When Ian Fleming published his very first James Bond novel "Casino Royale" all the way back in 1953, even he could have not conceived that his wonderful catalogue of espionage books would have lasted so long on the silver screen. Skyfall is newest addition to the longest running movie franchise in history. It also marks the 50th anniversary of James Bond on film. As you would expect, the super secret agent 007 returns yet again in the 23rd edition of the franchise. The role of James Bond is once again reprised by ever resourceful Daniel Craig, who with each outing is solidifying himself in the role while at the same time successfully not being typecast. This is quite a compliment considering the route of his predecessors, with the exception of Sean Connery, the original and arguably the greatest Bond.
Daniel Craig as 007 along with the famous Aston Martin DB5
Skyfall follows the series of events that occur as a result of the "apparent" death of James Bond while on duty for the British Secret Service. Bond is forced out of exile when a series of catastrophic events rattle the foundation of London. This is a direct consequence of decisions made by M, whose past is beginning to haunt her.
Bond girl Severine played by the stunning Berenice Marlohe
Unlike "Casino Royale", Skyfall is not officially an Ian Fleming novel. This is highly unfortunate, as the vast majority of Fleming's 007 books have already been converted for the silver screen. This is in spite of the fact that many of the novels were greatly modified for their screen adaptation, especially in the Roger Moore era. Screen writers Neil Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan have made a respectable attempt at adapting Fleming's James Bond character for Skyfall. However many Bond enthusiasts will sense gaps in the story that are just not present in the movies inspired by the Ian Fleming books.
From the moment you begin watching Skyfall you know you are experiencing a Bond movie, from the opening non-stop action sequence to Adele's booming rendition during the opening credits. Adele's theme "Skyfall" clearly attempts to take audiences back to the days of Shirley Bassey's marvellous "Goldfinger" and "Diamonds are Forever", and it succeeds remarkably well. It is easily the best Bond theme in recent times.
As the film continues you get the sense that after what seems like an infinite amount of outings in previous films bordering on the surreal, the "new" approach to the franchise is quite stripped back from its previous counterparts. This leads to a more realistic version of the story, as well as being more book accurate when cross examined against the Ian Fleming novels. Although, this does mean there are considerably less "gadgets". But Bond aficionados are not to fear, as an Aston Martin does make an appearance.
Scenes from the movie are wonderfully picturesque, as director Sam Mendes takes us abroad to locations like Istanbul, Shanghai, Glencoe and of course London. If there is one thing that a Bond movie does well, it's that it is a wonderful postcard for cities across the globe. Skyfall is no exception. There is some amazing cinematography throughout the movie, especially during the opening sequence. The locations in this film are as vital as the characters, contributing to the storytelling process extremely well.
Composer Thomas Newman, famous for scoring movies such as American Beauty, The Shawshank Redemption and Meet Joe Black, does a brilliant job with scoring Skyfall. He manages to encapsulate classic James Bond while leaving his own unique signature on the franchise. If there is one criticism it's that one Bond theme is never enough.
Skyfall has a stellar cast, including Daniel Craig and Javier Bardem
Skyfall puts together a remarkable cast full of British talent. In addition to Daniel Craig, the role of M is once again played by the wonderful Dame Judi Dench. Ralph Fiennes makes a significant mark on the movie as Gareth Mallory, and there is also a minor role for Albert Finney. The female ranks are bolstered by "Bond Girls" Naomie Harris as field agent Eve and the stunning Berenice Marlohe who plays Severine. Then of course there is Spaniard Javier Bardem taking the role of the maniacal Raoul Silva.
Daniel Craig puts on a stellar performance as James Bond. He is measured and calculating with the familiar dry wit everyone loves, yet he demonstrates an instability and vulnerability bordering on self destructive, which makes him all the more unpredictable and dangerous. Bond's loyalty to queen and country are undeniable, however the character's womanising ways have been sacrificed as a result. His liaisons seem to be more to do with duty rather than a guilty pleasure which was demonstrated with Craig's predecessors. However, Bond film traditionalists can rest easy as this trend seems to be slowly changing. Bond's encounters with femme fatales are definitely on the increase when compared to the previous film Quantum of Solace.
