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Movie Review | ‘Skyfall’ proves validity of Bond franchise’s 50 years of enduring popularity

Published: Friday, November 16, 2012

Updated: Friday, November 16, 2012 08:11

 

Celebrating 50 years of James Bond, Sam Mendes has created both an homage to and a continuation of the longest running continuous film franchise in history. Already declared by some to be the best Bond film yet, “Skyfall” has gone far and beyond all expectations.

Daniel Craig returns in the titular role for his third Bond film after his highly acclaimed performance in “Casino Royale” (2006) and his rather lackluster one in “Quantum of Solace” (2008). Often considered the most accurate portrayal of Ian Fleming’s James Bond character, Craig silences any qualms fans of the franchise still have over “James Blond,” as some critics have mockingly called him. His sophisticated, serious take on the role gives his films a grittier feel.

“Skyfall” takes the audience on a dangerous mission to Istanbul, which marks the third time a Bond film was shot in this metropolitan Turkish city. Bond’s partner accidently shoots him, and Bond returns weakened and more cautious. He must then come face to face with a mysterious man from M’s past, Silva.

Silva, played by Javier Bardem, is the perfect villain: calm and put-together on the surface, but an evil mastermind underneath the facade, with his own private island lair to boot. His target is M, on whom  he is trying to enact his revenge. M, played by Judi Dench, also offers her best performance in a Bond film yet, combining sharp wit and a stern attitude with a motherly and emotional side not often seen in Bond films. The writers have put forward some of their best work, and the dialogue between her and Bond often had the audience erupting with laughter.

The Bond girls, played by the beautiful Bérénice Marlohe and Naomie Harris, are usually the staples of all Bond films. In this film, however, they are put on the back burner, allowing Bond and M to rightfully take center stage. M herself is the Bond woman for this film, being one of only a handful of women to form a deep, personal bond with 007.

“Skyfall” also marks the return of a character seen in most early Bond films, but who has recently been underdeveloped: Q. In previous Bonds, Q always appeared as Bond’s armorer of sorts, supplying all the new equipment and gadgets MI6 had to offer, as well as most of the films’ comic relief. This time, though, Ben Whishaw,  a much younger actor, plays Q, and the wild gadgets he would traditionally present have been replaced by simpler, less gaudy technology. This speaks to the minimalist feel the film presents, as Bond and the series return to the basics.

“Skyfall” marks the third collaboration between director Sam Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins. In the past, they have created some of the most dynamic and visually stunning action sequences the franchise has ever seen. Shooting in picturesque, exotic locations enhanced the film’s aesthetic, gracefully taking viewers from Istanbul to Shanghai to London. In this way, Mendes improved upon one of “Quantum of Solace’s” principle errors: while “Quantum” was frantic and blurry, “Skyfall” is elegant and smooth, like a Bond film ought to be.

Overall, “Skyfall” takes a “back to basics” approach, while still keeping Bond contemporary. It combines the action sequences and humor that made the franchise so successful in its early years with a character-driven story that made “Casino Royale” such a critical success. The film is full of small callbacks to early Bond films that reward longtime fans of the series, but not at the expense of the story. It succeeds in wrapping up this sort of trilogy set up by the previous two Craig films, and simultaneously works as a stand-alone action flick.

Though the franchise almost fell under before the making of “Skyfall,” Bond is most definitely back, and one can only imagine the path he is going to take after this landmark for the franchise.

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