Movie Review: Skyfall
Rating: PG-13 (intense violent sequences, language, smoking, and some sexuality)
Length: 143 minutes
Release Date: October 31, 2012
Directed by: Sam Mendes
Genre: Action, Adventure, & Crime
Stars: 4 out of 5
After Daniel Craig proved he had the chops to be James Bond in "Casino Royale" and "Quantum of Solace," Bond fans began to salivate at the prospect of his third performance as the iconic British superspy. Speculation about which of the Ian Fleming novels would be adapted for the next film began in earnest. There were several ways that the franchise could go.
Alas, MGM Studios, home of the Bond movies, fell into bankruptcy, putting a damper on the prospects of a new Bond film, along with the much-ballyhooed "The Hobbit." The company was deeply in debt and had to do some major restructuring across all areas of operation. After some making painful cuts and a new business plan, the studio managed to find funding for the film dubbed "Bond 23." After four long years of waiting, Bond 23 turned into "Skyfall," and it is well worth the wait.
Craig is back as Bond, who is already fairly world-weary and brokenhearted from the events of the previous two movies. He looks ready for a vacation, but there is no rest for the weary when M (Judi Dench) is investigated by her boss Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) for allowing a hard drive with sensitive information get into the hands of Silva (Javier Bardem). Bond breaks out of his emotional rut long enough to show his loyalty towards M, who is about to be forced into retirement.
He sets out to find Silva, who has a very elaborate plan to bring down M and MI6. This makes the stakes even higher, since MI6 is already under fire as being expensive and unnecessary. Many in the British government think that MI6 could be eliminated, so the stolen drive and M's past with the dastardly Silva only serve to further ruin the agencies reputation.
Bond has to quickly find and neutralize Silva, who is very sneaky and presents Bond's most formidable and interesting opponent in years. He gets help in the form of Eve (Naomie Harris), a gorgeous weapons expert who can kick butt with the best of them. Eve is smart and isn't afraid to stand up to Bond despite the fact that he is her superior within MI6 and much older. As they work together to stop Silva, they manage to learn a thing or two from each other. This mutual learning is a big departure from the previous films.
Perhaps the best thing about "Skyfall" is just how fearless the script by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and John Logan is. The trio takes Bond to places he has never been and isn't afraid to make him look occasionally frail and old. At some point in the film, the audience may begin to feel like Bond is a relic of a Cold War era that has long since passed. The at times haggard look on Craig's face shows that he was on board with the transformation. In the military, basic training is supposed to tear down the individual in order to build them back up the right way. In that same way, "Skyfall" is the tearing down and rebuilding of James Bond. The resulting Bond is one who is more interesting, layered, and nuanced than any seen before.
The notion of the traditional Bond girl is also fearlessly tested with the introduction of Harris as Eve. In the previous films, Bond girls were occasionally useful, but mostly acted as a romantic plot device to give fans a breather from the action sequences. Eve is Bond's equal in almost every aspect of the job and is an ally and coworker instead of just a bed partner. Harris takes the weapon-wielding tough girl she portrayed in "28 Days Later" and smoothes her out with a dash of refinement. This Bond girl is not to be trifled with.
Ben Whishaw also joins the cast as Q, the weapons and gadgets expert who featured in some of the previous films. The character had been curiously missing from the previous Daniel Craig outings, so his reintroduction here is a pleasant surprise. As played by Whishaw, Q is not only great with gadgets but also computers and hacking. It is almost as if this particular iteration of Q was written to further bring Bond into the 21st century. In fact, there are lots of big changes here, all of which are risky and add new life to the series. There is no telling where Bond will go next, but after "Skyfall," both casual and diehard fans can only hope it won't take another four years to find out.