Over the course of it’s 50 year history, Ian Fleming’s secret agent from across the pond has been an enduring pop culture icon, not only setting the stage for portrayals of Cold War era espionage in cinema, even influencing the way spies are depicted in mainstream media.
While other spy films in recent history follow the Tom Clancy school of spy thrillers, the Bond series has retained some of it’s surrealistic charm punctuated by the very British nature of its source material.
The story begins when James Bond, reprised by Daniel Craig, and fellow agent Eve, played by Naomie Harris, fail to retrieve a stolen hard drive containing the names of MI-6 agents embedded in terrorist organizations around the world, with Bond presumably killed by a misfired sniper shot. When the MI-6 headquarters is attacked by the terrorist Silva, played by Javier Bardem, Bond comes out of hiding.
The plot is denser than other Bond films I have seen. It starts out as a usual race-against-time style of spy thriller but then quickly turns into something much deeper.
It explores the very idea of how the Bond films can still be relevant in today’s world as well as give insight into the mostly unexplored past of our title character. Rather than being a polarized battle of good vs. evil, we are given a story where those lines are blurred in a world where transparency is becoming the norm.
The movie is peppered with various allusions to earlier Bond films, ranging from subtle dialogue references to visual and musical motifs
They appear not only as general tributes to earlier films but are also used to establish the new incarnations of those classic elements.
In the case of the writing and pacing, the dialogue is written pretty well, adding both a sense of mystery and wit to the film with some comedic subtext. The action in the film is spaced out, allowing for some breathing room between intense scenes. Towards the end, things get a little too packed together, but not enough to detract from the experience as a whole.
The film is also shot in a style that blends the old and the new. We get many classic style shots where the camera is stationary, as well as shots that appear more handheld, with the camera shake kept to a minimum.
The overall visual aesthetic combined the darker, grittier mise-en-scene of recent action films with the almost cartoon-y aspect of the Bond franchise. This is viewed in the costume design and how certain actors perform, mostly visible in Bardem’s somewhat flamboyant performance as the villain.
Overall, “Skyfall” feels like a true reboot of the James Bond franchise, with elements of past films being interweaved with many newer ideas. If you’re not that familiar with the Bond mythos, you may get a little lost, but the film does a good enough job establishing key details rather than relying on the audience to do homework. It’s a bit on the long side, but it is definitely a must see for any fan of James Bond.
On my personal scale, I give “Skyfall” a 5/5.