First, I have to start with a confession: I have never seen all the James Bond films. In my defense, there are an awful lot of them and I have seen roughly half, but I make no claims of being a hardcore Bond fan. That being said, I do genuinely enjoy the movies, and have especially liked the Daniel Craig as James Bond (Casino Royale is not only my favorite Bond film, but also among my favorite movies of all time).
I’m happy to report that Skyfall is an excellent addition to the series. I’ve been hearing a lot of very high praise for this one, many even calling it the best Bond film ever made. I wouldn’t quite go that far; Casino Royale was not only a fantastic Bond reboot, but also a wonderfully crafted movie in general. Skyfall, at least in my opinion, never quite reaches that level of excellence, however, it does outpace Casino Royale in the area of fun. Skyfall is, plain and simple, just a great time at the movies.
The story this time around is a bit simpler than the previous two entries, but this is by no means a bad thing. Rather than the twists and turns of Casino Royale’s plot Skyfall focuses more on Bond’s character; his relationship with the supporting cast, particularly with M; and even delves a bit into his backstory. Daniel Craig absolutely nails it as Bond in this film, topping his already great performances in the previous films and delivering a performance that absolutely secures his position as the best Bond of the series. Despite this being only the third movie he’s done as Bond he is able to portray the character with not only the cocky charm of classic Bond but also a sense of experience. He’s no longer a brand new Double-O, and you can tell he’s been doing this for a long time and it’s changed him. Without giving away too much of the story, Bond is essentially faced with the possibility of his own obsoleteness. Are James Bond or the MI6 even necessary in a post-9/11 world? This is an issue that the film explores both within the context of the story and on the larger level of the relevance of the James Bond films and all the things people associate with them.
As I’ve said, I adore Casino Royale, however, the way it approached re-inventing Bond was by stripping him down to the barest essentials and doing away with (or significantly downplaying) a large portion of the classic Bond iconography. Quantum of Solace attempted to bring some of this back, but it did so in a way that felt clunky and poorly matched with the new type of Bond introduced in Casino Royale. What Director Sam Mendes along with Writers Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and John Logan manage to do with Skyfall is honor a lot of the classic 007 elements in a way that feels absolutely natural and relevant. I think a lot of long-time Bond fans will fall in love with this movie because of how well it gets these elements right without the film ever feeling like it’s taking steps backwards.
Another way in which Skyfall suceeds where Quantum failed is in the technical aspects. The action in Quantum was poorly staged and even more poorly shot with most of the film looking like they hired a cement mixer as the Director of Photography. Skyfall, on the other hand, is an absolutely gorgeous movie to look at. Living legend Roger Deakins is in charge of the cinematography this time around and the difference is night and day. I’m hardly exaggerating when I say just about any still frame from the film could be displayed as its own piece of art, and the film uses light, color, and composition in a way that you just don’t see in most action movies.
Aside from just looking good, the action is worlds better than the action in Quantum of Solace with some really fantastic set pieces and actual stuntwork rather than forgettable nothing obscured by endless shaky cam. That being said, the set pieces never overwhelm the story, and both are absolutely in service of each other.
While I still hold that Casino Royale is the better film overall, Skyfall puts the James Bond series in a better position moving forward and will likely be the standard that future entries will be held to. As always, the credits promise that “James Bond Will Return” and I absolutely can’t wait for is 24th outing. I highly recommend this one.