***** (5 stars)
From the moment Bond 23 entered production, fans were pleased and the good news kept on coming. The announcement that Academy Award winning director Sam Mendes was onboard and the great cast raised everyone’s hopes that this would certainly be a strong contender for the best Bond film yet. However, there were still plenty of naysayers about Daniel Craig, and the effect of the writers’ strike on Quantum of Solace didn’t help matters. The aforementioned last Bond film came out in 2008, and since then, it affected the modern James Bond’s reputation. Personally, I still find QoS to be an enjoyable yet flawed film, and consider Craig to be one of the best actors working today, but could MGM deliver in Skyfall?
Yes they can, exceeding all expectations and making one of the best Bond films to date!
Whereas QoS took Bond down a darker path, Mendes is smart to move away from that plotline and start afresh with a new story. Craig, Judi Dench as M and Rory Kinnear as Tanner are the only returning actors from the last film. New to the scene are Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Bérénice Marlohe and Ben Whishaw as Q. Of course, what makes a great Bond film is a great villain, and Javier Bardem is fantastic as the menacing Silva. His performance is as grand as his introduction and Bardem brings a real, demented sense of threat to the film, unlike Dominic Greene in QoS.
A challenge faced by many Bond films is including all the elements and characteristics fans want to while delivering something new and exciting. Skyfall successfully pleases fans with many great moments, but Mendes isn’t afraid to take the film to new places. While the film features Naomi Harris and Bérénice Marlohe as the attractive Bond girls, the main Bond girl this time is M herself. The once background relationship between M and Bond, usually shown shortly after the credits sequence and never seen again, becomes the fore focus of the film. We see Bond in a new light as we explore his character, which Craig seems well suited for, and he is brilliant delivering the wit and charm as expected. However, he still manages to bring something new to a 50-year-old role. Q finally makes an appearance as a young computer whizz, who plays off well against Bond’s scepticism in a brilliant scene set in the National Picture Gallery.
Without turning this into another film student’s thesis, the film looks amazing. Whether the action is in sunny Istanbul, neo-lit China or the foggy countryside of Scotland, cinematographer Roger Deakins (No Country for Old Men, True Grit) continues to impress. A notable example would be the sniper scene in China, which is brought to life through its impressive visuals and use of reflections. Not bad for a man nominated for only nine Academy Awards.
Skyfall is an all-round brilliant film with breathtaking action, great acting and directing. Craig shines as James Bond, continuing to impress and will likely win over sceptics. French actress, Bérénice Marlohe manages to stand out amongst a strong crowd and delivers a great performance as the mysterious Sévérine, while Naomi Harris is charismatic as MI6 field operative Eve. Both of them have great chemistry with their leading man.
With news that Craig has signed onto at least two more films, there is good reason to look forward to seeing what happens next as Mendes sets the bar very high for whoever picks up the mantle next.