Watching Bond fix his cufflinks after a miraculous jump onto a train car as the half behind him is ripped away, I took it as a sign that Skyfall is the perfect marriage of intrigue and action.
This is definitely worth full-ticket price at the theater. It bests even Casino Royale, and makes us forgive Quantum of Solace.
- Excellent tension
- A plot that hits its pace early, and keeps up the intrigue
- A villain more frightening than any before him
- A new look into what makes Bond, James Bond.
Too often the genres of espionage leave behind their potentially mysterious plot in the dust of a fast-paced action flick, sacrificed at the altar of sequels. The result is Ethan Hunt, Jason Bourne and the like eventually lose the intimacy that made their characters larger than the story; what tied them personally to the plot and the audience. In other words, the spy genres were becoming the shoot-em-ups, only in a suit.
Since Daniel Craig stepped into the 007 shoes, we’ve seen James Bond’s beginning. Skyfall introduces us to several familiar characters in the reboot, now three movies deep, and we get a deeper glimpse into Bond.
With plenty of references to the “good old days”, Skyfall maintains its
predecessors panache and the 007 debonair as essential to the icon as those familiar bass chords that echo back from 50 years.
That isn’t to say Daniel Craig’s version is not his own. As a man’s man, an old-school spy who isn’t afraid but eager to get his hands dirty, we get to delve into some great combat sequences that include not-too-shabby C.G. komodo dragons, a henchman totting a dual-drum-magazine-machine-pistol, and a villain who is the poster child of Freud’s mother-son relationship studies.
In the vein of rebooting Bond movies, Javier Bardem‘s Silva is the scariest villain you’ll ever have the displeasure of meeting. What makes him most dangerous is his honesty; Silva has no reservations about letting his vulnerabilities be known, and his intentions hardly disguised. You hope it’s a bluff when he reveals his motives.
Also, some predictably terrific acting from Judy Dench, with a slightly more affectionate relationship to her favorite agent. Bérénice Marlohe has a commanding presence, a jaded and fragile woman that fits the bill for Bond’s charming manipulation, if she’s not the manipulator. Finally, we see a new version of an old friend in Naomie Harris‘s role, and her relationship with James is always fun, as well as the wise-cracking, cocky Q, played by Ben Whishaw
The script lays a solid foundation. It uncoils from Bond investigating a stolen hard drive, through a tense sequence that forgoes even the opening credits, and takes us into the heart of a mission which plunges James into a darkness he’d become familiar with in Royale. In this way, the action never lags, and just as I’d hoped, Skyfall marries it to intrigue perfectly.
Another thing you’ll appreciate is the cinematography and direction. The revitalized opening credits segue effortlessly from the opener, mentioned above, to the “resurrection” of James Bond, starting with a scorpion and a shot glass. There are also some fascinating master shots, functional and beautiful. Action sequences allow the audience to see what’s happening, and don’t cheat us by jolting the camera so much you can’t tell one end of a car chase scene from another.
And here’s something else refreshing: we actually see Bond’s spy methods unfold before our eyes. Skyfall doesn’t overuse gizmos, Bond doesn’t magically appear behind an assassin after somehow breaking through top-notch security; we see it all. Finally.
And, there is one real surprise that infers the new Bond can be taken seriously. I’ll leave it at that.
There’s only one question I have concerning this familiar character in a very promising reboot: does he, or does he not have heart?
It seems Royale left us with a broken spy; one who had been too deeply scarred to be anything but cold. And, after watching his eyes glow with ire at the CNN report of a terrorist attack on his beloved MI6 H.Q., I even suspected Bond has only the thrill of the chase to live for.
And here I find the heart of the movie. M’s quoting Tennyson reminds us it is exactly the personal relationships we need to survive, that keep even a nation from falling – not to the strength of terrorists groups, which are very real, but to the weakening links that make their victories possible.