Overview: James Bond must track down a mysterious cyber terrorist who seeks revenge against MI6 and M. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Columbia Pictures; 2012; Rated PG-13; 143 Minutes.
007 Opening: Skyfall opens in true James Bond fashion. The trademark 007 musical riff kicks in and Bond (Daniel Craig) appears, mid-espionage. Bond chases his mark on foot, in a vehicle, on a motorbike across the rooftops of the Grand Bazaar, and finally on top of a moving train through the Turkish countryside. All the action is well crafted and realistic, with exceptional stunt work and cinematography. At the close of the sequence Bond falls and plunges into the water below the rails. As his body floats deeper into the water a traditional Bond graphical credit roll begins, accompanied by the Skyfall theme performed by Adele. This opening contains many of the Bond series trademarks and comforts viewers into the Bond experience we’ve come to expect.
The Hero and the Villain: Craig is an admirable Bond and he brings all of the typical characteristics to the role; dashing good looks, elegant style, inviting charm, and sharp dialogue. He commands the role as well as some of the best Bonds before him (Connery, Dalton, and Moore).
The most intriguing character of the film is the villain, Silva (Javier Bardem). With Silva, Bardem channels some of the malevolence brought to another evil character he portrayed (Anton Chigurh, No Country for Old Men). Silva is highly intelligent, maniacal, and disfigured – all traits of typical Bond villains – and Bardem conveys his unhinged genius with an eerie ease.
Roger Deakins: The highlight of Skyfall is the cinematography of Roger Deakins. In sequences set in Shanghai, Macau, and Scotland, Deakins uses various alternative light sources (neon lights, small open flames, and large blazes with explosions), shadows, and reflections to create impressive and dazzling visuals.
A Step Back: The final act of Skyfall stumbles and loses the momentum of the rest of the film. Throughout the film Bond’s struggle is one of overcoming Silva’s technological and tactical genius. When Bond gains what he think is the upper hand, Silva reveals an intricate plan already in place to counteract. Silva is always one step ahead. In the final act that precise planning Silva has used is stripped away with no explanation. Bond holes up in a remote area and lays death traps, as Silva walks his men right into the slaughter with no tactical consideration. Silva’s countermeasure is to fly in a huge helicopter and just blow up as much as he possibly can. These acts are not in line with his character. Bond doesn’t end up victorious because he outsmarted Silva; he ends up victorious because of Silva’s sudden disregard for tactics, and this ultimately leads to an unsatisfying conclusion.
Final Thoughts: Despite minor issues in its final act, Skyfall’s exceptional acting, cinematography, and traditional Bond score make it one of the best entries into the Bond canon.