was a franchise in need of some fresh air… which I believe Daniel Craig and the makers of Casino Royale brought.

By rebooting the whole franchise, we were able to envision a double-0 agent for the modern era… brooding, flawed, and marked with the moral decay of a man who makes a living killing people.  Gone were the witty quips, the gadgets, the constant ease… nothing comes easy for the modern Bond, and the scars are evidenced in both physical and figurative terms.  This is also the first film in the series to address Bond’s past and what it is that has made him the man that he is… and in doing so, has opened up a whole new element to a character we had assumed to know for the better part of 50 years.

Having said all that, let me give you something to get excited about… many of the elements that we consider to be “classic Bond” are back… if not overt at times, heavily implied… and there are more nods to the history of Bond than I could possibly catch the first time through.  For example, a bottle of Scotch from 1962, the year of Dr. No‘s release… the aforementioned Aston Martin… a martini poured after being shaken and Bond’s pleasure for the drink… more than a few one-liners… and many more that all conspire to make this both a classic entry into the Bond canon and something completely new and of it’s time.

Whether you have seen every Bond adventure or have never seen a one, Skyfall is a must see.  Remarkably directed, beautiful cinematography never before seen in a Bond film, fantastic script, and a well paced plot… and how could I leave out the Bond girls!  Only time will tell… but I may have my new favorite film in this series… I suggest you find out for yourself, and see Skyfall.

Shaken, not stirred,
Cornelius J. Blahg 

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