Friday, June 21, 2013


Directed by Sam Mendes.
2012. Rated PG-13, 143 minutes.
Bérénice Marlohe
Ben Whishaw
Ola Rapace
Bill Buckhurst

Skyfall opens with the death of James Bond (Craig), in spectacular fashion, of course. No worries, or spoiler alert necessary. His condition doesn't last long. After all, this is a 007 movie. You just can’t go killing him before the opening credits. Besides, both MI6 and M (Dench) are in great danger. Who else is gonna save the day? However, the genius of this movie is that it’s not really so simple as the hero saving the day, despite appearances.

Someone has stolen a list that reveals the identities of all of MI6’s undercover agents around the world and is fond of sending M personal, if cryptic, messages. This is a big problem, as you might imagine. The already difficult task of retrieving this list and/or tracking down the person responsible is made that much more so by the fact that our hero is suffering from fairly significant physical and emotional issues.

Beginning with Bond himself, extending to M, the entire movie is a dissertation on old vs. new. The franchise itself has long understood that its main character is a relic of the Cold War. He is even referred to as such in one of those abysmal Pierce Brosnan outings. Here, the point is driven home. MI6 is under fire from its own government for being antiquated and clinging to its old ways. We’re also reminded numerous times that Bond is not of this generation. His time seems to have past. As evidence, his edges are more frayed than ever before. Daniel Craig continues to play the role brilliantly, both as a man and a super-spy. With three 007 flicks under his belt, it’s debatable whether or not he’s the best Bond ever. It’s inarguable that his is the most human rendition of the character. And the actor is not alone on his quest to make this true. He’s been given scripts that not only allow him to bleed, but to actually feel.

No matter how much emotion our hero has to deal with, it couldn't be a great Bond movie without heart-pounding action and an eccentric villain. The action is terrifically ridiculous. All manner of vehicle is given a whirl, most notably trains. Lots of fun with trains. There’s lots of exciting hand-to-hand combat and plenty of shooting. Oh, and we have some rather large man-eating lizards. The only drawback in the action department is the best sequence opens the movie. We keep hoping something will top it, but none can. What happens with the helicopter during the last big set gets closest. Still, it’s all loads of fun.

As far as our bad guy, Silver, he’s gleefully played by Javier Bardem who brings his usual excellence to the role and has fun with it. Unfortunately, he may have a little too much fun. Silver comes off more amusing, if creepy and eventually pathetic, than menacing. True, he puts our hero into some harrowing situations. I’m just not so sure he inspires feelings of dread. That’s a bit disappointing since the same actor gave us one of this century’s most frightening film villains in No Country for Old Men.

Luckily for us, this is the rare Bond film that doesn’t sink or swim based on its bad guy. That’s because, at the end of the day, Skyfall is probably the most self-aware Bond film ever made. Of the three Daniel Craig entries into the canon, two of them are excellent. The first, Casino Royale, is a brilliant series reboot. Also self-aware, it purposely avoids the cheesiest and most over-the-top aspects of the franchise. Most noticeably, Bond’s gadgets, which the Brosnan flicks were overrun by, are nowhere to be found. In their absence we begin to delve into the psychology of the character along with the action. This is where some tenets of Bond, such as his love for scotch, are no longer seen as just things that a cool and manly super-spy does. Quantum of Solace, an incoherent mess, is the oddball. It’s somewhat enjoyable, but a far cry from its predecessor. Skyfall is a return to greatness. It continuously questions its own place in today’s world. It questions the way its hero and, by extension, the movie itself goes about its business. It even gives us a few gadgets, simultaneously paying homage to Bond’s glorious past and wondering whether they have any place in his future. Even M must face this same judgment, both explicitly by members of Parliament and within the film’s subtext. Much more than just another Bond flick, or an excuse to showcase shootouts and car chases, this is a movie that recognizes the status of its protagonist as a pop-culture icon and his battle to stay relevant.


  1. Not the best Bond movie ever, but one of the best action movies of last year and just a total thrill-ride from beginning to end, with a couple of great character moments shoved in there as well. Nice review Wendell.

  2. Honestly, I'm not so sure it's not the best Bond ever. At the very least, it "might" be my personal fave. I'll have to watch some of the others again to know for sure. It just all clicked for me. Thanks!