Twitter Plot Summary: Bond returns and he’s slightly older and grumpier. Still, at least the locations look amazing.
Five Point Summary:
1. Train fight! Blood! Gun shot!
2. A casino. Ahh, familiar territory.
3. Silva kind of, but not quite, seduces Mr Bond.
4. Public enquiry.
5. Skyfall is actually where it ends, Adele.
Making a Bond film in an anniversary year is never easy – just take a look at Die Another Day which managed to get the formula horribly wrong. Thankfully Skyfall managed to make amends for that travesty by providing a 50th anniversary movie that successfully blended aspects of the character’s history with a more intimate tale that explores Bond’s life and compares it with Skyfall’s big bad, an angry former agent gone rogue in the shape of Javier Bardem’s Silva.
Skyfall also acts in many ways as a Bond Begins style tale, featuring the reintroduction of classic Bond characters from the series’ past, most notably a much younger Q in the form of Ben Whishaw, whilst establishing that Bond is now an older, more mature agent at the same time. He’s also portrayed in his most broken form, a shell of a man who has everything to prove both to himself and to his employers.
There are plenty of nods to the franchise’s history, but unlike Die Another Day (the 40th anniversary movie) they aren’t thrown in your face and are tastefully used. Even the final act, which sets itself up as a Bond homage to Home Alone, works in context and marks a much more personal and understated showdown than the typical big and bombastic event that normally marks the last act in previous Bond adventures.
Whilst there are other women for Bond to sink his teeth/claws/tuxedo into – Berenice Marlohe being the main one who gets a bit of dialogue and a chance to slink her way through a casino whilst chain-smoking – it’s really Judi Dench’s M who is the Bond girl here. She’s been with the franchise since Goldeneye in 1995 and her M comes pre-loaded with a certain amount of emotional baggage leading into this, guilt for past transgressions whilst also facing a public hearing for the loss of important data that puts the UK’s entire undercover spy network at risk. It’s a plot that responds to potential criticisms as to Bond’s value and necessity in this modern age of technology and relative lack of “shadow” for undercover agents to operate in. Suffice to say, Bond and the spy world remains as relevant as ever.
Silva is an even match with Bond, a distorted mirror image and an indication as to what could have happened to Bond had circumstances been different. Mainly if he’d turned away from romancing women and started dressing in striking white suits and betraying the Queen (or something). With the exception of one almost unnecessary and almost OTT use of CGI at a dramatic moment, Silva is an effective villain, understated yet flamboyant and always seemingly a smirk away from dishing out a killer one liner. The fact he never manages to fully cross over this line works in his favour.
The action is well handled by Sam Mendez despite his relative lack of experience in this area, but he’s a man who knows how to tell a clear story and this plays out in the action beats. Skyfall may also mark the best looking Bond film ever, with Roger Deakins’ gorgeous cinematography adding a remarkable amount of depth and style to every scene. It’s a clear indication that good cinematography cannot be understated, and it’s a shame that he won’t be involved in the next Bond film.
Does Skyfall mark the best Bond film yet? Possibly, yes – all of the constituent elements of a Bond film are present, but it also works as a standalone piece that doesn’t require a huge amount of foreknowledge about the franchise’s fifty year history. It’s thrilling, exciting, and has a cracking theme song. What more could you ask for?