Visually, Skyfall is arguably the most stunning Bond film I’ve laid my eyes on. Fortunately it packs enough story to make those visuals worthwhile.
Skyfall begins with a harrowing chase sequence, where we are led through the markets of Istanbul, on rooftops in the city bazaar, and along the train route of the Turkish countryside. 007 (Daniel Craig) is in pursuit of a hard drive that contains the identities of numerous undercover agents, a hard drive that has been stolen from MI6. Bond is shot off the top of the train by fellow agent Eve (Naomie Harris) and falls far into the depths of the river beneath him.
Presumed dead by MI6, Bond uses his newfound freedom as a retirement of sorts, until MI6’s system is hacked, its security breached, and its headquarters attacked by the film’s cold and calculated villain Silva (Javier Bardem). M (Judi Dench) is under fire for the issues facing MI6, and it is up to Bond to save both her reputation and her life while Silva does his best to ruin her.
After one great installment (Casino Royale) and one decent one (Quantum of Solace), Skyfall finally allows Daniel Craig to come into his own as James Bond. He is classically suave and cunning, but emotionally deeper than the Bonds of yore. Craig brings his very own style to the role, and all that he does in Skyfall has me excited for the future of the franchise, with Craig under contract to play Bond at least twice more.
But Craig isn’t where the acting kudos end. The supporting cast is excellent, bolstered by an emotionally resonant performance from Judi Dench, a grimly villainous turn from Javier Bardem, and a plethora of great performances from the likes of newcomers Ben Whishaw, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, and Albert Finney.
Combine the acting with some stellar writing and we, as an audience, are treated to some great character development, particularly for Bond and M, but also the likes of Eve, the new Quartermaster Q (Wishaw) and Intelligence Chairman Mallory (Fiennes).
Both the thrilling opening sequence and Bond’s subsequent retirement conjure up memories of July’s superhero hit, The Dark Knight Rises. In fact, director Sam Mendes (American Beauty) has stated in various interviews that Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy — and The Dark Knight in particular — served as a strong influence for Skyfall, and at times it shows. But that is neither here nor there; fortunately, Skyfall feels like a movie in and of its own, no matter its influences.
There is a lot to like here, but I would be remiss not to mention the absolutely gorgeous camerawork of 9-time Oscar-nominee Roger Deakins. He paints a very beautiful picture filled with sweeping images of exotic locales such as Shanghai, Macau, and, of course, the English countryside. Every shot is carefully planned and masterfully executed, making Skyfall the best-looking Bond film to date.
Needless to say, Skyfall is a fully realized film that fires on all cylinders, with daring stunt sequences, great fight scenes, tense drama, superb acting, and some very comedic quips coming from every which way. It’s a film that gets better with multiple viewings, and one I will gladly return to yet again when given the opportunity.