This globetrotting film is, at it’s heart, about family. Just not the most loving kind.
In this, the latest James Bond movie that also marks its 50th anniversary, the plot almost necessarily turns inward on MI6 itself, with the story feeling claustrophobic and very personal. After a harddrive containing the names of undercover agents is lost, and Bond disappears for a while, M herself is targeted as the unhappy focus of a bitter former golden child. Names of the undercover agents will be released every week until M is destroyed, one way or another.
Skyfall’s story is where most of this movie’s strength lies; M is brought to the fore and the movie is as much hers as it is Bond’s. Her past threatens her future, and in so doing throws into sharp comparison the shadow of a younger and more idealistic M with the practical and cynical leader that she is today. However it also signals a shift away from the rest of the films in the Bond franchise. The psychodrama bent makes this one the least Bond-like film I’ve seen, while simultaneously bringing to the fore a side of Bond that we haven’t seen since Connery’s turn in the iconic role.
Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Javier Bardem, Naomi Harris, and Ben Whishaw all turn in fine performances. No complaints; they each did their part well. The stand out performance for me came from Bérénice Marlohe, who was captivating, stealing all the scenes she was in. By far one of the best Bond girls of the ‘femme fatale’ lineage that I’ve seen. From goddess, to priestess, to sacrifice; she was magnificent. Her strength is all brittle sharp edges presented with a too-wide smile, that makes her mesmerising, and her death regretful. The settings are also given their cinemagraphic love-notes, from a Shanghai that electrifies and excites, to the sultry golden glaw of Macau, the sensible and stately London, and the rolling hills and fog of Scotland. One of the best assassination scenes occurs in neon noir Shanghai, while Macau champions a more traditionally Bond-like fight in a Komodo pit.
As great as the action, acting, story, and scenery were…there was still something about this film that threw me off. At the one moment in the film that I should have felt something, that I so desperately wanted to feel something, I felt nothing. And that was a problem. There’s no doubt this film is tight, and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, but some vital connection was missing for me. I’m also left with the feeling that the Bond we see at the end of the film has nowhere left to go.
Overall? 7 out of 10.
Recommendation? It’s a Bond film! See it.
Trailer: Official trailer.
Reviews: Box Office, Slate, AV Club, Hello, Tailor
Director: Sam Mendes
Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomi Harris, Bérénice Marlohe, Ben Whishaw