Bond: the end of the beginning. Daniel Craig is back as James Bond, British Secret Service Agent 007, in what seems to be the final installment of “the making of James Bond.” Directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road), this episode takes a dark direction, taking Bond to his origins as he confronts his nemesis, Silva (Javier Bardem). Craig’s portrayal of the evolving Bond in all three films has focused on the edginess, roughness, and unrefined persona before he becomes the suave and sophisticated agent defined by Bond in past films. He has been the most vulnerable and most realistic of all the Bonds to date.
As the premise of Skyfall, MI6 is under attack, and the story revolves around M (Judi Dench). Bond’s relationship with M is strained when secrets unfold and the villain becomes elusive. It is apparent in this film that M is the “mother,” albeit tough and psychologically fixating, for her agents, and she struggles to maintain control of the collapsing MI6. In the midst of the power play is Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), whose intentions are questionable.
Javier Bardem plays the chillingly psychotic Silva, who obsesses over M and MI6. Powerful enough to take control of an entire island, Silva and his cyber terrorism land him in a face to face confrontation with Bond. One of the most memorable scenes of the film involves homoerotic tension between the two blondes. This brings into question the relationship between Silva and the beautiful Sévérine (played by French actress Bérénice Marlohe).
Skyfall introduces the recurring characters in the franchise. Astonishing is Q, the Quartermaster, played by Ben Whishaw. Young, tech-savvy, and adorably nerdy, he immediately connects with Bond wit for wit. As usual, Bond loses or destroys the gadgets he’s given. Q, however, is in step with modern technology. Long gone are the days with exploding pens. Naomi Harris as Eve, the agent Bond playfully fears for good reason, makes her first appearance as the attentive Miss Moneypenny. It is refreshing to see she is capable of doing more than “secretarial duties.”
With a mix of glam and coarseness, old and new, Skyfall takes a step above recent Bond films. It is a catalyst for future Bond adventures. As in all these films, the theme sequence follows the initial action-packed introductory scene. For Skyfall, Adele’s song is the backdrop for the opening death theme, eerily cool and visually spectacular, one of the best. The worldly locations include Turkey, Shanghai, Macau, Scotland, and of course, Britain. Scotland, however, is where everything comes to a turning point.
Whether or not one is inclined to see a James Bond film, Skyfall is not the one to miss. It is more of a study in character and relationships than pure sterile action, although there is plenty of agent action to keep you visually occupied. Even the Aston Martin DB5 with the ejector seat and weaponry makes an appearance. Cool, tough yet vulnerable, Daniel Craig is one of the better Bonds.