Skyfall – 4/5 stars

This has been coming for months.  2012 may have been all about the London Olympics and the possible end of the world, but for film fans (especially Bond fans, like myself), it meant something else.  Not only would we celebrate 50 years of 007 being on our screens (not to mention it going to Sky, making future bank holidays quite boring) but we also see the highly-anticipated 23rd Bond film – a feature that was almost never made…

Skyfall sees Bond investigate a stolen hard drive containing the identities of undercover MI6 agents, leading to an attack on his boss, M (Judi Dench) – masterminded by the former MI6 agent (with ridiculous hair), Raoul Silva, played by Javier Bardem.

It is strange to see a Bond film that is not directly linked to world domination – whether it involves nuclear weapons or just simple world chaos.  Skyfall, instead makes things personal.   This mission becomes personal to Bond, but the film also becomes personal to anyone involved behind the camera.  An addition to a long-standing British institution after its studio faced financial ruin, not to mention an established character showing that he can deliver the goods (and bring in the box office takings)?  It couldn’t be anything but personal.

Craig uses this film as a message to the naysayers – he can still impress as 007 after four years away from the role.  As we witness his battered and broken Bond recover and finish the job, he still possesses the same hardened persona we appreciated in his reworking of the character, though this time, dotted with the occasional wit and sentimentality that we had never seen before since Casino Royale, thanks to the credible screenwriting collaboration of John Logan, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.

With the exception of 2005’s Jarhead, director Mendes may not be known for his action (leaving the heavy yet impressive stunt and fight scenes to cinematographer Roger Deakins), but what he manages to capture is the love-hate triangle/relationship between Bond, Silva and M – in this film, we see M under Bond’s protective radar as Silva’s personal grudge on his former boss goes past the usual threat-on-a-video.
Silly hair aside, Bardem reminded me of Bane from The Dark Knight Rises; using personal relationships as part of his plans of grandeur.  Incredibly intelligent yet terrifying determined, Silva represents the modern-day villain as he takes advantage of modern technology, rather than use oil and political conflicts, to get what he wants.  His emotional instability (an interrogation with Bond proving to amusing yet tense at the same time) only serves to support the character’s unpredictability, making quite a cringeworthy antagonist.

With it being Bond’s 50th birthday, there is need for celebration – and unlike Die Another DaySkyfall is full of nods to classic Bond, done without a sense of overindulgence.  On the one hand, we see inclusions such as the impressive set pieces in London, Bond’s Walther PPK and the return of the classic Aston Martin used in Goldfinger but on the other hand, we see the small yet pivotal parts from Brit actors Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw.  Looking at his, I cannot help but wonder if Skyfall is actually celebrating an era in film or defining a new one?  (I’ll leave that judgement call to whoever reads this 🙂)

Thrilling, smart yet slightly overlong, Skyfall is more than a film – it is a statement.  Welcome back, Mr Bond…

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