James Bond utilizes his license to thrill audiences in his latest adventure, “Skyfall,” a revealing stand-alone in the series that takes viewers through the similar fates of Bond (Daniel Craig, “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” 2011) and new supervillain Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem, “Eat Pray Love,” 2010).
Directed by Sam Mendes (“Away We Go” 2009) the film starts with Bond pursuing an opposing spy who had stolen a hard drive with crucial data files. Assisting Bond in his chase is Eve (Naomie Harris, “The First Grader,” 2010), who follows Bond and the spy through Istanbul. As the chase progresses, Eve takes a shot at the spy and ends up accidentally shooting Bond, who’s left for dead.
Meanwhile, MI6, the British counterpart of the CIA and Bond’s employer, comes under fire by a series of mysterious cyberterrorist attacks. Bond, taking note of the attacks, returns for duty and is put on the case.
Eventually the one responsible turns out to be Silva, a flamboyant and technologically-savvy man with a past linked to MI6 and its chief, M (Judi Dench, “Stars in Shorts”).
The action scenes in “Skyfall” are visually stunning. The train scenes are impressive in their scale and ambition, from the first scene where he’s fighting on a moving train to a confrontation with Silva in the London Underground. The final showdown with Silva provides a lot of firepower and fireworks for the audience. Craig performs most of Bond’s stunts, making the acting feel natural – especially in scenes where Bond’s age begins to catch up with him. Mendes has really outdone himself this time.
The acting in “Skyfall” gives life to the story. The plot, although not as enthralling as previous Bond installments, is brought to life through Craig’s portrayal of Bond as a gruff, rogue agent. Audiences can see how much Bond has grown and developed into the agent he is in “Skyfall” since his first portrayal in “Casino Royale.” His interactions with M and Silva are among the best in the series.
The movie separates itself from many action movies today with its character development. Details about Bond’s mysterious past are revealed, and portions of MI6’s history are revealed as well. M’s past becomes a crucial point in the film, as the decisions she made years ago are revealed to be what’s fueling Silva’s ambitions. Dench’s final performance as M is full of emotion, a departure from the cold, calculated mask she wore in the previous two Bond installments.
Silva is a quintessential Bond villain, complete with tortured past and iconic behavior. Silva’s pursuit of his goal, which isn’t lofty as those of previous Bond villains, is ruthless in its single-mindedness, and the things he does to make a point are what add to his character. In one point of the film, he flirts with Bond, who, oddly enough, flirts back. It’s apparent that Bardem, an Academy Award winning actor, had a lot of fun with this role.
The film includes several references to the previous Bond installments. The most apparent nod is the Aston Martin that Bond won in “Casino Royale,” which returns during the second half of the film. Several lines of dialogue reference older Bond films as well, such as the scene where Bond meets the new Q (Ben Whishaw, “Cloud Atlas” 2012). As Bond receives new gear, he’s teased by Q for wanting more equipment and asks him, “What did you expect, an exploding pen?”, making a reference to the 1995 Bond film “Goldeneye.”
In the end, “Skyfall” does a good job of capturing the Bond feel to the series while providing a great deal of backstory to the characters, all through a story that feels relevant to today’s world.
“Skyfall” is rated PG-13 for intense violent sequences, sexuality, language and smoking and runs for 143 minutes.