Director: Sam Mendes
Cast: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Berenice Marlohe, Naomie Harris, Albert Finney, Ben Whishaw
Plot: After a botched mission, Bond is presumed dead and a list of secret identities of NATO agents across the globe falls into the wrong hands. When MI6 headquarters is attacked, Bond comes out of retirement to protect M from a former agent who has a score to settle with her.
Review: I've always wondered what was it that keeps the Bond film machine going for 50 years. As a film fan, I was getting tired of the same formula: Bond goes on a mission, and through one liners, death defying stunts, gadgets and pretty ladies, he kills the villain and saves the day. Every time. Even Daniel Craig's version of James Bond, who takes everything personally, was wearing me down.
Sam Mendes, to his credit, along with scriptwriters Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan, have made a Bond film that really stands out in Skyfall. Don't get me wrong, the familiar formula is still more or less there, so no groundbreaking approach here. But it's a compelling take on the most famous secret agent in history, and Mendes and company have done an outstanding job in making every second on film count.
The plot actually resembles Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, and even Mendes has admitted his inspiration from there. If you've seen Nolan's take on Batman, you'll notice the similarities here, of a hero who has to rediscover his abilities in order to do his job, as well as Javier Bardem's villain who is somewhat like Heath Ledger's Joker, minus the makeup and grandeur.
The film also scores technically, with Roger Deakins (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, No Country For Old Men, Jarhead among others) capturing the beautiful scenery of Shanghai, Macau and Scotland. The fight scenes are well shot too, and Thomas Newman does a good job with the music, even sampling the familiar 60s Bond theme during the reintroduction of a familiar Bond vehicle from that era (one of my favorite parts of this film).
The last two Bond films focused on his relationship with Vesper Lynd, but this time it's with M, and it is so well done. Bond and M's love hate relationship is put to the test as she chooses to rely on her number one guy who isn't as good as he used to be, while he has to put aside any resentment he has towards her to do his job. Daniel Craig and Judi Dench are fantastic here, playing off each other splendidly that it overshadows everything else on film. Coming in a close second to them is Javier Bardem as Bond villain Silva, who in some way is a tragic bad guy, only wanting retribution against M for her past actions. Bardem is charismatic in his role, looking charming and demented at the same time, and nearly steals the show.
Ralph Fiennes is also great in the role of Mallory, M's superior while Berenice Marlohe and Naomie Harris play the sort of Bond girls, the former making a good impression with her limited screen time, the latter being somewhat dull. I also liked Ben Whishaw as a young Q, looking like a college nerd but still managing to hold his own against 007.
If there's anything wrong with this film, it's the rather anticlimactic end to the Bond-M-Silva triangle, and the aforementioned Naomie Harris. But overall I can't deny that this is one of the most entertaining Bond films I've seen in a while. Recommended. (4/5)
P.S.: The Adele theme song is not bad, but I still prefer Duran Duran's A View To A Kill.