I have to guess that Daniel Craig’s James Bond doesn’t like his job much. He continues his profession to fill a void with another void. After all the hammy fun of previous actors playing the role, Craig’s interpretation is probably the most realistic because he approaches the character as an actual human being with a scarred soul, rather than an immortal playboy hero. Yet, I still wonder if Craig is ever going to have any fun.
Sam Mendes’ Skyfall, the latest of the 007 franchise, attempts to humanize the infamous covert British agent by tearing away at Bond’s wounds, wounds we never knew he had as far as the films are concerned.
Could it be more ironic that Craig feels a bit of disdain for the role? Especially since Skyfall has the character about to walk away from his profession following the series’ most explosive opening sequence in which he is accidentally shot by his own agency. Bond survives the bullet and attempts to leave behind the hired gun by drinking himself into the night with scorpions resting on his arm. Once danger strikes London, he reconsiders early retirement.
He returns home with a problematic shoulder and in desperate need of a shave. M, or Mom (Judi Dench), is about to lose MI6 after a bombing on the agency’s headquarters, as well as the hacking of her own confidential files including the identities of the agents on her payroll. As soon as these spies begin turning up as corpses, M only trusts Bond to seek out the individual responsible. This leads Bond to Shanghai where he reunites with his former partner (Naomie Harris). He also finds himself introduced to Sévérine (Bérénice Marlohe), a woman under the threatening grip of a mad villain, Silva (Javier Bardem). I call Silva mad, but really as played by Bardem, he is the most terrifying of all Bond villains, kind of like a blending of the Joker and Bane in terms of insanity, genius, intimidation, and character backstory. How fitting it is then that Bond takes on the persona of Bruce Wayne throughout the film.
Silva is interested in the destruction of MI6 and has stolen the computer files necessary to track down its agents and kill them. Bond and a few others may be the last hope to save the organization. Mendes, the very capable director here, gives Bond, M, and Silva plenty of dimension and texture with this film. Why do we actually care about Bond? Why do we root for him after 50 years? Why is Silva so evil? Why is M so attached to Bond? Mendes actually answers some important questions all the while dazzling our senses. In fact, the more I reflect on Skyfall, the more I’ve come to appreciate it a lot more than I did a week ago.
This is by-and-large the most visually stunning and entrancing James Bond adventure we will ever get. The exotic locales of Instabul, Shanghai, and even London look absolutely gorgeous. The action is filmed in a much-appreciated, non-contemporary style—meaning you can actually see what’s happening. Try making any sense of the action in Quantum of Solace. Skyfall also boasts terrific performances from the entire cast. Attempt to pin down a disappointment in this bunch… I dare you.
While Craig has never been my favorite Bond, he fills the role perfectly for this particular film. I’ve never appreciated the grit and glum of his interpretation. But this generation is all about the dark and grim. And given the backstory Mendes presents for the character, we begin to understand why this Bond resembles a tattered Bruce Wayne, or a thankless Jason Bourne. In fact, this film really marks a turning point for the character and for the franchise.
Before the film fizzles into a tense-thriller version of Home Alone, Skyfall centers on Bond looking at himself, literally reflecting in mirrors, and making sense of his past. MI6 also does the same as the government attempts to shut them down. With changing times and new threats afoot, are 007 and his cohorts necessary? Is it time for a new agency?
But Skyfall reminds us of Bond’s brand of justice, and the immortality of rogue action-taking. Perhaps that’s the immortality of this franchise.