Latest Bond adventure is one of the best in the series and a fine film in its own right
By Jimmy Gillman
I can't go so far as to anoint the latest James Bond film, Skyfall, as "the greatest Bond ever," as some have called it. But it's certainly the most unusual Bond film yet produced, and it clearly deserves to be ranked among the very best the series has to offer.
Directed by Sam Mendes (Revolutionary Road) and again starring Daniel Craig as 007, Skyfall has many surprises in store for fans and first-timers, not the least of which is the reappearance of certain characters dispensed with when Craig took over the franchise in 2006 with the release of Casino Royale.
Skyfall has other tricks up its sleeve as well, including a story that makes Bond's boss, M (Judi Dench), nothing less than a co-star who shares the screen throughout the film's considerable but not too lengthy running time, making it the second longest Bond in history (can you guess which entry is the longest?).
The story in play has both M and the agency she heads, MI6, under attack following an opening action sequence that finds Bond and a fellow agent trying to intercept a stolen hard drive containing the names of British spies who have infiltrated various terrorist organizations.
The mission is a spectacular failure (with one of those aforementioned surprises thrown in), and the consequences put M on the hot seat with her superiors, led by Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), who makes it plain those in the PM's office want her to retire. But after an attempt to assassinate her fails, M and Bond go on the lam, both targeted by an unknown assailant whose identity is not even revealed until well into the film.
Like the previous two entries, Skyfall retains the narrative depth and adult sensibilities the series had long lost before the producers undertook something of a reboot after finally acquiring the rights to the first James Bond novel and "re-launching" the franchise in 2006 following a four year hiatus. Skyfall has no plot aimed at world domination or the campy antics that had turned the vaunted secret agent into something of a cartoon character.
There's plenty of top-tier action, including a nifty, almost surreal sequence that may be the most cinematically complex of any Bond film (thanks to master cinematographer Roger Deakins), and the supporting players and production values are first-rate from beginning to end.
The two complaints I have with Skyfall involve Bond's fall from grace and expected return to prominence, which the screenplay fails to flesh-out convincingly, and the film's tendency to fall back on extended gunfire and pyrotechnics, even when such actions are at odds with the characters behind it.
The foregoing weaknesses notwithstanding, Skyfall is an outstanding James Bond installment and a fine film in its own right, well worth seeing even if you're not a fan of the series.