This is the end.
Skyfall’s theme song begins with these words. Though you might think it’s melodramatic, it is really the cold, hard facts. What viewers have come to know about the James Bond we met back in Dr. No (why he is the way he is as a spy, with women, etc) is all out of the window. We now know the gritty details of his past on why he is shaken and never stirred. Some have labeled this the best Bond ever. Let’s see.
Daniel Craig takes on the most challenging foe Bond’s ever faced in Skyfall: the absurdity of 007’s existence. In a way, Bond also tackles a second arch-nemesis as well; an elusive enemy he’s chased but never caught since Craig took the helm: Jason Bourne.
Many say Jason Bourne plays a better Bond than James Bond and they share more than just initials. The gritty, realistic turn the 007 movies have taken, for instance. The brutal physicality Craig gives Bond is great but it’s a reaction to his American cousin. Still, if the premise is that Bond is the greatest spy On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (pun intended), who can bed any woman and save the world to Die Another Day, shouldn’t that guy also be able to beat The Living Daylights (I’m here all night, folks) out of you? So it fits.
Bond finally steps out of Bourne’s shadow by admitting what we all know: no man could do this. Daniel Craig’s Bond is superbly fit, but at age 44 no football team would sign him. How could 007 possibly be a functional agent when he can’t fit in exercise let alone sort through his personal issues or his reckless alcoholism? Bond can’t and Skyfall embraces that. Craig’s 007 bleeds, sweats, loses breath, gets drunk, has body odor and even grows a “whatever-who-cares” beard. This movie establishes that what makes Bond Bond isn’t the superficial things like a preferred drink, hair color or the women he gets; it’s the strength of his will and determination to get the job done.
Judi Dench, reprising her role as James Bond’s mother-er, I mean, “M” is still a great conscience for a Bond on the verge of self control. Javier Bardem as Raoul Silva is an amusingly deranged reminder of the days when Bond villains were just nuts. After the criminal banker Le Chiffre and the amoral green energy mogul Dominic Greene, it’s nice to see a Bond villain who just wants to torment people again. 007 is three steps behind him through most of the film and his irritated confusion works well alongside his feelings on aging.
Skyfall’s theme song by Adele and the title sequence were both superb enough to make us all forget how much we hated the two in Quantum of Solace. I still favor “You Know My Name” as a song but “Skyfall” plays during a true Bond opening in keeping with the movie series.
The Bad and the Ugly:
Dench is fantastic as “M” but the mother-figure take is clichéd. Archer should have been a wake up call and perhaps we’ll see changes in the next two installments. As enjoyable as Bardem was, the nagging question of “Why didn’t he kill them when he had the chance?” reminds everyone in the theater why we prefer our villains as murderous financiers and soulless, renewable energy corporate CEOs: they’re believable.
Bond movies are known for their one-liners. “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.” “Miss Anders… I didn’t recognize you with your clothes on.” The list is endless. This film, however, delivered one-liners at the expense of fluid dialog. Some of them were quite amusing but taxed the rhythm of the movie. Bond’s tense chess match with Le Chiffre or his battle of wits on the train with Vesper are now a part of Bond lore. Skyfall didn’t quite have that finesse.
I like Albert Finney but his character was so clearly written for Sir Thomas Sean Connery that it was painful to watch. If Eon Productions could not convince the original movie Bond to come out of retirement for the 50-year anniversary, they should have just cut the role.
Best Bond ever? Difficult to say. Is this the most human, most dynamic Bond yet? Absolutely. All things considered, Skyfall is one of the most entertaining flicks of the year.