Review: “Skyfall” reveals James Bond’s past

Jimmy Lichtenwalter – Features Writer |

In today’s post-9/11 world of computers, satellites and remote drones, it is hard to justify a character like James Bond, a relic of the Cold War. He is a character who was created both during and for that time period.

Skyfall,” the latest entry to the Bond franchise, not only poses the question of whether or not espionage is still relevant to its audiences but also sets about answering it. Thanks to Daniel Craig’s layered performance and a script that favors its characters just as much as its action, “Skyfall” successfully justifies 007’s pertinence in the modern era.

Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures

The last time audiences saw James Bond, it wasn’t an impressive outing. “Quantum of Solace” was a film as messy and mystifying as its name. Gone was the humor and wit of the previous films, replaced by relentless, “realistic” action.

Fortunately, “Skyfall” stylishly atones for the sins of “Quantum.” Bond is back, with all his wit, his humor and his suave cunning.

The film throws audiences right into the middle of things by opening with Bond chasing a mercenary who just murdered an MI6 agent. As the chase careens through the streets of Turkey, it is obvious that director Sam Mendes — of “American Beauty” and “Jarhead” fame — has refused to forsake action, despite the cerebral and introspective nature of his previous films. The action is based in the same realism as the previous two Bond films, but there is also a slight air of absurdity that harkens back to the original films in the franchise.

“Skyfall” is the Bond film in which James Bond is most human. The film goes into Bond’s past and deals with his troubled upbringing after the death of his parents. Daniel Craig delivers a nuanced and charismatic performance and finally seems to completely fill Bond’s shoes. Craig captures both Bond’s steely nature and his arrogant, deadpan wit.

The film is also where Bond is at his most vulnerable. After an accident in the field, Bond briefly leaves MI6 only to return when the agency comes under fire. Plagued by age and racked by guilt, Bond returns to the field by the request of M (Judy Dench) after MI6 is targeted by a terrorist attack. As the film progresses, we learn about M’s bloody past as it comes back to haunt her in the form of Raoul Silva, a former MI6 agent played with brilliant charisma by Oscar-winning actor Javier Bardem.

Since retooling the franchise with its release of “Casino Royale” in 2006, Bond has moved into the modern era. “Skyfall” picks up where the critically lauded “Casino” left off by making James Bond a grittier, more human character. Mendes allows his actors to breathe and explore their roles while buildings are blown up, trains crash and henchmen are eaten by Gila monsters.

Additionally, thanks to Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins, “Skyfall” is the most picturesque of all the Bond films, and one of the best of the 24 that have been released during the last 50 years.

By expanding the character and making a return to the wit and humor of the older Bond films, “Skyfall” puts the “intelligence” back in MI6.

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