It is all too fitting that the first movie review I include in this blog would be that of the latest addition to one of my most favorite movie franchises, James Bond. Many of us grew up with the Bond movies, be it through marathons of them on television around the holidays or anxiously awaiting the next of the series to hit theaters as was always guaranteed in the credits of it’s predecessor. Either way, James Bond has been a staple piece of cinema and pop-culture for two and now stretching into three generations. With that in mind, I would argue that director Sam Mendes’ contribution to the franchise, Skyfall, not only adds to this year’s list of cinematic feats but also contributes a great deal of class and quality to this year’s pop-culture. In the midst of what has been a superhero heavy few years in film (with such blockbusters as The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, Captain America, etc.- which have been excellent in their own respects), the new Bond film offers a more suave, classic and tasteful hero for movie-goers to embrace.
While Bond the character has certainly become a classic in the minds of many, Daniel Craig’s performance in the role takes 007 to new heights, proving further that he may be the best Bond to date. Rather than portraying the character as the flawless, ever-confident and shameless ladies’ man, Craig gives us a Bond that is more true to that of the character portrayed in the original Ian Fleming books- a worn and slightly cynical yet charming and witty G-Man with unrelenting determination, all wrapped up in a sleek and sensual package. Stepping away from aspects of even his own previous portrayal (in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace), he is slightly less brooding and ruthless this go around. One thing that has stayed consistent in Craig’s Bond is his impeccable style and presentation. From racing motorcycles over rooftops in a Tom Ford suit to preparing for a showdown in a cashmere sweater and vintage leather jacket, his look is timeless and understated. Craig offers a certain degree of versatility to the role as well that is seldom seen in the portrayals of Bond before him, shifting from a smooth operator to a man with a past to the mother/son-like relationship he and M share with great ease.
Speaking of M, the lovely Dame Judy Dench continues her long run in this vital role and does not disappoint. She and Craig play off each other marvelously, offering banter that builds both characters respectively as well as reveals a bond (no pun intended) between the two characters that has not been previously delved into prior to Casino Royale. Dench, elegant and fiery as ever, delivers a confident performance that cannot go unnoticed.
Despite Craig and Dench’s stellar performances, the real show stealer of this film is it’s villain, Mister Silva, portrayed by Javier Bardem. This is interesting considering he is not present in more than half the film, however, Bardem, who is no stranger to the psychotic villain role (having won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in No Country for Old Men), nails this unique yet somewhat Goldeneye-esque (think Sean Bean’s betrayed 006) character in a way that it doesn’t seem any other actor could. Before the movie was over, Bardem stole my heart as my new favorite Bond bad guy. Menacing and devout with just the right amount of humor and charisma, he is frighteningly believable. At times one can find themselves almost pitying the character though this is quickly swept to the side by his borderline disturbing obsession. This is the villain that Craig’s Bond has been waiting for.
As a whole, Skyfall is one of the most visually stunning and artful of the Bond films. Mendes takes his audience around the world in a manner that feels truly Bond: vivid and dreamlike, posh and sultry, over the top and in the shadows. Pleasant surprises such as the appearance of Ralph Fiennes and anticipated revivals like the new Q (granted a much younger, more contemporary rendition of the character) made the long wait (nearly four years) for this film’s debute well worth it. Contemporary with just enough beautiful nostalgia, Skyfall offers a great deal to longstanding fans as well as first timers. It is truly a Bond for the ages.