It is clear that Daniel Craig is the stand out in this film, but does this make him the greatest James Bond? There are moments in the film that leave you missing the delivery of one-liners from Sean Connery's James Bond. Craig delivers the dialogue well enough, yet it lacks the charm of Connery's version. If audience members find themselves distracted for a moment, then they may miss innuendo in the subtext of the dialogue. There is also an element of indifference and confidence under pressure with Sean Connery's Bond which is not as evident in Daniel Craig's version. However, in truth Daniel Craig's version of the character is a more accurate representation of Ian Fleming's imagining of James Bond as written in his books. This goes for both appearance and personality. Credit has to be given to Craig for taking the character back in this direction.
Dame Judi Dench's performance as M is consistently good as always. She displays great combinations of strength and vulnerability, and her quips toward Bond are highly humorous. Although her performance as M perhaps offers too much vulnerability leaving the audience to question whether she is adequate for the position. When compared to Bernard Lee's version of M, who was more organised, thoughtful and in control, you are left wanting more. For those who are not familiar, Bernard Lee played the role of M from 1962 to 1979 during the Sean Connery and early Roger Moore era. This balance allowed for Bond to be more dynamic and irresponsible, which added charm to the character. This is also more accurate of Ian Fleming's vision of M in the novels. Judi Dench's version of M perhaps relies too much on Bond for her own well being, which is illogical considering Bond's instability and immaturity at times. However, this may be a direct result of the writers of Skyfall looking to transition as the franchise continues.
Javier Bardem has the scene stealing moment in the film when he makes his first appearance as Raoul Silva. He is calm and serene, yet manic to the point of being frightening. His ruthlessness is also chilling, and is more than a formidable opponent to Daniel Craig's Bond. Silva's instability becomes more obvious as the movie progresses with terrifying results. However, the character becomes inconsistent as he gets closer to his goal of revenge to the point of being incongruent. While initially being overly ruthless and measured to the point of being apathetic, he becomes obsessive and sloppy which ultimately leads to his own demise. Silva's goal for revenge also comes off as petty and underwhelming when compared to previous Bond villains, especially when Silva's skill set and drive are more than capable of world domination.
Ralph Fiennes as Gareth Mallory is the paradox in the film. His wonderful performance leaves you wondering throughout the movie whether his motives are good or sinister. The audience is left guessing right until the very end, when a hint at the plot for future films is revealed. His charisma and presence were definitely needed to reinvigorate the franchise. Only the likes of Ralph Fiennes can be likable and suspicious all at the same time.
Albert Finney's role in the film can only be referred to as a cameo. His time on screen is far too short, in a part that is quite insignificant to the movies plot. However his on screen charm still remains with you once you leave the cinema.
As for the Bond Girls, Naomie Harris makes a respectable appearance in the movie as Eve, a field agent for MI6. She takes no time at all the leave her mark on James Bond, literally. Once the movie unfolds, you are left with the impression that you will be seeing her in future films. However, you are also left feeling unconvinced about her chemistry with Daniel Craig as James Bond. Conversely, Berenice Marlohe is absolutely captivating from the moment she appears on screen. As Severine her chemistry with Bond is undeniable. She displays all the aloofness, sensuality and vulnerability you would expect in an Ian Fleming story.
Ben Whishaw is intriguing as the new Q. His introduction to the film is incredibly witty and he comes off as quite likeable. However he does lack the charisma and finesse of his predecessors John Cleese and Desmond Llewelyn, who played Q in the vast majority of the Bond films.
To summarise, Skyfall is a more than adequate addition to MGM's James Bond franchise. It has all the thrills and spills you are expecting from a Bond movie. There are humorous moments, breath taking landscapes, jaw dropping stunts and of course all the typical Bond sensuality and excitement. However, rather than an epic celebration of 50 years of James Bond on film, you are left feeling that it is a movie franchise in transition. It is a certainty the Daniel Craig will remain as beloved secret agent for the foreseeable future, although James Bond's world around him is beginning to change.
If the ending is any indication, it seems inevitable that James Bond will return to his origins in a more stripped back format, as inspired by the original Ian Fleming novels. This could be due to the audience's growing intelligence and hunger for more realism. Although, most likely it is the movie studio's realisation that you can't perfect on the perfection that already exists within the writing of the original Ian Fleming novels. Either way it is a step in the right direction.