Skyfall ★★★★★

After a strong start in Casino Royale and a lackluster second chapter in Quantum of Solace, Skyfall brings Daniel Craig’s run as James Bond to new heights, exploring the uncomfortable clash between modern methods and what’s considered obsolete. The spotlight is on a weathered James Bond – not 007 – as his loyalties are tested. Bond learns that actions have consequences and only by facing the past can one move towards the future.

Compared to the two previous entries in the franchise, Skyfall feels much more personal. James Bond’s worlds collide, with the line between his personal attachments and his professional endeavors becoming blurred, as his relationship to M becomes the central piece of his mission. Having been given a more prominent role, M is herself torn between her past and her uncertain future at the top of the MI6, as she comes face-to-face with the return of a former agent and protégé who seeks revenge for her betrayal. Played by a blonde Javier Bardem (who will surely haunt my dreams), Silva is everything that the two previous Bond villains lacked. His presence is imposing, and he is a tangible threat to Bond, to the entire MI6, and especially to M.

Skyfall cleverly uses the past to play the game of the future, cementing its importance, but recognizing that Bond (and, by extension, the franchise) can’t live in an idealized golden age forever. Rather than outright destroying them, it reconstructs the mythos and the character for a new age that wants more from its heroes than surface-level perfection.

Skyfall doesn’t only do excellent character work, though. It’s a marvel on the technical front as well, with breathtaking visuals, courtesy of Roger Deakins’ cinematography that abandons the trite blue-orange aesthetic of the action genre in favor of vibrant colors and a play with silhouettes. The action also flows. Gone are the quick cuts that make the eyes hurt. Here, every punch lands and guns aren’t randomly fired for effect. The action is as important to the characters as the characters are to the action. It should be bare minimum, but far too few action movies allow you to understand what’s going on in an action scene and how it will affect whatever comes next. Thankfully, Skyfall understands how crucial that is.

A study of consequence that questions the past, Skyfall is consistently exciting and emotionally poignant. It doesn’t sacrifice its characters for the sake of the action, telling a story that puts them to the test and changes their fate. Going into these films, I didn’t expect any of them to be anything more than some dumb fun to pass the time, but Skyfall is so consistent, so respectful towards its characters and so aware of the significance of the themes it’s exploring that it can’t be considered anything other than perfect.

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