Skyfall ★★★★½

However many Bond movies they make, Skyfall is the final Bond movie and it always will be the final Bond movie. It's both the thesis statement on James Bond and the concluding paragraph; the only film that is actually about James Bond as opposed to the things around him. Every Bond film before this was about the superficial things -- the gadgets, the girls, the set pieces, the villains -- and while these are the elements that sustained this franchise for 50 years, Skyfall finally turns inward and looks at who James Bond actually is as a man. It doesn't use Bond as the vehicle through which we experience the attractions of the Bond movie; in this Bond movie, Bond, and his story, is the attraction. How interesting is it that in one of the most popular and long-running franchises of all time, it took 50 years to finally get a movie that was actually about the franchise's titular character?

But that's what makes Skyfall work so well. Bond has history -- more history than most characters in our cultural zeitgeist -- but he doesn't have depth. With each passing year, with the more history and age the character and its franchise acquires, the more potential for depth Bond has. But, while Casino Royale explored some of this in the trappings of an origin story, Skyfall finally goes all in, and the context couldn't be more appropriate. This is the final saga of Bond and it always will be; the film that bridged the gap between the Bond Daniel Craig reinvented and the Bond we knew and loved from the 20th century -- albeit, with a renewed understanding of him as a character, as well as the people around him: Moneypenny, Q, and most notably, M. It's a shame this had to be followed up by the sludge that was Spectre, but in fairness, no film would live up to this masterpiece. This is the definitive statement on Bond: on who he was in the past, is in the present, and forever will be in the zeitgeist. It's one of those few great franchise movies that only could have been as great as it was as a franchise movie -- Skyfall could not possibly stand on its own, and is all the better for it. Unlike nearly every other Bond movie, it uses its past, its well-worn formulas, and even its flaws, to its advantage. It uses the franchise against itself for retrospective, metatextual commentary, while still delivering on the franchise's traditional pleasures in top form. This is brilliance on a level this franchise will likely never see again, and that's okay. Because you can't top Skyfall. It's THE Bond movie, and will forever be. It took 50 years to get here, and clearly it was worth it.

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