A knight of the old guard rises to take on a new threat in the visually arresting and character rich Skyfall.
For 50 years the James Bond franchise has existed and the most constant, crucial, theme throughout has been resurrection. 6 different actors have portrayed the iconic super spy, each man breathing new life into a cinematic entity that is unique in its consistency and duration.
Skyfall (the 23rd Bond movie) takes that theme of resurrection to a new level, with Bond (Daniel Craig) rising from the depths of depression after a stray bullet leaves him near death (as depicted in a thrilling pre-credits sequence). Three films in and it’s clear why Craig was chosen to play the iconic spy. Not only is he an actor able to portray the physicality and cheeky sexual machismo that Bond is known for, but there is also that well spring of emotion that Craig can tap to portray hurt, fear, anger and sadness to make his the most human (but not in any way weak) of Bond’s.
A terror attack in the heart of MI6 springs Bond out of his stupor and back into action. Responsible for this new wave of terror if Silva (Javier Bardem), a Bond villain so feared that characters shudder when they speak of him. Silva is in every way the antithesis of Bond: flamboyant, creepy, driven by dark impulses, and one telling moment hints that he is batting for the other team. Bardem expertly plays all of these traits as only he can, proving it takes a great actor to play a colourful villain without resorting to ham (ie Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight).
Silva’s brand of terror is one that has become the increasing norm in our post 9/11 world. Long gone are the days of the Cold War where the enemy is as clear as a mark on a map. Now the enemy to fear is one you can’t see, the punch of computer keys just as powerful as any weapon with cyber wars the new battles fought. What Skyfall brilliantly conveys is the importance of our institutions to battle such threats. It is a welcome change from the same ol’ slagging of intelligence organisations as “out of step” and “irrelevant”, with Bond now the old knight who must prove his relevance not only to his country, but also to himself.
The director of Skyfall is Sam Mendes. It is ironic that his Bond film has taken on such staunch conservative ideals when his greatest successes (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road) are anti-conservative in nature. Regardless, Mendes has done a magnificent job, creating both a relevant and timeless entry into the Bond canon, while deftly adding homages to the series’ past.
Skyfall is also a technical marvel, with special mention to veteran cinematographer Roger Deakins jaw dropping photography (perhaps finally snagging that elusive Oscar in the process) and the stunning art direction by Chris Lowe and his team.
But it’s Bond himself who the audience came to see, and in style, action, emotion and duty both the character and the icon deliver.