After fifty years, and following the disappointment of Quantum of Solace, is James Bond still relevant for a modern audience? Skyfall asks this question during the film and in short it answers it with a simple yes. Finding the right balance of action and drama, and with a superb supporting cast, director Sam Mendes creates a modern cinematic masterpiece.
One of the major flaws with the previous Bond film was that 2008’s Quantum of Solace had no coherent plot. This is practically the opposite with Skyfall, as it uses the quite a simple premise to explore the relationship that Bond (Daniel Craig, Cowboys and Aliens) has with his superior, M (Judi Dench, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel). It opens with a high octane action sequence as Bond and fellow operative Eve (Naomie Harris, Pirates of the Caribbean) in pursuit of a hard drive that contains the details of every active NATO agent in service. This leads Bond on a relatively linear journey to the cyber-terrorist Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men), a prominent figure from M’s past.
Daniel Craig has already proven that he can carry himself as the international superspy in 2006’s amazing Casino Royale, but really comes into his own in Skyfall. Particularly, his interactions between the other characters shine through. The rapport he has with Q (Ben Whishaw, The Hour) from their first meeting and the maternal interactions that he has with M shine through, but it’s the way that Craig and Bardem bounce off of each other that steals the show. Bardem is clearly the best Bond villain since the days of Sean Connery, reaching the dizzy heights of Goldfinger and Blofeld. Silva’s only motive is revenge and he shows no remorse for his crimes. He takes pleasure in creating elaborate plans just to toy with Bond and the rest of MI6. Instantly, clear comparisons can be drawn between Silva and both Heath Ledger’s the Joker (The Dark Knight) and Andrew Scott’s Moriarty (BBC’s Sherlock), which is a testament to his performance.
Another tradition of Bond films are the girls. However, this is where Skyfall falls down. Bérénice Marlohe’s role as Sévérine, a sexy seductress, was sadly underwhelming. It felt as if she was only in the film for half an hour, and served only to lead Bond to Silva. Harris’s character of Eve felt similarly underdeveloped, but at least by the finale she is practically confirmed to return. But maybe these reasons were caused by the focus on Judi Dench, Skyfall’s “true” Bond girl.
Speaking of traditions, Skyfall successfully pays homage to its fifty years of history. It’s full of classic one-liners, pokes fun at some of the previous films’ more extreme moments (‘what did you want, an exploding pen?’) and brings back that iconic car. Overall, Mendes pulls together all these fantastic elements to create a film that supersedes the high expectations set by Casino Royale, becoming one of the best films released this year, and one of the best Bond films ever created.