Director: Sam Mendes
Starring: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes
In stark contrast to ‘Quantum Of Solace’, Sam Mendes stepped in and put together what is widely regarded as the best Bond film of the Daniel Craig era, and arguably one of the best Bond movies ever. For me, Daniel Craig is the best Bond, and ‘Skyfall’ is the best Bond movie ever, but I’m not a hardened, traditional Bond fan. I’m not ashamed to say that I hopped on the new-age, Daniel Craig bandwagon from the moment I first saw him in action in ‘Casino Royale’, and ‘Skyfall’ is all the vindication I need to support my exclusive interest in the “Blonde Bond”. One day I will explore the portrayals from the Sean Connery and Roger Moore eras, but for now, I’m very content to watch this epic installment again and again.
The film opens in typical, elaborate fashion with James Bond (Craig) pursuing crucial MI6 data and the criminal who has stolen it, until he is shot down and presumed dead. But, of course, Bond can’t be killed off that easily, and he limps back into action when the MI6 headquarters are destroyed by a mysterious cyber-terror attack. The globe-trotting super-agent follows a trail of clues which bring him face to face with the devilish villain, Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) – a man seeking revenge against those who betrayed him in the past, and keen to cause havoc in the process.
Daniel Craig is quite possibly at his best here, and I think his finer moments may well come at the start of the film, where we see a more disheveled Bond, struggling both physically and mentally with his return to the field. He does, of course, find his form once again however, and we get to see more of the impeccable combat skills and endearing charm we have become accustomed to with Daniel Craig. Bond’s relationship with M, played by Judi Dench, develops substantially in ‘Skyfall’ too, with Dench delivering an excellent, mother-esque performance; equal parts stern disapproval and sincere, emotional attachment. Introduced to the cast are Naomie Harris as Eve Moneypenny, Ben Whishaw as Q and Ralph Fiennes as Mallory, all of which are fantastic additions to the MI6 team.
Now, time to mess with that lovely relationship between 007 and M, with the perfect villain. Javier Bardem has already proven in ‘No Country For Old Men’ that he is capable of conveying pure evil and sinister apathy, but he excels himself on this showing, with more of an animated, eccentric edge. In my opinion, Javier Bardem’s Silva is one of the best movie nemeses there is, with every aspect faultlessly put together; from the peculiar hairstyle (Bardem certainly loves a kooky cut), the malevolent, continental purr of his malicious voice and his perverse, unnerving demeanour. Not to mention the pièce de résistance as Silva reveals his jaw-dropping, secret past and pain, which is simultaneously horrifying and brilliant.
Sam Mendes takes the Bond franchise to another level with ‘Skyfall’, adding a degree of cinematic flair and aesthetic beauty without compromising on action. The sequence in Hong Kong is truly stunning; an example of masterful visionary filmmaking. Even when the film shifts and takes us to Scotland – a move which has been criticised by some – serves up some breathtaking shots and outrageous, explosive action. There is still an undeniably, distinctive Bond feel to ‘Skyfall’, with plenty of technology, high-octane combat and slick, British undertones. The only thing missing on this occasion is that charming, witty side to Bond that typically comes as standard; seems there’s not as much time for joking around and womanising when the whole of London is at stake.
‘Skyfall’ is unlike most Bond films, taking a far more serious approach and addressing rather deep-rooted and emotional issues. In actual fact, you could watch this as a standalone, narrative-driven action film and enjoy it just as much. As a Bond movie, this balances the right amount of classic 007 ingredients, with Mendes introducing a focus on story and visuals which elevates ‘Skyfall’ to a higher standard. This is not just the best Bond movie ever, but one of the best films of the decade at the very least.