“Skyfall” (2012) is One of the Most Personal Bond Ever, and One of the Best


Skyfall Poster

MI6 is under attack.  Its security has been breached by a cyberterrorist who has exposed the British secret service’s undercover operatives and has wrecked havoc in the city of London.  And James Bond (Daniel Craig), who usually saves the world, must do something that hits much closer to home: to defend and save the very existence of the agency that he works for.   That is the premise of “Skyfall” (2012), the latest in the venerable James Bond series that is also one of the best ever.

The film is spectacular from its opening chase sequences through Istanbul in Turkey as Bond tries to recover a hard disk with the help of his partner on the field, Eva (Naomie Harris).  This is probably the longest teaser in the franchise history and it is an instant classic.  A car chase is followed by a bike chase, which is followed by a fight on the rooftop of a running train.  The premise of these scenes isn’t new–“Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) had a memorable bike chase through Saigon and “Octopussy” (1983) had Bond trying to keep balance on a roof of a train–but the execution in the most recent version is at a much higher level of intensity.  The scenes are gripping introduction to the film, even more so because Bond is ultimately unsuccessful in recovering the disk and he is presumed to have died in action.

Bond is obviously still alive, but meanwhile in London, a cyberterrorist has managed to hack into MI6’s computer system and detonate an explosion that killed several agents.  Injured and enjoying the time off but unable to sit idly by, Bond comes back to hunt down the man responsible.  As Bond gets closer to the terrorist behind it all, Silva, (Javier Bardem), he learns that it’s really his boss, M (Judi Dench), who’s under attack.

“Skyfall” is a deeply personal movie.   Rather than trying to take down some evil global scheme somewhere across the world, Bond is trying to protect his boss in the heart of England’s capital.  The Bond series has gone personal before, most notably in the “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969) and “License to Kill (1989).  Both box office failures, these movies are two of the most underrated in the series and it says a lot that “Skyfall” manages to better them both.

The newest installment explores entirely new ground, like Bond’s complicated relationship with M, or elaborates on what was only fleetingly referenced before, like Bond’s childhood.  Over the years, I’ve made no secret of the fact that I haven’t been a fan of Daniel Craig playing the title character, but he was convincing playing Bond as a conflicted soul.  I suspect Craig’s rawness was perfect for the dark script, but he has also managed to polish the character so there is finally some semblance of suaveness that has traditionally been one of James Bond’s main attraction.  Seeing Craig, in a tuxedo, pull off a casino scene in Macau, I couldn’t help but think how far he has come from “Casino Royale” (2006).

Indeed, it’s the balance of the traditional with the new that makes “Skyfall” worthy of its 50th anniversary designation.  Whereas the last anniversary installment, “Die Another Day” (2002), the 20th film in 40 years, was offensive in its failure to appreciate the magic of the Bond series while making references to the past movies like shameless product placements, the semi-centurial celebration of “Skyfall” has the necessary respect for the past.  In that spirit, Bond hops the globe from one stunningly beautiful scenery to the next, à la Turkey to Shanghai, then Macau and Scotland, but also engages in action throughout London for the first time.  Q (Ben Whishaw) makes a comeback, but makes a wisecrack about an exploding pen that appeared in Goldeneye (1995).  Old gadgets, though, aren’t all rejected; it was breathtaking when the Bentley from Goldfinger (1964) made an appearance.  And the very ending of the film, with Bond in M’s office, brings the series full-circle, to the pre-Craig era.  These subtle touches will satisfy the traditional purists, and much of the credit must go to the screenwriters Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan as well as director Sam Mendes for guiding the strong material perfectly.

To be sure, the movie isn’t perfect.  Silva, the villain, is described as frightening, but his pursuit to satisfy his personal vendetta against M isn’t particularly menacing.  Perhaps as a result, or because Bond and M become isolated, the final action sequence, which drags on a little too long, also lacks the intensity that the first three-quarter of the film carried.

But perhaps any complaint about the villain misses the point, because “Skyfall” is, perhaps for the first time, really about James Bond.  The filmmakers have done a masterful job of breaking new ground about a character who has become familiar to two and a half generations of moviegoers through 23 films.  “Skyfall” is quite a cinematic achievement, and not just as a James Bond movie.


5 Responses to ““Skyfall” (2012) is One of the Most Personal Bond Ever, and One of the Best”

  1. 1 Caitlin December 3, 2012 at 9:55 am

    I really enjoyed it, and I’m pleasantly surprised to see you did as well. I’m very sad to see Judi go, but she had a fitting sendoff. I actually found the small-scale fight at the end to be riveting–even though I’ve heard it fairly described as a violent Home Alone. (I love that movie too.) I’ve always thought Craig was one of the best Bonds, but I’m not a big fan of “suave” Bond anyway.

    • 2 joesas December 3, 2012 at 6:59 pm

      Yeah, it was really good. I think it’s definitely in the top 5 of all time, which is quite an amazing statement.

      I did think of Home Alone when I was watching that scene and that’s another aspect of it that I didn’t enjoy (another thing I’m discovering about writing these reviews is you can’t cover every ground)

      I think the attraction to suaveness is definitely a guy thing. I’d want to be that smooth and I really don’t want to be like Craig.

      Thanks for reading and hope you keep on commenting!

  2. 3 Lisa December 3, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    I actually saw this the first weekend it came out and I wanted to talk to you about it but couldn’t ’cause I knew it wasn’t coming out for couple more weeks…I’ve been dying to hear what you thought and I was right…I knew that you would enjoy this one :)

    • 4 joesas December 3, 2012 at 6:57 pm

      I know! I saw your post on FB. I was skeptical but also trusted your judgment so I gave it a fair shot and it was great!

  1. 1 The Lackluster “Spectre” (2015) Lacks a Punch | The World According to Joe Trackback on May 16, 2016 at 10:08 am

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