Skyfall is not the greatest Bond film ever. It’s not even a top 5 greatest Bond film ever either. However, it is a solid edition to the long running franchise and sets the franchise up for a bright future. This installment follows James Bond (Daniel Craig) and M (Judi Dench) as they try to recover the stolen MI6 hard drive that contains the identities and whereabouts of all undercover agents from a master hacker (Javier Bardem).
When it comes to directors, the James Bond series has never really gone after big names. Marc Foster was an interesting choice for Quantum of Solace, but he wasn’t exactly a name or even respected director. However, for the 50thanniversary of the Bond film franchise producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli went all out and snagged Oscar winning director Sam Mendes. Considering his success with the gangster genre with Road to Perdition, it seemed like Mendes could be a great fit for Skyfall. He could bring his prestige filmmaking background to this blockbuster to find the perfect combination of brainy and popcorn-y filmmaking. Mendes does just that, but the film still somehow falls short. It’s gorgeous, no doubt, and features some great characters. However, that becomes a problem when most of the sequences have a “been there, done that” feeling to it. One sequence is straight from Home Alone while it would be difficult to find an audience member who isn’t reminded of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy. Sure, the entire Bond series has always been just a mish-mash of things that have been done in film before, but with Roger Deakins’ phenomenal cinematography and such interesting characters it feels like a major disappointment this time around.
Mendes doesn’t deserve all the blame as the script by John Logan, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade tries to do way too much. However, they deserve credit for building up such great characters.
So does the loaded cast. Daniel Craig returns for his third outing as James Bond. Craig continues to do great work in the role even if he is hampered by a symptom of “too many characters in too short of a film”. He still has trouble landing all the quips, but he brings a physicality and seriousness to the role that no previous actor has come close to matching. Javier Bardem is the highlight of the supporting cast. He is just playing a version of Heath Ledger’s The Joker but he leaves almost as big of a shadow in the film as that character. Judi Dench gets her best material to date with the franchise and she really delivers. Ralph Fiennes and Naomie Harris get some surprising roles and they do justice to them while Berenice Marlohe leaves a lasting impression in a brief role.
Skyfall tries to do way too much and some of that is unfortunately just rehash of better films. Despite that the film leaves the James Bond franchise in a good place for it’s 50th Anniversary and don’t be surprised if we are still talking about this franchise fifty years from now.