Film Review: Skyfall

It’s fun to think back to the days when Daniel Craig was first announced as Pierce Brosnan’s successor for the role of James Bond. At the time, Craig was relatively unknown and there was a core constituency of fans that absolutely revolted at his selection. After all, the man had blond hair and James Bond has black hair, plus a bunch of other equally substantive issues.

Just a few years later though and that backlash seems almost comical. Craig’s involvement (along with at least a few bright writers and directors) has been a windfall for the series, humanizing the character and sparking new life into a franchise that had become increasingly formulaic.

Skyfall continues this trend, once again presenting movie-goers with a more complex incarnation of the secret agent. In many respects this is an origin story for Bond.

The basic plot is rather run of the mill – Bond has to stop an international terrorist (Javier Bardem) from releasing a list of MI6 agents embedded in terrorist organizations all over the world – but this is really just a platform to explore 007’s troubled psyche, including his unfortunate childhood and complicated relationship with spymaster M (Judi Dench). In fact it’s that latter story that really forms the heart of Skyfall. This is as much Dench’s movie as it is Craig’s, and the two of them work fantastically with each other.

That isn’t to say that the supporting players don’t also add some colour to the proceedings though. Javier Bardem’s off kilter take on villain Raoul Silva wouldn’t feel out of place in an earlier Bond film, yet makes the character feel plausible enough to gel with the current tone of the franchise. And without ruining too much, he serves as a nice counterpoint to the more nuanced tension between Bond and M.

Likewise, some of my favourite scenes involved the introduction of Bond’s new quartermaster,  familiar to fans of the series as Q (Ben Whishaw). The stark contrast between this iteration of Q and previous versions of the character was quite funny, operating as an almost meta-commentary on the current direction of the franchise. Let’s just say the gadgets in Skyfall are appropriately pragmatic.

This leads nicely into a discussion of some of Skyfall’s action elements. The influence of the Bourne movies is quite tangible here. Major set pieces remain grandiose in feel yet are comparatively grounded for a Bond movie. On the whole, this is one of the areas where I think Skyfall impresses the most. Action fans will undoubtedly be happy with the pace and style of these scenes, and yet they don’t ever strain credibility or feel out of place.

For instance, you have no idea how refreshing it is to watch an action star have to stop and reload. It’s a small moment in the grand scheme of things but it does marvels for the overall tone of the film. Suddenly Bond is subject to the same real world constraints as anyone else, which removes his air of invincibility and further humanizes his character.

The Bond of Skyfall is a man who is all too aware that he is expendable and it’s moments like these that remind the audience the dangers of his profession. So yeah… I got all that from watching him reload.

Skyfall doesn’t have the same intelligence of the Bourne movies. It can be a bit predictable at times and if you look closely enough there are few plot holes sprinkled in for good measure. But it does what a James Bond movie is supposed to do without reducing the character to a one dimensional catch phrase generator.

Frankly, I hope to see many more movies with Daniel Craig as Bond. As far as I’m concerned the franchise is on the right track with him at the helm.