The character of James Bond has been around now for 50 years and through that half century we’ve gotten numerous actors to play the superspy playboy; Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan. However, none of those actors – and they’re all pretty damn good – have portrayed James Bond with the sense of realism and mortality that Daniel Craig has for the past 5 years. It’s what makes Craig the best Bond actor in the franchise’s 50 years of existence. He’s the working man’s Bond, the real Bond, the “this guy might actually die” Bond.
You see, in past film’s (before Daniel Craig) you never got the sense that James Bond was actually in any real danger or that the mission he was on might not actually work out. Whether it was Sean Connery or Pierce Brosnan you always felt that Bond was three steps ahead of his enemies. That all changed with the film version of Casino Royale, Craig’s first portrayal as Agent 007. At the time Casino Royale was considered the best James Bond film to date, and I couldn’t argue with them, Martin Campbell’s realistic portrayal of the character had never been done before and it was fantastic. Then Quantum of Solace came around, and while Daniel Craig was once again spot on, the film was a giant let down considering what it was following up. Critics began questioning whether the “working man’s” Bond could work on screen or if it would just be another spy thriller. Afterall we’re talking the James Bond, not just some guy wearing a tuxedo working for his country’s spy organization. Thankfully Sam Mendes and MGM saw the stink of Quantum of Solace and rectified it with Skyfall.
Skyfall is James Bond’s redemption/resurrection story. It’s the origin story he never received and we never saw, it’s the humanizing effort by a director to make us fall more in love with 007. It’s both the James Bond we deserve and the James Bond we need.
Skyfall starts out with a failed mission in Turkey where Bond is presumed dead and spends quite some time away from MI6 somewhere drinking his sorrows away and banging pretty ladies. Not a bad gig if you can get it. However, Bond is sprung back in to the fray of things after a terrorist attack on MI6 headquarters in London where M (Judi Dench) was the target. The rest of the film revolves around Bond hunting down the film’s villain, Raoul Silva (played by the magnificent Javier Bardem), a psychopath out for vengeance against MI6 for past transgressions. The plot is rather simple and doesn’t ever get too complex but it’s Mendes’ direction that truly shines in this one. He completely reboots the James Bond character and looks as if he’s starting from scratch – even though Casino Royale was technically this franchise’s reboot. Mendes takes an old fashioned Bond and puts him in the new world of technology and forces Bond to adapt. In many ways it’s the film’s best quality.
There are returning characters that you’ll recognize from films past, like Q – Bond’s Quartermaster – who is played by the young Ben Whishaw. Bond and Q’s first meeting is one of the best scenes in the film. I hope they give Q more scenes next film. Then there’s a returning character, who – if you’re a fan of the Bond franchise – will recognize right off the bat (not by looks but by actions) before their names is ever given. There is a changing of the guard with this film, and without spoiling anything I’ll keep it at that.
Javier Bardem’s portrayal as Silva is completely and utterly fantastic, the first time I heard him talk and watched his facial expressions I immediately thought of Heath Ledger’s Joker. Now, the two characters are nothing alike but the way both actor’s seemed to delve into the roles is what I likened them to. It’s too bad that these James Bond films don’t have an over-lapping story arc because I would love to see Silva in more James Bond films.
By the end of the movie you’re left wanting more, and that’s a great thing for this rebuilt franchise. No more days of Pierce Brosnan flirting his way to the end of the film, no more quirky gadgets to save the day, just great wit and action is all we need. Mendes delivers here. I don’t know how many more Bond films Craig will star in but here’s hoping he doesn’t stop anytime soon.