Daniel Craig returns for one of the biggest films in the longest running film franchise to date, his third turn as the legendary British spy James Bond. He kicked down doors with his portrayal of the character in Casino Royale, but disappointed many fans with the follow up to that film, Quantum of Solace. I suppose I’m in the minority here when I say I still enjoyed Quantum of Solace more than any of the Bond films that Pierce Brosnan starred in, but then again, I think before Craig, Timothy Dalton was far and away the best Bond. I’m not blinded by nostalgia when I say Sean Connery was so corny it hurt, and he’s never been a very talented actor, after seeing over 20 of his films, I’ve never seen him play anyone but Sean Connery.
So it was with relief that EON announced Sam Mendes would be coming in to direct Skyfall, and that Craig would be returning, despite rumors of his replacement by Clive Owen because of Daniel Craig‘s other acting commitments. However, he’s signed on for two more, so we’ll see if he ever makes those next two turns as Bond. The film itself had a slick advertising campaign, and with a renowned director at the helm, along with Javier Bardem going for the gusto as the film’s villain, I was eagerly anticipating the film. I’m here to say it’s probably my favorite film in the franchise, along with Casino Royale, but it fails to live up to the hype as far and away the best Bond film ever. It might be the best, but at the same time, there are certain aspects that come up lackluster, which is unfortunate, because it could have been even more epic than it is.
If you don’t know by now, the film starts with an awesome chase sequence that leaves Bond for dead in Istanbul, Turkey. Of course, our hero never dies, but when the bad guy gets away, he does so with very precious information: The identity of every undercover MI:6 agent currently operating across the world. When that information falls into the hands of a villain on the rise (Javier Bardem) multiple agents across the planet die, and it’s up to M (played by Judi Dench once again) and Bond to stop him.
Javier Bardem makes a great entrance, and with a blonde wig/dye job, he’s as strange, creepy, and flamboyant as his star-making role in No Country For Old Men. His villain stands out, giving Bond a run for his money like few in the franchise ever have. The use of worldwide locations is a trademark signature of the Bond franchise, and here, one of the best sequences in the film takes place among the vibrant lights of Shanghai, China at night. Director of Photography Roger Deakins (also known as the man who shoots films for the Coen Brothers) makes a significant impact on the film, making things look as pretty as they can, and the direction from Sam Mendes proves he is a step above most other directors in the series. The action scenes are tightly shot and plentiful, we feel that Bond’s life is actually at risk in a lot of these scenes, especially the final shootout at Bond’s childhood home.
Despite the fact that this may be the best Bond film ever, it still feels lackluster in a lot of areas, especially the second act. Near the end of it, things begin to pick up, but a lot of time is spent rehashing the relationship between M and Bond, and their place among politics in London. Bardem doesn’t even make an appearance until nearly halfway through the film, and at 2 hours and 15 minutes, the film is a little long. A shorter runtime would have cut the fat, and left us only with the action and quick story beats that move the film along. This all makes me yearn for a better film, since I can see it in there, but it’s nothing to cry over, because as a whole, the film works on nearly every level.
Some will argue Casino Royale is still the best in the series, and they wouldn’t be wrong, but at this moment, I’m partial to this entry. The Bond girls were a tad lackluster, especially since they serve only as fodder for side stories, rather than helping Bond achieve his main goal. Neither of the girls is a classic Bond girl, and I’m sure that will leave some fans of the franchise wanting. It doesn’t bother me, however, as M is one of the main focuses of the film, and her relationship with Bond kind of replaces the help he would normally get from a good looking woman. In the end, it’s a Bond film through and through, and despite the lack of gadgets, it only serves as a more realistic spy movie set in the world we currently live in. The far-flung locations add serious production value, and the film as a whole feels big, and it’s one of the biggest tests Bond has ever been put to. A stellar entry into the franchise, this one sets the bar for the next film to top.