If the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has any sense of objectivity left, they should look to Skyfall for an award for Best Director, or at the very least Best Cinematography. Director Sam Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins have crafted not only the best looking film of 2012, but easily the best looking 007 ever made. Skyfall is nothing short of absolutely magnificent, with a quality to the direction and photography that is truly Oscar caliber.
I hear claims that Skyfall is the best Bond film ever made, and I think that could be true – at the very worst it comes in second, just behind Casino Royale (2006). In a way the two films are similar: Both give us a look at a James Bond that feels real, suffering from the same human condition as the rest of us. It’s a take on the franchise that I’m glad Sam Menders decided to keep, especially considering Skyfall feels as though it was made to celebrate Bond’s 50-year film history.
Somehow the creators behind Skyfall have managed to make an ode to franchise, while simultaneously maintaining the film’s distinct identity. The Aston Martin DB5 famously driven during Goldfinger (1964) makes a triumphant return in Skyfall, complete with cheesy machine guns hidden below the headlights. Moments like these exist to provide fan service, but still fit in with the mood of Skyfall, which portrays Daniel Craig’s Bond as an aging relic refusing to accept his limitations.
As Q (yes, Q has returned) reminds Bond during their first meeting, MI6 doesn’t make exploding pens anymore. It’s these type of references that keep reminding the audience of the evolution of the franchise, and it all adds to the feeling that Skyfall is a complete reboot for the series.If this is a new starting point for 007 and the rest of MI6, I think the future looks bright, assuming the series doesn’t have another speed bump like the dismal Quantum of Solace (2008).
The villain, Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) is a ruthless genius who seemingly has unlimited resources, much like your typical 007 terrorist. However, the dark story surrounding his past is enough to make him seem human – insane, but human. A deep, well-developed bad guy is something not typical of the series, but it only works to the advantage of Skyfall. A great character, matched with a stellar performance by Bardem, is enough to make Raoul Silva one of the top Bond villains of all time.
Explored in this film is also the past of James Bond, who Daniel Craig reprises with such perfection that it’s impossible to imagine anyone ever taking the mantle in his place. We get to know James in this movie. I genuinely found myself caring for him in a way I never have before, especially when the details surrounding his upbringing come to light.
The suave spy who drinks dry martinis has become a bit of a tragic figure in Skyfall. James often looks like little more than an alcoholic, whose body and mind has been broken by the weight of a very difficult life. Somehow James Bond is made into a complex character typically only seen in great works of literature. This is something Casino Royale opened the door for, but Skyfall seems to have perfected.
Reprising her role as M is Judi Dench, who is virtually the co-star of the film, since the plot is so deeply entwined with her actions. For the first time we get to see her guilt, her fears, her genuine concern for Bond. She feels so human, fragile, and genuine that she’s almost unrecognizable as the same face from Goldeneye (1995).
All things considered, Skyfall may very well be the best film of 2012. This is a complete rebirth for the characters and series, which has somehow survived 23 film releases. I hope the growth of the characters continues into the next film, but I’m not holding my breath. If this is to be the last Bond film ever made (and the end credits promise that it won’t be), I would be completely comfortable with that. Skyfall is a masterpiece of quality craftsmanship. You’ll likely never see a 007 film that’s this good ever again, which makes me almost wish that James Bond would retire.