Review: Skyfall

Skyfall (2012)
143 minutes
Rated PG-13
Directed b Sam Mendes
Starring: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Naomie Harris, Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes

Grade:  A-

Gareth Mallory (Fiennes) attempts to convince M (Dench) that it’s mandatory to adapt to the great new threat of cyber-terrorism instead of focusing all their intelligence to an area most feel is outdated. It’s a theme explored throughout the film as Bond and his boss, M, struggle to keep up with the new forces of evil in the world.

Skyfall begins with a grand and exciting opening that features agents Bond and Eve chasing a man named Patrice, who has stolen a list of the identities of covert agents around the world. It’s of the utmost importance that he doesn’t get away with the list, but after the chase goes from motorcycles to the tops of a speeding train, Bond is accidentally shot by Eve and is presumed dead.

Of course he doesn’t stay dead for long. After staying on an island and spending a bulk of his time at bars, he returns once the MI6 headquarters is attacked by an insider, killing several agents but evident that this is just the beginning of a game that is targeting M. But Bond isn’t prepared to come back, as his age, injury, and his time away from the agency has shown to take a toll on his accuracy and ability. Despite failing every preparation test, M puts him back into the field.

Clocking at 2 hours and 23 minutes, the film is split into two major developments. The first hour is action-packed with incredibly suspenseful scenes, particularly the sequence in Shanghai when Bond tracks down Patrice up in a tower. Lights illuminate the big city, with some that can very well rival those at Times Square, as Bond drops Patrice from the window.

The rest of the film revolves around the sadistic villain, Silva (Bardem), who is a former agent and the mastermind behind the leaked agents around the world and the one who is plotting M’s murder. The middle hour is when the movie peaks and we witness long, theatrical monologues by Silva expressing his reasons for his madness. The scariest thing about him is that he seems likeable and rational, conflicting what he wants with what he deserves yet never slowing down his ruthlessness. With the target on M’s life, Bond becomes more of a bodyguard than a secret agent, but that doesn’t make the film any less thrilling.

The greatest asset of Skyfall is how director Sam Mendes brings the characters to life. Bond’s background is actually touched upon in this installment and with him and M understanding each other effortlessly, all of that is possible because of Craig and Dench’s chemistry. Mendes also makes a handful of references that Bond fans will surely get a kick out of, but it always remains subtle enough for new fans to question. While this is Mendes’ first mainstream, action film (and possibly the biggest director to work a Bond film), he balances tempo and story very well while never letting up on what the fans want to see.

In the end, maybe Bond is getting a bit too old for these missions and maybe the agency is being over-ran by higher technology and specialty skill sets. But Bond proves that you don’t need all the updated gizmos and gadgets to still be relevant. As he takes his handgun that only fires in his own palm, it’s nothing innovative from the genius of Q, but after all of these years it still proves to be effective. Some things never grow old. The same goes for James Bond.

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