Since the birth of the franchise, Ian Fleming’s secret agent has blown the minds of worldwide audiences over roughly two generations as have the actors in the role along with symbolic props, iconic quotes, action and creative supporting characters. If we refresh our most recent memory of the James Bond series, we’d recall that it almost came to waste with the slippery, chaotic, baffled mess known as Quantum Of Solace. With this in mind and with the 50th anniversary of the franchise approaching, the next installment in the series had a lot going against it. Amazingly, Skyfall became a breath-taking thrill-ride that is not only a very modernized James Bond film, but is also very traditional that serves as a big thumbs-up to notably the Sean Connery, George Lazenby and early Roger Moore classics.
Sam Mendes taking the seat as director of Skyfall was, initially, a little unusual. The man won Best Director in his directorial debut but it was his lack of action film experience at the time that created a few uncertainties. With Skyfall, Mendes might have still followed from certain traces within his previous works, such as breath-taking cinematography, art direction and emotional drama (which has only really come into play with Daniel Craig’s Bond’s) but action-wise, he delivers exceptionally well and regenerates his own career as well as the James Bond series. The screenplay that was written by Robert Wade, his long-time collaborator Neal Purvis and Oscar-nominated writer John Logan go somewhere totally different compared to past James Bond films. There is a sense of creativity about it as it is written in styles of two different time settings. It beautifully mixes the modern and, at times, hilarious gags alongside the use of impressive technological effects with the traditional re-development of iconic Bond villains and girls.
In comparison to his five predecessors, Daniel Craig is easily the most emotionally engaging actor within the role. His performances in Casino Royale and, reluctantly, Quantum Of Solace, we saw a very different James Bond with a genuinely heartfelt yet cold-hearted nature. However, in Skyfall, he becomes another different Bond. This time, he establishes a connection to Sean Connery’s portrayal of the character. For example, Craig’s seductive, charming and sometimes sarcastic approach to women in Skyfall becomes a bit of a more unrealistic and comical touch, which thankfully leads it further away to making its mark as a romantic-drama. Surprisingly, we also get a glimpse at Bond’s young life and childhood where we can visualize him as a normal human being as well as a MI6 agent on duty. Nevertheless, Craig’s remarkable return in the role has really helped redeem the series after its previous mistake.
With quite possibly the most highlighted supporting cast out of all 23 James Bond films thus far, the newbies in the series deliver fantastic performances as do the returning actors. Javier Bardem, the Oscar winner for No Country For Old Men, in the role of a Bond villain is truly a match made in heaven. He took on the role of Raoul Silva/Tiago Gonzalez, a former MI6 agent hell bent on vengeance against those who betrayed him. Bardem’s performance unusually connects with Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. Silva is sadistic and gets laughable enjoyment from seeing others suffer. Bond villains are normally comical, gangster/mafia kingpins or terrorists but Silva establishes dark psychological issues, which is possibly the first time in the series. Furthermore, Judi Dench beautifully delivers in her 7th role as M. Like Bond, we get a closer insight to her personal character from the past and Dench has more involvement in Skyfall than in any other Bond film. Bond girls Bérénice Marlohe and Naomie Harris make their beautiful presence known in the film with the latter in a very crucial role. Nobody could ever replace Desmond Llewellyn as Q but unusually, a much younger actor - Ben Whishaw is chosen. Whishaw reinterprets the creative and ingenious personality of Q and will look forward to seeing him return in future projects. The icing on the cake was, of course, the great Ralph Fiennes making a highlighted but very important role as Gareth Mallory.
With this 23rd James Bond installment going through pre-production hell, similar to The Hobbit, Skyfall almost became the film in the series that we were never able to see. Admittedly, there were some very slight, dreary pacing issues but despite that, there is no doubt that it is one of the best films in the series and rightfully deserves some recognition at the upcoming Academy Awards. To cut it short, Skyfall honours the 50th anniversary of Ian Fleming’s franchise in a creative and remarkable fashion alongside what we have today and has become the dawning of another new era.