It's no secret that James Bond has never really held much interest for me. In fact Skyfall is only the second 007 film I've seen in the theater. (My first? "Christmas Jones" ring a bell? Ugggh.) With only a small sample of others under my belt, I found the half-century old franchise to be silly, repetitive, cheesy and sexist. Of course the Craig era has helped, at least in Casino Royale, but not enough for me to keep up with the super spy. However, if you hear enough praise of a film for a long enough period of time, it seems worth a matinee trip on a holiday weekend to see what all the fuss is about. And for once, the rumors were (mostly) true.
The thing that sets Skyfall apart from the few others I've seen is that the plot is actually good. It's not just a terrorist threatening mayhem for the sake making money or pissing people off: Silva (Javier Bardem) is a bad guy with a vendetta against M (Judi Dench) and that suddenly makes things more personal than any idiot with his finger on a trigger of a nuclear device. In the process, he blows up MI6 headquarters as a warning to M, whilst threatening to expose the true identities of undercover agents in terrorist organizations. It's not just about exacting revenge on M for past indiscretions, but making her suffer in every way possible. And it's quite cruel.
And this time around Bond didn't just get back to his roots to make the film better (no exploding pens! no invisible cars!), he also dug up his own past a bit. I always feel a little backstory goes a long way, and Skyfall proved that because for the first time I saw Bond as a real person, instead of an MI6 puppet that can be changed out every decade when his expiration date is up. Though the rough patch of the film is too-long-for-its-own-good third act, I still respect it for what it gave to our hero, as the climax plays out at his childhood estate. On top of his past coming back to an emotional surface, 007 also had to face the sad fact that he is not a machine, as he struggles physically after a very close call with death. Even the ladies of his life (Naomi Harris and Berenice Marlohe) had more personality than I remember in others of Bond Girls past.
So a healthy dose of character development and deeper plot mixed with stunning actions sequences (did I forget to mention those?) made a great recipe for what might actually be a Bond film I will be able to pick out of a line up of the other films from the franchise.
Jess' Review - This is the twelfth Bond film I've seen. And I must say it felt the least like a Bond film of all of them. Is that necessarily a bad thing? No, I still enjoyed both the character and the world as much as ever. It definitely lacked some of the whimsy and humor of many Bond films (there was only one major smoldering smile), but it did a great job being full of action, but with a fairly strong story too. The action sequences are broken up with dialogue - who knew that narrating a fight scene over ear pieces would make it that much more exciting!
Bond (Daniel Craig) is trying to find a baddie who stole the list of MI6 agents before their identities are compromised. He goes off the grid for a while, until MI6 is attacked and he returns to help M (Dame Judi Dench) save the day. Unlike a lot of previous Bond films, we meet the bad guy, Silva (Javier Bardem) fairly early in the movie and actually get to spend a while getting to know him. Most Bond films spend time keeping the "larger than life" criminal hidden behind levels of thugs and secret dealings, but this was refreshing in introducing us to the faults of the good guys and the niceties of the bad guys. The Craig era of Bond has been much more focused on Bond as a man, and we do get a lot of his back story in Skyfall.
My biggest issue with the film was the aging Daniel Craig. I don't necessarily mean that he's too old to play the part, but they must have joked about his age, and M's age at least half a dozen times (all without much humor). Since Bond must, out of necessity, be ageless, this seemed like a stupid tack to take. Also, either Craig is actually looking old, or they put on make-up to accent his jowls and general cragginess. It felt like it was getting ready for only one or two more movies and wrapping up the story. Since he's the 6th person to play Bond, I don't understand the point of going in this direction. And for a movie over two and half hours, it's surprising how little really happens. But I still liked the film a lot, more than Quantum of Solace and as much as Casino Royale.