For as long as I can remember my older brother influenced my film education. He taught me which actors and directors to watch, which to avoid, how to appreciate a clean, simple shot. My brother also taught me to love Bond. Under his tutelage, I watched the films and like a good pupil, I read the Bond books. And now I find myself with the daunting task of reviewing Skyfall. But before I continue writing, and before you continue reading, I should say: Go see it. It’s Bond at its best, but better.We all love Bond films for what we can expect from them: a suave, uncompromising hero; a shameless, provocative villain; and, of course, chases, explosions, hot women and hot cars. We also know to expect a certain campiness, a screenplay that is biased towards imagery rather than dialogue and an all-encompassing antifeminist perspective. Skyfall has it all.
We return to Bond for what we can’t expect—the novelty within the formula. Many of us were disappointed after Quantam of Solace. Maybe the formula had run its course, but in Skyfall, Bond aided by M proves this is not the case. Skyfall’s creators are aware of our hesitations. The script is fueled by tensions that arise from the belief that Bond and the agency he works for are outdated, unnecessary, kaput. This conflict makes the film relevant and contemporary. Skyfall argues in every way it can that we still need our once beloved 007. And we believe it.
Bond is more human this time: he makes mistakes, he’s confronted with failure. Daniel Craig portrays this version of Bond flawlessly, but what makes his performance brilliant is how he manages to express his doubt and disappointment. He’s not a superhero. Well, at least some of the time. And Javier Bardem is a convincing villain. We meet him first on a small island as he steps gracefully and purposefully towards our tied-up hero while recounting a story meant to teach and intimidate.
If this isn’t enough to make you see the film, I’ll just add a few more things. The opening scene is so satisfying that it establishes a standard that is impossible to sustain. We watch Bond move from foot to car to motorcycle to train, conducting a breathless, reckless chase that ends in a precarious fistfight atop a moving boxcar. Adele sings her heart out during the opening credits as beautiful visuals float by. An underwater fight scene grabs our attention when we think we are as exhausted as Bond. Bernice Marlohe, the vixen, so drips with unrelenting, unattainable beauty. And the director of photography works in shot after shot of a classic Bond Aston Martin, even using the back of its rearview mirror to show a reflection. We the viewer, imbibe every bit of it, nodding at the references to the old, amazed by what is new. This time I beat my brother to seeing a Bond film. He can read this review.