After four years and a studio bankruptcy later, Bond, James Bond, is finally back. Celebrating 50 years of a continued franchise is no easy feat. When it’s a character as treasured worldwide as Bond however, it’s easy to see why. Oh sure, the series has had its ups and downs since Ian Fleming’s first big screen adventure, Dr. No. And Bond himself has been played by multiple people of course, sometimes even in one film (1967’s Casino Royale). But anyone who has ever actually read the Bond novels will comply that as iconic as Sean Connery may have made 007, Daniel Craig just may be the epitome of Bond – at least from the original novels.
As of late, the series has gone through a major overhaul and complete reboot. First, with Eon Productions’ official 2006 version of Casino Royale throwing Craig into the tuxedo. In his third outing, Skyfall, we find the series undergoing yet another renaissance of sorts. To discuss those details would involve major spoilers and completely ruin the fun. Just when we thought we knew the new Bond, there’s still plenty more to be seen – and to come. The tuxedos, the Bond girls, the Aston Martin, the gadgets, the puns, the theme, Q – everything finally comes together as expected, bringing with it Bond in the real world that Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace ushered but still giving us all we expect in a Bond film as well.
Skyfall opens with Bond (Craig) in hot pursuit of a hard drive containing the list of every NATO agent’s identity. M (Judi Dench) wants the hard drive returned to the MI6 at any cost. During the chase, Bond winds up duking it out on top of a moving train. M orders Eve (Naomie Harris) to take her shot to take down the bad guy, only to wind up shooting Bond who falls to his seeming death. M can barely muster together a fitting obituary between being harangued by Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) and the MI6’s security getting breached and her office bombed.
The MI6 bombing brings Bond out of “retirement” and is deemed fit for duty by the skin of his teeth. Mallory tells Bond “don’t cock it up,” introduces him to his new quartermaster, Q (Ben Whishaw), and sends him after Patrice (Ola Rapace), our earlier train villain, to Shanghai. Bond lets Patrice go through with an assassination before dropping him off the side of a building, which leads him to a poker chip for a casino in Macau. Here, Bond meets Sévérine (Bérénice Marlohe), who is terrified of someone. That someone turns out to be Silva (Javier Bardem), an ex-MI6 agent thought to be dead but has quite a bone to pick with M, that is if he doesn’t try to bone Bond in the process first.
Just when we thought we knew everything there was to know about our favorite 007 MI6 agent, screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (The World is Not Enough, Die Another Day, Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace), and John Logan (Hugo, Rango), have decided to take a road never traveled by a Bond film before. They add some much surprisingly poignant backstory for a change and make sure the audience is emotionally invested before the action really kicks into high gear (after the film’s opening set piece of course).
Director Sam Mendes (the series’ first Academy Award-winning director) brings everything together with a sense of style and panache that we deserve after kicking the series into a new direction with Casino Royale and the four year hiatus. Cinematographer Roger Deakins creates scenes of beauty while Editor Stuart Baird makes sure we always know what’s going on. From a fist fight atop a moving train to a single-take silhouette fisticuff, the two work as a team to keep Mendes’ vision in tact while moving at a pace that never makes the film seem like it’s 143 minutes. Welcome back, Bond, Skyfall makes for one of the best Bond films ever, if not the best.
Photos courtesy Columbia Pictures