I wasn’t the biggest fan of Quantum of Solace which I felt stayed far too focused on the fallout of the first movie in the reboot James Bond franchise without moving our new version of British Secret Agent James Bond (Daniel Craig) forward. Skyfall certainly isn’t a perfect Bond film, in fact it may be the first of the franchise that I’ve enjoyed without liking its choice of villain. However, it does make a concerted effort to blend in elements of the classic Bond franchise with the new version making it feel, really for the first time, that James Bond is truly back.
The film borrows heavily from themes, elements, and even specific props from previous Bond movies. Some of these callbacks include the Aston Martin from Goldfinger, a signature gun (which we saw before in Licence to Kill), an assassin’s with signature bullets (a major plot point used in The Man with the Golden Gun), and even the recreation of M’s classic office. The movie also begins incorporating Bond’s original supporting cast including finally delivering a new Q (Ben Whishaw).
In terms of story Skyfall borrows pieces of both the beginning of You Only Live Twice (featuring Bond’s apparent death) and The World is Not Enough (featuring a shoulder injury that will plague him for most of the movie, as needed). The theme of a former British MI6 officer every bit Bond’s equal turned bad (remember Goldeneye?) is recycled here as well.
With all this rehashing of bits and pieces audiences have already seen you might think Skyfall a mess. You’d be wrong. Don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly got its issues, primarily the struggle of the new franchise to create its first truly over-the-top classic Bond villain. Javier Bardem‘s Silva comes of as an odd mashup of Max Zorin (one of my least favorite Bond villains) mixed with Heath Ledger‘s Joker (including his insanely complex plan that relies on every intricate detail playing out exactly how he imagined).
The film opens with an elaborate stunt sequence over the rooftops in Turkey (suck it Taken 2) involving 007 chasing down a stolen list of all undercover NATO agents that always seem to just be lying around in movies like this for some villain to steal. Bond manages to track down the thief (while destroying half of a moving train), but is apparently killed by his partner (Naomie Harris) from her sniper perch while trying to prevent the thief’s getaway.
With Bond presumed dead and the list slowly being leaked online to cause MI6, things aren’t looking good for M (Judi Dench) who has been asked to resign from her post in favor of rising up and comer Garrett Mallory (Ralph Fiennes). Eventually Bond returns to Queen and country, hunting down the cyber-terrorist Silva who turns out to be a former favorite agent of M but is now quite mad and hellbent on revenge for perceived wrongs.
An obvious amount of time has passed between Quantum of Solace and Skyfall as more than one character remarks that Bond has perhaps been in the field too long and the role of a Double-O is a young man’s game. Although Craig’s Bond is still the thug at heart (still more Bourne than classic Bond), he’s been given a little more sophistication here as well. He’s certainly no Connery, but he can still exude a certain level of sophisticated charm when he chooses.
Harris turns out to be a good addition to the Bond Girl legacy as Eve is smart, sophisticated, and more than capable of holding her own (even if she does get thrown behind a desk after “killing” James Bond). I wish I could say the same for the movie’s attempt at a femme fatale. Sadly, Bérénice Marlohe will go down in history along with Denise Richards and Tanya Roberts as the worst of the Bond Girls. Marlohe certainly looks the part but she comes off slightly more disinterested and out of her depth than January Jones did in X-Men: First Class.
The movie is more CGI heavy than I was expecting (no less than half a dozen visual effects companies worked on the film), and the amount of Bond nostalgia surprised me as well. However, neither of these detracted from was proves to be an enjoyable action flick. Yes, the middle of the film suffers due to the overblown genius of our villain, but it gets back on track in the final act (even if Bond’s metaphor for facing his past is far, far more obvious than it has any right to be).
Released in theaters on Bond’s 50th Anniversary (Dr. No hit theaters in 1962), Skyfall isn’t going to rank near the top list of the franchise’s best movies, but longtime fans of the series have put up with much worse and most sure enjoy themselves (groans and all) with the attempt return much of the franchise trademarks back into the series.