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Film Review: Skyfall
In 2012, Sam Mendes released Skyfall, the 23rd film in the James Bond franchise and the most current film in the series. Starring Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Berenice Lim Marlohe, Albert Finney, Judi Dench, Ben Whinshaw, Rory Kinnear and Ola Rapace, the film grossed $1.11 billion at the box office and making it the highest grossing film in the series. Nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Original Score, Best Sound Mixing and Best Cinematography, it won the awards for Best Original Song and Best Sound Editing as well as the British Academy Film Award for Outstanding British Film and Best Original Music, the Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards for Best Action Movie, Best Song, Best Actor in an Action Movie, the Empire Awards for Best Director and Best Film and the Satellite Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
Following an operation in Istanbul where Bond seemingly dies, an encrypted hard drive containing the identities of active undercover NATO agents is stolen and M goes under government review. However, MI6 headquarters is targeted and Bond returns to track down a cyberterrorist with a grudge against M.
Unlike the previous film Skyfall does very well as a Bond film. Mirroring Goldeneye’s deconstruction and reconstruction of what sort of place a man like James Bond has in the world. This film seeks to answer the question of whether or not Bond has a use in the modern era and completes an overall deconstructionist journey that had been ongoing since the two previous films. In those films, Bond Girls are pawns of both sides and Bond himself is a blunt object slowly becoming obsolete while many of the staple Bond tropes disappearing, such as Moneypenny, schmoozing with the villains and Q. And this film brings them all back, portraying the history Bond had with Moneypenny, reintroducing Q and giving Bond more time with the villain. And that aforementioned question is again answered with a resounding “yes” that Bond is indeed still necessary with M’s speech and quotation of Ulysses, where she demonstrates that the time has long since passed where enemies were out in the open and could easily be seen and followed. A man like Bond is needed to head into the shadows to track them down and put a stop to their ways.
And the reconstruction of the film ties very nicely with the plot, involving a cyberterrorist who was once an MI6 agent seeking revenge on M for selling him out to the Chinese. And it’s all interestingly orchestrated due to the knowledge of how MI6 works and what will be done once Silva is captured. But, Bond’s throwing of a wrench into those plans really adds to make the plot even better, essentially making Silva “blind” while heading to Skyfall to prepare while Silva figures out what to do next. And once they do head to Skyfall, Silva is never quite on top anymore what with Bond, M and Kincade using the weapons on the Aston Martin that Bond had possibly retrofitted between films, the makeshift weaponry and the surrounding area of Skyfall to their advantage.
Silva himself is also a good villain, seemingly mixing characterizations of Alec Trevelyan and Boris from Goldeneye. He’s an ex-agent with a grudge but is also an expert hacker. And while he’s got his seemingly goofy traits, he turns them into sinister as the film rolls on, turning the odd flirtatiousness side of him into something akin to a deranged stalker. He’s also a good foil for the entirety of MI6, using multiple gadgets, where Bond uses the radio and gun, is an expert hacker rivaled by Q and makes dark decisions to lead his organization to victory as compared to M.
Something also interesting that ties both plot and villain together is that Silva essentially wins. He may end up dead at the end of the film, but his revenge on M is successful in that she still dies as well. But then he still wanted to die. So while the film still ends on a positive note, Silva still managed to get everything he wanted.
All of this also works together to bring Bond back to the place he was when the series started. Silva’s destruction of M’s office brought MI6 back to the original offices, seen in the pre-Brosnan era and a man is once again in the role as M. Fifty years and though the series has gone far and seen a lot of new and different things, it’s notable that nothing really changes. And that’s not bad.
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