Skyfall * * * 1/2

Genre: Action Thriller

Director: Sam Mendes

Writers: John Logan, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade

Cast: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Berenice Marlohe, Albert Finney

Running Length: 143 minutes

Synopsis: In Skyfall, Bond’s (Daniel Craig) loyalty to M (Judi Dench) is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.

Review: This was the Bond film that almost never came to be – given MGM’s financial woes, production was suspended on Skyfall for a year, but thankfully things turned around and the film managed to be released in time for Bond’s 50th anniversary. This fact alone is due cause for celebration, because after the somewhat disappointing Quantum of Solace, Skyfall is a return to form for the franchise, and immediately ranks amongst the best Bond films (though still falling slightly short of the seminal Casino Royale). Perhaps it’s the sensibilities of a director like Sam Mendes, or that Daniel Craig, Judi Dench and Javier Bardem is possibly the best combination of Bond, M and Bond villain in the franchise’s 50-year history, but everything just falls into place beautifully, resulting in not just a great Bond film, but an excellent action thriller as a whole.

The film opens with a huge bang, with an excellent chase sequence that sets the tone of the film action-wise. Seguing into a classic Bond credit sequence with a theme song (sung by Adele) that is definitely the best in recent years, Skyfall makes no pretense about its intentions – this is meant to be a throwback to the best years of the Bond franchise, and it does so with great aplomb.
 
Great action sequences are almost a given nowadays, and Skyfall more than delivers in this aspect. What Sam Mendes brings is an added dimension to Skyfall, an emotional engagement that is rare in the franchise. Daniel Craig masterfully peels back the layers of Bond cool, and displays a scarred vulnerability that makes Bond more three-dimensional and accessible than ever before. This iteration of Bond can be hurt physically and emotionally, and it’s not hard to see the parallel between Craig’s James Bond and Christopher Bale’s Batman. Javier Bardem plays the fey yet menacing antagonist Silva, and although Bardem puts forth a most impressive performance, Craig never feels like he’s being outdone or overshadowed.

However, the most memorable performance in the film has to go to what must be the oldest “Bond girl” ever – Judi Dench’s M is a pivotal character in the movie and her role in Skyfall outweighs her previous six outings combined. From the grittier moments to the most introspective portions of the film, Dame Judi Dench doesn’t ever falter, and much like Daniel Craig, she has become the most iconic M in the franchise’s history. Bond films are not known for thespian quality, but since the Casino Royale reboot this has been turned on its head.

Skyfall boasts incredible visuals, and is a very handsome film from start to end – kudos to Roger Deakins, who may just get a nod at the Academy Awards for the fine work he’s put in here. In particular, the skyscraper scene set in Shanghai really ups the game, presenting an action sequence in a breathtakingly new light (both literally and figuratively). Thomas Newman, Mendes’ longtime collaborator, merges old and new together in his scoring of the film, and that familiar guitar riff makes an undeniable impression multiple times in the show (as compared to the two previous films scored by David Arnold, which pretty much eschewed the classic theme from a majority of the proceedings).

It’s hard to innovate in a film franchise which has been around for half a century, but that’s exactly what Mendes and crew have managed to achieve. It’s an interesting dichotomy – on the one hand James Bond has been further updated for modern times, yet it’s the callback to the classic Bond that makes the movie stand out.  The only more tangible flaw that Skyfall has is the need for a tighter edit, yet even this doesn’t really detract significantly from the cinematic spectacle that the rest of the film is.
 
Rating: * * * ½ (out of four stars)

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