Dir: Sam Mendes, 2012
MI6’s credibility is threatened when a hard-drive containing the identities of every undercover British agent is stolen from under their nose. M is in more need of James Bond than ever before, though 007 is physically and psychologically broken after almost being killed by his own agency in a mission gone wrong.
Sam Mendes admits that Skyfall is directly influenced by The Dark Knight and it’s obvious that he drew from the best parts of Nolan’s reimagined Batman to bring Bond into darker territories than ever before, sleek as it is sinister and as compelling as it is respectful. The night is indeed at its darkest in Bond’s 23rd outing as a cyber-terrorist is destroying MI6 from the inside out, M’s job is being pulled from under her and the world’s best secret agent is out of the game.
Interestingly, Skyfall acts as an unofficial second reboot of the series. The classic charm and gadgetry of the old 007 was abandoned in favour of Casino Royale and Quantum’s solemn, Bournesque realism. Refusing to foxhole himself, the Academy Award winning Mendes combines the two and fuses the family adventure with the dark undertones that modern spy films demand. In this hybrid, treachery and death go hand-in-hand with Aston Martins and pyjama quips.
Many were initially sceptical that putting the man who came to prominence with American Beauty in charge would explore the character of Bond and take the gun from his hand. From the first frame, Mendes shows his diversity by hitting us with possibly the best opening scene in all of Bond’s fifty years. Skyfall is laced with explosivity whether it’s crane-on-train action, underground chase scenes or a manor assault in Scotland, all filmed to perfection through the lens of cinematographer Roger Deakins – who provides the most flourishing images this series has ever produced.
The greatest advantage Skyfall has, however, is its cast. Javier Bardem’s Silva returns the terrorizing villainy that Bond has been missing for decades. The antithesis between Bond and Silva is a replicate of the Batman and Two-Face relationship in which Skyfall introduces us to a character who is simply a 007 who took a different shot. Judi Dench’s seventh portrayal of M is her juiciest yet as her character is finally placed under the telescope. Meanwhile, Ben Whishaw’s new Quartermaster is a delightful comic relief, taking a few friendly notes from Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor, from one Brit to another. However, it’s seemingly Craig himself who can’t hold his weight, portraying Bond in less fragile a way than previous, despite the character’s aforementioned worse circumstances.
The film is certainly innovative and doesn’t belong to the claustrophobic reins of the Bond franchise but the tragedy isn’t exuberated in as sympathetic a fashion as Casino or Quantum. Mendes silences both the new age anarchist and easygoing traditionalists by creating a Bond who is truly timeless. It’s true that you can teach an old dog new tricks but that doesn’t necessarily mean he has to forget the old ones.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