Bond. James Bond.
I’m a little new to the 007 phenomena as I didn’t really get into the James Bond movies until I was in grad school. A friend was a big fan of the franchise and used to make me sit down and watch some of the older films, usually when he had me captive at his house on Cape Cod. I was a little resistant at first – did I really need to like another thing that most girls don’t seem particularly interested in – but that melted away pretty quickly. There is a reason that Bond is one of the most iconic film characters that has been able to survive 50 years of various actors portraying him.
It’s because he’s awesome.
007 movies have a little bit of something for everyone – Bond, in all his incarnation, is so suave and indestructible that you really can’t help but be mesmerized by him. Then there are the Bond villains – while they tend toward the more ridiculous side, they are always entertaining and have some good one liners. If you like gadgets, Bond has plenty of them. If you like cars, he’s got those too. Some of the movies have dashes of romance, though Bond is more the “love ‘em and leave ‘em” type.
Once my friend had me cut my teeth on the older Bond films, I started going to see them in the theater as they were released. When I first jumped on board, Pierce Brosnan was the face of the franchise. Having grown up on Remington Steele, I thought that Brosnan was a great Bond. In fact, I couldn’t really imagine anyone else playing him at this point in the series.
And then came Casino Royale.
I had liked Daniel Craig since I saw him in the little known film Layer Cake, so I was a fan of his already. But I never imagined that he would become my favorite Bond of all time (sorry, Sean Connery). The open sequence of Casino Royale was like nothing I’d ever seen in a Bond film; those first moments had more action jam packed into them than all the other Bond movies combined. Craig completely personified Bond, but a new and improved version; he was still the “too cool for school” secret agent that could seduce women basically by looking at them, but he was also a rough and tough action star that could throw (and take) a punch. With Casino Royale, the Bond franchise was rebooted and reinvigorated.
I’m happy to say that Skyfall continues the trend started with Casino Royale. It is everything I could have hoped for in a new Bond film and was worth the wait. It may, in fact, be the best Bond film yet.
The film opens with an exhilarating chase through the streets of Turkey that is just too crazy to even try and explain. But suffice to say if that sequence doesn’t get your heart pumping, I don’t know what will. Again, Craig demonstrates that he is a bona fide action star. His James Bond is more than just a pretty face (but what a pretty face it is); he can get down and dirty when he needs to. Skyfall rivals Casino Royale in the amount of adrenaline that they cram into the first ten minutes. At one point, I remember thinking to myself “Wow. And they haven’t even done the opening credits yet!”
Skyfall slows down a bit after the opening sequence as the story unfolds. Someone is terrorizing MI6 generally and M (Judi Dench) specifically. Whoever is behind this plot seems to have a personal vendetta against the Head of Secret Intelligence Service, and it forces a closer examination of M’s relationship with her agents. Also in play is a disk that has the identity of agents currently undercover in terrorist organizations. If their cover is blown, they will be killed. Bond must decide what his loyalty is to M and prove that he is still up to job of being a 007, all against the backdrop of a government investigation into whether the double O program is even still relevant.
However, the film never completely slows down. Though it doesn’t ever match the insanity of the opening sequence, there is plenty of action scattered throughout the rest of the film. There are some moments of reflection as we find out some information about Bond’s childhood circumstances. And by my count, he manages to sleep with at least three women and drinks at least one martini (shaken, not stirred), though this Bond is more a beer man (thanks to a deal with Heineken). So there is a lot going on.
With Javier Bardem, Skyfall may also boast my favorite Bond villain. Bardem can be extremely menacing – just watch him in his Academy Award winning performance in No Country for Old Men – but he brings a certain flair to his portrayal of Raoul Silva. He’s still very dangerous and slightly unhinged, but he also seems to revel in being the big bad. As Bond says at one point in the film, Silva “likes to make an entrance.” I like my villains to have a little panache and Bardem has it in spades. His Silva may be some sort of distant relation to Heath Ledger’s The Joker.
The rest of the cast is great too. In Skyfall, Judi Dench is more front and center than she has been in previous films, or than the character M has been generally in the franchise as a whole. There’s not much that can be said about Dench that hasn’t already been said – she’s always fantastic. I thoroughly enjoyed the scenes that she and Craig shared; they work very well together. We get a new Q in Skyfall as well – Ben Whishaw isn’t a household name in this country, but he stars in the BBC program The Hour (the entire first season is sitting on my DVR). Ralph Fiennes is also very good in his more limited role as the Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee.
My only real critique of the film is that it is a little long – it clocked in at 143 minutes – and there are some areas that are a little slow. Those moments are few and far between, but I think there were some places where thing could have been cut to make a sleeker film. Because I obviously know more than director Sam Mendes 🙂 Mendes shot a beautiful film; the visuals in Skyfall are quite breathtaking and the colors in some scenes are luscious. I hope he remains on board for future films.
Some other quick thoughts:
- This was the first time that I heard Adele’s theme song in its entirety and it was unsurprisingly spectacular. One of my favorite things about the 007 films is the opening credits and Skyfall did not disappoint.
- Ugh – once again someone brought a small child to the screening, who fussed throughout the film. I’ve got to give the kid credit – he/she seemed to know exactly when the film was going to get quiet so that the crying and “mama” chants would be most distracting. And once again, the parents did not leave the theater while their child was being a disruption.
- One of the more fun moments – the appearance of an inanimate object got an applause line from the audience. Clearly, these were Bond fans.
- I’m actually writing this review while listening to a compilation of the various Bond movie theme songs on Spotify. Because I am a dork.
- Daniel Craig takes his shirt off several times throughout the film. You know, if you are into that sort of thing.
- There is something so satisfying about seeing the tag line “James Bond will return” at the end of the film. Craig has signed up to do at least two more films, which makes me very happy.
- I managed to snag a very cool movie poster from the studio executive, with the idea that I would give it away as a gift. However, I’ve grown to like the idea of Daniel Craig in a tuxedo hanging somewhere in my house.
- If you are interested in all things Bond, here’s some articles online that you may want to check out:
The A.V. Club also put together a primer on the James Bond franchise.
A chart of Bond’s sexual conquests (Vulture)
Slate does a ranking of everything 007 – best movies, books villains and songs
Esquire takes a look at the new book, The James Bond Archives.
Someone decided to make a video, pitting all the various Bonds against each other in a death match (using footage from the films)
You don’t have to be a fan of the Bond franchise to enjoy Skyfall; even if you’ve never seen a Bond movie, you will be able to understand everything that is going on. However, if you are a 007 enthusiast, there are plenty of little shout outs to the history of the character. I’m sure that some people in the theater were wondering why people were clapping at different points during the film. Skyfall may very well be the best not only of the Daniel Craig years, but of the entire series. It is a worthy film to commemorate fifty years of James Bond. We left the cinema very happy.
Skyfall opens nationwide on Friday November 9th.