Skyfall

Skyfall ★★★★½

Raoul Silva: "Just look at you, barely held together by your pills and your drink."

James Bond: "Don't forget my pathetic love of country."

Synopsis: Skyfall is the 23rd film in the EON Bond franchise, and the 3rd film in the Daniel Craig reboot of the series. Made and released during the 50th anniversary of the franchise dating back to Dr. No in 1962, Skyfall avoids the unnecessary, and poorly done, sentimental callbacks that Die Another Day perpetrated during the 40th anniversary 10 years earlier. The one exception being the re-appearance of the classic Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger, which I never get tired of seeing.

The story concerns Bond coming to terms with M's past as her sins come back to haunt her. With MI6 under attack, he returns from the "dead" to help defend the agency.

Skyfall is directed by Sam Mendes and written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan. Mendes is the first Oscar-winning director to take a turn at the Bond films and he doesn't let us down. He brings with him a fantastic crew including Oscar-nominated writer Logan, composer Thomas Newman and Oscar-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins. The presence of all of them makes this film as good as it is. The script is tight and filled with fun lines, the score is a good companion and not overwhelming to the story and Deakins turns in yet another of his patently beautiful looking films, especially the Shanghai tower fight sequence.

Bond: If not for the existence of Casino Royale, this would be the best Bond film that Craig made. I've been known to say that had he walked away after this film he could have easily claimed the title of best Bond, but his somewhat bored effort in the next film lowers his overall quality score. Hopefully, he gets the chance to go out with a bang in No Time To Die, if we ever get to see it. The Bond films are usually at their best when the Bond character actually acts like a spy and not just a spectator in his adventures. I like to think it's the bad script in Spectre that lets Craig down since it plays into that lucky spectator scenario, but we will see.

Villain: Yet another Oscar winner, Javier Bardem, joins up as the villain, Raoul Silva. Bardem is really creepy in the role and he makes for one of the best Bond villains ever. I would complain that most of his "master plan" is composed of sheer luck and coincidence, but it seems kind of futile and silly to complain about a Bond villain's plan, considering how absurd some of the previous villain's plans have been.

Bond Girls: Bérénice Marlohe plays Severine, an associate and mistress of Silva's. Like most of the Bond Girls before her, she is beautiful and in danger. Unlike most of them however, she's a good actress and believable in her very underwritten role. I would have liked to have gotten to know more about her background, or anything about her really. It's one of the scripts only real shortcomings.

The other Bond Girl is a misdirection. Naomie Harris plays Eve, Bond's field associate from the pre-credits sequence who turns up throughout the film again and again. In the end, she is revealed to actually be Eve Moneypenny and we are re-acquainted with a character from the original series who shall return in the next films. Harris is a good casting choice as the new Moneypenny, and I kind of like the idea that she is a former field agent who now works as M's secretary. One of the few instances where the reboot's retcons are welcome.

Allies: Judi Dench returns as M for the 7th and the last time. Her character has had an arc through these 3 films of the reboot and it comes to fruition here. It's her biggest role yet in the series and she gives us a solid final goodbye. Dench represented the one tie-in to the series before the reboot, but I think she believed she had run her course with the series. Ralph Fiennes is setup to carry on in the role going forward, and he too is an excellent casting choice.

Another classic character returns in this film, Ben Whishaw takes on the role of Q, who has been absent from the series since Die Another Day. Whishaw completes the perfect re-casting of these roles for the modern series and I enjoy his interactions with Bond as much, if not more, than I used to enjoy Desmond Llewelyn's interactions with previous Bonds. He will be a fine addition to the series.

Albert Finney is also along as Kincade, the gamekeeper at the Skyfall estate. He is almost unrecognizable under his full beard, except for his distinct voice.

Henchman: None, and none are really needed.

Music: Yes, Adele won the Oscar for the theme song, and it's very good song. She belts it out with all the glory we expect from a Bond song and it is one of the best of the series.

Thomas Newman's first go at a Bond score, and he does a very good job. Newman is famous for his collaborations with Mendes, so his participation is almost to be expected. But he turns in a great first effort. His score never overwhelms the action and while it lacks any real memorable melody outside of variations on the theme song, it's still pretty well done.

General: Skyfall is top 5 Bond for me. The reboot films have been desperate to fill in Bond's backstory, to give us a reason for his particular set of skills. In the next film, the retconning gets totally out of hand, but in Skyfall, the filmmakers seem content to restrain themselves a little. At least the Bond background in this film has some similarity to the original novels.

As of this writing, we are still waiting for the final Craig film to be released, so I do not know yet if this is his last good Bond film. But if it is, then it's a hell of good one.

Read my rankings list on Letterboxd for the entire series: boxd.it/4pedg

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