The Reel Critic: Skyfall

By Deirdre Sackett

After 50 years, he’s still got it. Skyfall is the latest in the James Bond series, and it does not disappoint. Released on the series’ 50th anniversary, the movie follows a rather dramatic premise: after an operation involving Bond and sidekick Eve goes south, M finds herself fending off a forced retirement, and aspects of her past come back to haunt her — with big consequences.

I’ll go ahead and say it right off the bat: there is no true “Bond girl” in this movie. Yes, there is a sexy woman whose first encounter with Bond is at a casino bar, but she is by no means a traditional femme fatale. Rather than tantalizing the audience with seductive women or cool gadgets, it is Bond’s loyalty to his employer, M, that is the driving force behind the movie.

Daniel Craig returns for a third round — this time, he plays an aging Bond. After being injured in the beginning of the movie, Bond’s recovery and return to service becomes a major plot point. It is obvious that the physical demands of the job are becoming increasingly difficult for him to undertake — the combination of injury and age do not a fit agent make.

Meanwhile, Judi Dench’s M is again the sharp and sassy leader of the secret intelligence service M16, but she too faces aging issues alongside Bond. Rather than focusing on beautiful, young espionage, the movie explores how these two staples of the series deal with their respective aging woes and their loyalty to England. This is seemingly made worse by the arrival of M’s new bureaucratic boss, Mallory (played by Ralph Fiennes).

The movie was also unique for a Bond film in that it finally explored the attitudes of M16, particularly in how it deals with its employees. This glimpse within the secret service revealed a disturbing truth. Essentially, M16 treats its agents as disposable tools rather than human beings — they are mere playthings to be used to form agreements and settle deals. We finally learn that being a glamorous agent has its price.

The true highlight of Skyfall was its villain, Raoul Silva, played by Javier Bardem who was a living example of this terrible reality. A former lackey of M16, Silva fell victim to the service’s dispassionate view of its agents. When he fails to take his own life after being betrayed by the service, he swears revenge against M instead, creating one of the most memorable and chilling Bond villains in the series’ history. For instance, Silva’s introductory scene contains an eerie monologue, with the tone of voice and subtle mannerisms that immediately recall Heath Ledger’s “Joker” in The Dark Knight.

Despite the more serious plot, the movie still delivers its trademark thrills. The film opens with a triple-whammy of a car chase, a train battle and a rooftop motorcycle chase — you read that right. Explosions and gunfights abound. There’s even a fight scene involving komodo dragons.

The visuals in the movie truly paint  Skyfall as a beautiful piece of art, complementing the content of the film with strong imagery. The introductory sequence, with its kaleidoscopic, bloody imagery, was complemented by Adele’s haunting vocals. One of the best fight scenes in the movie took place in a glass room, with reflections of city lights causing confusion as to who is fighting whom. Another particularly beautiful sequence involved glimmering, colorful Chinese dragons on a river.

One unsuspecting highlight came near the end of the movie. Without giving too much away, the ending of Skyfall more resembled Home Alone than a Bond movie. I’ll just leave that to the imagination for those who haven’t seen it just yet. Combine that with a memorable last-minute character appearance and big explosions, and you’ve got one of the most entertaining movies of the year.

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The Reel Critic: Skyfall