James Bond has been around for 50 years. Many have played the coveted lead role and many directors have attempted to bring a movie as classy and as sophisticated as Bond himself. Out of the 23 films in the series many have been decent and some have been truly terrible – but only a handful have been great. Skyfall falls perfectly in the latter category.
Sam Mendez may seem like a surprising choice to direct the latest installment in the Bond franchise but having him at the helm is nothing short of inspired. American Beauty, Road To Perdition, Jarhead and Away We Go showcased Sam Mendez’s talent for great filmmaking and beautiful direction. It’s a bit of a risk getting a”dramatic” filmmaker like Mendez to carry this giant spy flick with a budget of around $200 million. Let’s face it, Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland, The Kite Runner) didn’t exactly ace Quantum Of Solace. Mendez brings his talents behind the camera to create one of the best Bond films we’ve seen.
It’s hard to know where to start complimenting a flick like this. Skyfall is a film that benefits from having everything work perfectly in sync. Mendez’s clear and masterful direction ensures that every scene is wonderfully handled. There’s none of those MTV styled, quick-cut, handheld film techniques on display here. Cinematographer Roger Deakins (A Beautiful Mind, Jarhead, No Country For Old Men) does a great job as usual and gives us some great looking scenes. The silhouetted fight against the lights of a skyscraper in Macau is a highlight. Thomas Newman’s (American Beauty, The Green Mile, Wall-E) eclectic score deserves a mention too; there isn’t a huge reliance on the classic bond theme and the music perfectly supports the unfolding story.
Simply put, the plot is awesome. It’s a multi-layered screenplay that deals with Bond’s relationship with M and even looks at his childhood. Skyfall explores way more than your usual Bond flick whilst delivering all that you would expect from one. Mind you, the whole thing isn’t perfect. The “Bond chicks” may be less gratuitously handled here but they are nevertheless severely underused and underwritten. The character of Sévérine (Bérénice Lim Marlohe) promises to be something substantial, but her part ends so abruptly and poorly that one can’t help but feel like her part wasn’t even needed.
Daniel Craig has emerged as one of the best Bonds since Sean Connery. He delivers another great performance, giving Bond the perfect amount of emotional depth and internal turmoil to juxtapose his suaveness and physical prowess. If Craig is one of the best Bonds, then Javier Bardem gives us one of the best Bond villains ever. He received an well-deserved Academy Award for his terrifying performance as Anton Chigurh in No Country For Old Men, and he’s given us another memorable bad guy with Silva. This isn’t just an evil guy bent on world domination, Silva has a more emotional reason for his malice that makes him all the more terrifying.
Skyfall is a robust, energetic blockbuster that will please even those who aren’t Bond aficionados. There are plenty of nods to Bond films of the past and a strong determination to “refresh” the 50-year-old franchise. It may be a little long for some tastes, but who can really complain about there being too much of a good thing?
THE REEL SCORE: 9/10