In Skyfall, James Bond (Daniel Craig) fails to recover a drive containing sensitive information, resulting in the exposure of undercover NATO agents in terrorist organizations.
Meanwhile, the enigmatic criminal mastermind Silva (Javier Bardem) orchestrates an attack on MI6 headquarters that kills several agents.
Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee Gareth Mallory (Ralph Finnes) raises concerns about M’s (Judi Dench) competence as head of the Secret Intelligence Service. It seems the only person who can restore M’s reputation is Bond. James Bond.
Martin Campbell’s 2006 film, Casino Royale, rebooted the James Bond series, establishing a new timeline and narrative framework, allowing the film to show a less experienced, more vulnerable Bond. The film introduced Daniel Craig (Layer Cake) and was praised for its dark, realistic reboot of the series – in the spirit of Batman Begins.
2008’s Quantum of Solace, however, was entirely underwhelming. With a mediocre plot, weak characters, and a focus on hyper-cut action set-pieces, Marc Forster’s sequel failed to impress – even though Craig’s performance was solid.
With Skyfall, Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins (No Country for Old Men, True Grit) deliver the most dazzling visuals this series has had since the ’60s. The screenplay, written by John Logan, Neal Purvis, and Robert Wade, is a swaggering return to classic Bond, with an intense focus on characterization and action, as opposed to some of the more recent Bond films, which seem primarily concerned with car chases and stunt sequences.
Daniel Craig has found the proper balance of charming, debonair super-spy, and steely, murderous triggerman to bring James Bond into the 21st century. Javier Bardem does his best impression of Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter and Heath Ledger’s Joker in his portrayal of the fashionably fay villain, Raoul Silva.
Speaking of The Joker, Skyfall has successfully made James Bond relevant for modern audiences by making him Britain’s Batman. During a recent interview with The Playlist, Mendes noted the impact of The Dark Knight on the filmmaking world: “In terms of what [Nolan] achieved, specifically The Dark Knight, the second movie, what it achieved, which is something exceptional. It was a game changer for everybody.”
The similarities between Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy and Mendes’ Bond film are too numerous to list, but it’s hard to see an orphan-cum-playboy drive a car that blows up things and chase bad guys down on motorcycles and NOT think of Batman.
The basic structure of the Skyfall inserts Dench’s M as Bond’s Commissioner Gordon and Q as gadget-man Lucius Fox. Considering the fact that MI6 moves their headquarters to an underground cave-like structure filled with television screens, and Bond gains a faithful servant in butler/groundskeeper Kincade, all 007 needs now is the cape and the cowl. It would’ve been nice to hear Craig growl “Do I look like a cop!?” or “Swear to me!” though.
Still, Skyfall is the best James Bond film since 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – and Daniel Craig is easily the second-best Bond, behind Sean Connery of course. While it may borrow from films like The Dark Knight and Mission: Impossible, Skyfall is a gorgeous, entertaining entry in the Bond series and deserves to be seen on the big screen, preferably at a theater that serves cocktails… or Heineken, I guess.