Skyfall (2012)

James Bond film #23 (Daniel Craig Bond)

Skyfall (2012)

Note: This review is spoiler-free, so read without fear.

It’s been 4 years since the last Bond movie, the longest gap between two films with the same Bond actor, but Daniel Craig returns for Skyfall 50 years after Dr. No (1) was released in 1962. Though the story arc that spanned across his first two films has come to an end, Skyfall continues to delve deeper into Bond’s and M’s personal lives, exploring the history behind their relationship through the eccentric villain played by Javier Bardem. Most good Bond movies are usually strong in some areas but weak in others; Skyfall has the unique position of being categorically awesome. It’s hard to fairly judge a movie the night of its release, but Skyfall just might be the best Bond movie in the entire series.

Skyfall  manages to take everything that’s been a staple of the Bond series – chase scenes, fist fights, witty one-liners, exotic locales, crazy evil villains – and churn them all out in their best and most refined forms yet. It combines elements unique to the Craig movies, like character development and establishing Bond’s backstory, with classic Bond tropes missing since Brosnan, most notably Q (Ben Whishaw). It’s full of nods to the series without being overly obvious with them, and still branches out into unknown territory, starting us off with a Bond that’s broken, old, and pretty out of shape.

There are so many exceptional things about this film, but stand-out among them is Javier Bardem as the antagonist Raoul Silva. With his bleach blonde hair and the idiosyncratic sounds he makes, he comes off as twisted but deeply intelligent, a more grounded version of Heath Ledger’s Joker. Unlike most Bond villains, who plot elaborate heists or try to take over the world, his mission is purely personal, out to kill M and dismantle MI6 for what he perceives as a past betrayal. He’s creepy, amusing, and sometimes even sexual in a very threatening and predatory way. Bond villains have often been the best part of their respective films, but Raoul Silva tops them all, from Goldfinger to Sanchez.

There’s not a single boring sequence in the entire 2-and-a-half-hour runtime. From the pre-credits sequence, which features Bond driving a bulldozer on top of a speeding train, to the silhouetted fight at the top of a Shanghai skyscraper, to an amazing raid on an old mansion that lets Bond and friends get lethally Home Alone to defend it, there’s never-ending action even as the story unfolds with emotion and depth. The finale is more heart-wrenching than Vesper’s fate in Casino Royale (21), and the epilogue is nothing short of perfect – when the credits start to roll, you’ll already be looking forward to the next Bond film (or three).

With an extraordinary cast, a perfect pace, expert direction, and a quality script, Skyfall is the pinnacle of Bond movies. It is not only a highpoint of the classic series, but also of the entire action genre that its predecessors helped create.

Final rating: 9/10

–James A. Janisse

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