Skyfall first explodes onto the screen with an electrifying chase across the roofs of a bazaar in Istanbul, motorcycling up and around stairs, using a crane to tear apart a cargo train, and swooping under bridges. Within the first thirty seconds of film, it’s palpable that Agent 007’s only mission in Skyfall is redeeming the Bond film series’ recent fall from grace.
Ian Fleming’s first novel in the Bond series, Casino Royale, first appeared in print in 1953. A form of escapism for Brits facing post-war gloom and consequent rationing, Agent 007 was a hero against the drudgery of daily life. While men all across Britain were slaving away as car salesmen or something equally mundane, 007 was travelling to exotic locations with the exquisite Vesper on his arm and eating lobster with enough butter to feed a family for a week. It’s no wonder the Bond series was a bestseller.
Skyfall has renewed that initial sense of glamorous escapism introduced in the 50’s, whisking us out of our disappointment in Quantum of Solace and allowing us to forget the banality of our own lives for two hours and twenty-three minutes. Amongst its more glorious elements, the film boasts wondrous locales (Istanbul, Shanghai, and Macau) and even the fantasy of being with the two bond girls, Eve (Naomie Harris) and the stunning Sévérine played by Bérénice Marlohe. And let’s not forget, the object of our affections, James Bond himself.
Daniel Craig plays an older, more damaged version of Agent 007. Worn down by years of physical and emotional exertion, we see Bond as we never have before: vulnerable. Lest the Bond series become a melodramatic sob story, he’s still capable of kicking ass and taking names with cheeky one-liners to boot. It’s only when Judi Dench sweeps the screen as M that we truly witness the emotional side of Bond.
Judi Dench epitomizes the perfect Bond girl (well, at least in the way she treats men). Dench portrays M, the ultimate matriarch with a careless attitude towards her agents’ welfare in favour of the greater good, as playing hard to get for Agent 007. While the two other Bond girls, Eve (Naomie Harris) and Sévérine (Bérénice Marlohe) are both banging hot, they’ve got nothing on M’s ability to inspire fierce loyalty (bordering on resentment) and her ability to keep rugged male agents lined around the block. The competition for Bond’s affection seems a losing battle for the younger women when examining the torrid eroticism between M and 007; the sexual tension between them adds a layer of depth to Bond’s character. M’s allure seems to be the unifying theme of Skyfall and introduces the brilliant but maniacal villain of the film: Silva.
Evil as hell, Javier Bardem’s malice revolves around a twisted fascination with M. The former MI6 poster boy’s fall from grace inspires a vengeful conviction to die and bring down the agency with him. It’d be easy to typecast Silva as a sociopath considering the way he murders cronies and hot women alike without flinching a muscle; but it’s actually Silva’s infatuation with Judi Dench’s M that makes him so damn terrifying. From start to finish, Bardem’s performance gives the audience a lunatic that proves to be a true match for Bond.
The culmination of a brilliant villain, exquisite Bond girls, and an unspoken eroticism between M and 007 has injected the Bond series with a renewed hope. It’s safe to say that director Sam Mendes has done Bond films proud.
Skyfall even pays homage to previous Bond films, accessorized with stunning cars, tongue-in-cheek humour, and the impossible-to-survive scenes which Bond handles with a nonchalance worthy of envy. It’s been 50 years since Sean Connery graced the screen with a cigarette and introduced himself to an exquisite woman as “Bond. James Bond”, and thanks to Skyfall the Bond series will probably last another 50 years. Raise your martinis (shaken, not stirred obviously) and say ”salut” to Bond. Agent 007’s redemption is a roaring success.