There are those who believe the world can never have enough Bond and are willing to engage in passionate arguments over who made the better Agent 007, but I'd be lying if I said Roger Moore means more to me in the role than Sean Connery or that I'm emotionally invested in whichever actor the powers-that-be choose to play the character. More than most, I was ready to accept a new Bond in the form of Daniel Craig because, frankly, the franchise doesn't hold a special place in my heart.
The point being - and yes, there is one - I'm not a Bond expert nor do I pretend to be. If the franchise had ended with #22, I wouldn't have mourned the loss of any more visits to the silver screen by Bond and his assorted girls, villains, and gadgets. But Skyfall (Bond #23), while 20 minutes too long, almost converted me from a very casual Bond watcher to being an actual Bond fan.
This is a Bond with a backstory, a flawed and almost tragic figure who fights the good fight until the good fight kills him. Well, almost kills him. Back from the dead following a horrific fall from the top of a moving train after being the victim of friendly fire, Bond must come to M's rescue - though she'd never admit she needs his help nor acknowledge that she couldn't take care of business without him. Someone's ruthlessly and relentlessly setting up agents to be killed, forcing M and the rest of MI6 to take up new quarters. The security breach also forces M to defend the agency to the British government who've now come to believe it's outdated and unnecessary. But M's not ready to be forced into retirement, at least not until she can locate whoever is responsible and bring them to justice. And with Bond back, there's little doubt who'll get the upper hand in this battle to A) uncover the identity of the cyberterrorist and bring him to justice and B) prove the continued relevancy of MI6.
Remember the hue and cry that went out up Craig first took over from Pierce Brosnan? "A blond Bond?! And he's short! That will never work!" Not only did it work, but now with Skyfall those who've only slightly embraced Craig's run as Bond seem willing to put aside all misgivings. And those in charge of the Bond legacy are obviously happy with Craig's take on the character as they've locked him in for two more films. Craig's charismatic, has an inner sexiness thing going on, and is a physically powerful presence on screen.
Dame Judi Dench is M as only Dame Judi Dench could play her. And director Sam Mendes brings in Ben Whishaw as the new Q, a technologic wizard so sure of himself he's not in the least bit intimidated by Bond or his legacy with the agency. Whishaw's a wise choice, as is Mendes' casting of Ralph Fiennes in the supporting but pivotal role of Gareth Mallory. Naomie Harris proves to be the perfect choice as Eve, an agent who works alongside Bond and was also responsible for nearly killing him (providing fodder for a series of jokes throughout the film). And the gorgeous Berenice Marlohe is, sadly, on the screen far too little. Marlohe's heartbreaking as Severine, the key to uncovering the identity of the person responsible for the deadly attacks on MI6.
But where Skyfall truly separates itself from the pack is by introducing audiences to one of the best villains, not just of the Bond franchise but of recent cinematic history. Javier Bardem once again dons a bizarre hairstyle to become a character of questionable mental stability. Bardem's Silva is devious and brilliant when it comes to computers, and Bardem plays him with devilish glee. Not to take anything away from the crazy action sequences of Skyfall, but the one-on-one between Silva and Bond is a thing of pure beauty. Both actors absolutely nail it.
The Bottom Line
Skyfall feels fresh and new, even while incorporating elements from its past (including a certain iconic car). He might be getting older, but no one - and no technology - is going to outwit and outlast Bond when he's on the case. What's actually most refreshing about Skyfall is how it embraces Bond's age and makes fun of it while still showing that he's a force to be reckoned with.
From Adele's haunting title tune to the incredible train chase sequence to the finale in a surprise location that reveals much of Bond's past, Skyfall hits the right notes and proves there's life left yet in this action movie franchise. Director Sam Mendes guides this latest entry in the iconic series to the finish line while delivering to audiences a more detailed look into Bond's complicated life prior to his connection to MI6, something which may swing more viewers from the mildly interested to the Bond enthusiast category.
Skyfall was directed by Sam Mendes and is rated PG-13 for intense violent sequences throughout, some sexuality, language and smoking.
Theatrical Release: November 9, 2012