Review: ‘Skyfall’ takes Bond to a whole new level

There once was a time where James Bond movies consisted a certain formula that rarely strayed far from the norm. In Sheryl Crow’s theme song for the Bond film ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’, she puts it quite simply: “Martinis, girls and guns.”

When the Daniel Craig era started in 2006, things changed. Vulnerable characters and heavy emotional content became as common as the megalomaniacs and double entendres of Bond films gone by. Violence never comes without a price in Craig’s films. And the stakes have never been higher than they are in ‘Skyfall’, out now in theaters everywhere.

The British Secret Service is under attack, secret agents’ names are being leaked, and James Bond is missing – presumed dead. It’s no wonder all the early scenes of London in ‘Skyfall’ feature a steady downpour or ominous gray skies. It’s a dark time for MI6.

The failures of the service become a cause for concern with bureaucrats, and M (Judi Dench) is essentially being forced out of her leadership of MI6 by a government suit named Mallory (Ralph Fiennes).  But M won’t give up until the job is done, and when Bond reemerges to protect Queen and country, things begin to look up.

But the villainous Silva (Javier Bardem) has a major score to settle and always has the upper hand in his quest for revenge.

‘Skyfall’ marks James Bond’s 50th year on the silver screen, and the franchise has had its relevance challenged several times over that half century. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the story of ‘Skyfall’ prominently examines the necessity of spies like Bond in our current world, filled with cyber terrorism and enemies with no defined allegiance to a country or cause.

This is illustrated perfectly by the character of Silva, played with perverse precision by Javier Bardem. He works for no one but himself, and uses his own personal motivation to get what he wants.

Bardem channels Bond villains of old, with his bleached blond hair, cringe-worthy disfiguration and eloquent monologue to a captured 007. He infuses quirky mannerisms into the character, which make audiences laugh and squirm at the same time. He steals the show, which is tough to do given the solid performances by Craig and Dench.

‘Skyfall’ is also beautifully shot, with cinematographer Roger Deakins using his skill to make this one of the best looking Bond films in the series’ history. A fight scene in a bathed-in-blue skyscraper stands out as one of the most stunning visuals in the film.

The movie also makes nods to elements of past Bond films, which a huge fan like myself can truly appreciate. The appearance of the iconic Aston Martin DB5 put a big smile on my face, especially when a few of the car’s “optional extras” are put on display.

Also reassuring to Bond fans is the fact that ‘Skyfall’ sets the franchise up for the future. When the traditional “James Bond Will Return” phrase hit the screen, the first thought I had was, “As soon as possible, please.”

‘Skyfall’ director Sam Mendes has made a movie that takes the traditional Bond elements and mixes them with contemporary issues to make one of the best films in the series. Bardem, Craig and Dench are all at the top of their games and the future of the franchise is looking brighter than ever.

Riveting, emotional and (most importantly) entertaining, ‘Skyfall’ delivers on every level and is sure to leave audiences shaken and stirred.

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