Like so many others this weekend, I saw the latest James Bond film, “Skyfall.” It’s the 23rd movie in the series, and it was released 50 years to the weekend after the first. Perhaps realizing that Skyfall would mark the golden anniversary of the 007 films, director Sam Mendes not only gives us a very entertaining movie, but also takes us back to Bond’s origins while also showing us that there is still a place in this world for a superspy who loves drink, women, and killing villains.
SLIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD IN ORDER TO DESCRIBE PLOT. I WILL LIMIT THESE SPOILERS TO THINGS THAT ARE SHOWN IN THE TRAILERS. I WILL NOT SPOIL THE BIG REVEALS OF THE MOVIE, HOWEVER.
Skyfall begins with Bond (Daniel Craig) arriving on the scene moments too late: the bad guys have stolen a hard drive containing the list of secret agents. Of course, this leads to a classic, outrageously over the top chase scene. M (Judi Dench) is following along remotely as the chase reaches its climax in a fistfight on top of a moving train as it crosses a bridge. M orders Bond’s partner to fire upon the bad guy with the hard drive, even though she risks taking out Bond. Bond is shot, and plummets down, presumably to his death. But, as this is only a few minutes into Skyfall, and we’ve seen the trailers, we know Bond can’t stay dead for long.
While he is gone (“enjoying death,” as he puts it), M is summoned by Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), a deputy of the Prime Minister, to publicly testify on her recent failure before she is kicked out of MI-6. She has become a relic of old-fashioned intelligence work that no longer fits the 21st century. Like Bond, she intends to go down fighting.
Eventually, Bond returns, looking far worse for wear. This is a man who self-medicated to dull the pain of his broken spirit and body. But he wants to fight, for country and, more importantly, for M.
But can Bond keep up with the new MI-6, including a new, baby-faced Q (Ben Whishaw) who would prefer using his laptop to Bond’s Walther? Can he defeat a new villain, Silva (Javier Bardem) who uses hard drives and YouTube to bring down MI-6?
This is a great Bond movie. Mendes does a reboot of a classic character in the way similar to what Chris Nolan did for Batman. It honors the past and teaches us something about this character we thought we all knew. Of course there are gunfights and fistfights and sex and puns. But there is so much more to enjoy about Skyfall.
I have enjoyed Daniel Craig as Bond since “Casino Royale.” I like his rough and tumble approach. I like that he actually gets his ass kicked. Unlike Pierce Brosnan’s Bond, Craig bleeds. And boy does Bond get wrecked in Skyfall. Like the franchise itself, Bond is starting to show his age. Can he find a place in the modern world? Can you teach an old dog new tricks? Can he be reborn? Can he adapt? Can he look back on all that has gone before and use it to move forward?
Craig continues to shine as Bond, but this is really Dench’s movie. With Skyfall, she ties Roger Moore for appearances in a Bond film. She, and her relationship with Bond and MI-6 cast long shadows over the story. This is a great Bond films for the lifelong fans, and for the new fans, it’s a great starting point.