Little did anyone know at the time that when Sean Connery uttered those words “Bond, James Bond” a 50 year institution was created. James Bond has been around the block, in more ways than one, from a cold-war warrior to post-9/11 agent of destruction. Along the way, becoming a one-man epitome of suave, style and sex. The longest running film franchise ever, through the years has successfully been able to get audiences coming back for more year after year decade after decade.
That alone should generate curiosity about just what this series is all about. The James Bond films have never been game-changers in terms of storytelling, character arcs or realistic spy movies. These films are escapism at its very best, they don’t require much from an audience only a suspension of disbelief. Thus has been the formula for Bond for the majority of the entries and the fan-base for all those decades couldn’t be more happy for it.
Which brings us to Skyfall, the latest outing for the our favorite secret agent man with Daniel Craig donning the Tux and the License to Kill. Ever since he was cast as the title character, he has made the role his own. Making him a grittier, darker and colder spy. More in the vein of Jason Bourne than Sean Connery. After 50 years of films with mostly the same story and characters, it is a welcomed change of pace.
When M, perfectly played by Judi Dench, loses a list of covert operatives stationed around the world (one wonders why exactly this list is out in the open) to a world-class hacker Bond is seemingly also lost. Killed in Action trying to stop the list from being uploaded to the net. 007 spends his “death” aimlessly adrift, disavowed by the agency and country he swore to protect. However, once MI6 Headquarters is attacked by the mysterious Hacker, Bond of course promptly returns to duty.
Though he is not quite to being back to form, as he downs bottle after bottle of pain-killers and alcohol, can’t shoot the broad side of a barn and openly questions M’s means of heading MI6. But there is a bad-guy hell-bent on world domination, so Bond is the only man for job. Although this time the motive for the villain, played creepily well by Javier Bardem, is more of a personal score against MI6 and M.
What this Bond film does differently than anyone of the other series entries, with the exception of 2006’s Casino Royale is that it is actually about Bond the man, not his exploits, his globetrotting nor his conquests. Skyfall is about defining Bond as more of a human character rather than a unstoppable superhero who always gets the job done.
Giving 007 an actual character arc was a risk for director Sam Mendes, since it is quite a change to the formula that Bond fans had come to know and love. Though this is a very different Bond the first-half of the story hits all the beats that the series has become known for, the exotic locals and women, the mega-maniacal villain and action sequences. All of it seems so, familiar, unfortunately. The pacing is also oddly slow, even in the break-neck fight scenes.
It isn’t until Bardem’s Silva turns up, nearly half-way through the story, that things pick-up. Right from his entrance, Silva is a different, engaging and menacing figure, one of the very best rogues that 007 has had to face. Taking him down means that 007 has to go places he never believed he would, literally. The only question is what will be the collateral damage in doing so.
Beautifully shot by the great Roger Deakins and directed with purpose by Mendes this is one of the better outings in the series. Continuing the character’s resurgence and reboot from Casino Royale, and setting up much more for future films. As with all the great movies in the series, it makes an audience look-forward to when James Bond Will Return.
7.8/10 (Bond continues his film resurgence with a personal score)