The 23rd official film in the Bond franchise, and Daniel Craig’s third entry, is “Skyfall“. Released in 2012, it coincided with the 50th anniversary of the film franchise with “Dr No” having been released in 1962.
The film starts in Istanbul with James Bond and Eve Moneypenny chasing a merc called Patrice, who has a hard drive containing details of undercover agents. Bond manages to catch up to Patrice on a moving train and the pair are in a punch up. Meanwhile, Moneypenny is within shooting distance and is ordered to take the shot on Patrice, despite not having a clear sight due to him being in a punch up with Bond. Moneypenny inadvertently shoots Bond, who falls off the train and into a river, presumably dead. At a public enquiry about the incident, M is pressured into retirement by Gareth Mallory, the chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament and former SAS officer. Before she can fully stand down, MI6 is hacked with a message for her, then the building explodes. Hearing about this and M, Bond resurfaces. He had been using the presumed death as a retirement plan but returns to MI6 to help. Despite failing physical, mental, and psychological testing, M reinstates him with the mission to find out who Patrice’s employers are, recover the stolen hard drive, and kill Patrice. To assist him Bond is directed to meet the new Q, who gives him a radio beacon and a Walther PPK pistol.
Bond travels to Shanghai but cannot stop Patrice killing a target. They fight and Patrice eventually takes a dive off a massive building. With no clue other than a casino token found in Patrice’s bag, Bond needs more info, so he goes to the casino to cash in the token. While getting the money the token is a marker for Bond meets Patrice’s accomplice, Severine. He instantly recognises that despite her bravado she used to be sex slave and she is being bullied into working by her supposed bodyguards. Bond promises to set her free if she can lead him to her employer and captive. They head to a deserted island on her yacht but before they get there the crew take them hostage in preparation for meeting the evil mastermind that is waiting on the island, Raoul Silva. Silva is not shy about himself, he used to be an MI6 agent but has turned to cyberterrorism – he is responsible for the attack on MI6 and M, all because she betrayed him to the Chinese government after he was captured on a mission gone wrong. Silva is also not shy about telling Bond other information, such as how Bond failed his MI6 testing recently and should not have been reinstated. He even goes so far as to prove how unstable Bond is by telling him to shoot at Severine without killing her. It is obviously a trick as Silva kills her anyway. Little does Silva know though, the radio tracker that Q provided has been alerted and crack team of agents swoop in to rescue Bond and to capture Silva.
Back at HQ, Q tries to break into Silva’s computer, but instead he gives it access to the MI6 servers and Silva escapes. It had all been a rouse for Silva to get close to M to exact his revenge. Bond acts quickly and whisks M away before she can get assassinated at a public enquiry. He instructs Q to leave an electronic breadcrumb trail so that Silva can follow him. Bond takes M to his childhood home in the Scottish Highlands, a place named ‘Skyfall’. Thy meet up with the resident game keeper, Kinkade, and together they set a trap for Silva. Silva duly walks into the trap with his men to find and kill Bond and M. Silva manages to mortally wound M before he is killed by Bond. M dies in Bond’s arms. Back in London, M’s funeral takes place, Mallory is appointed as the new M, and Eve Moneypenny takes a leave from field work to become the new M’s new secretary. Bond is declared ready for action.
Skyfall is written by the well-established Bond writing team of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, with John Logan also coming in to add content. Logan was recommended to the project by this film’s director, Sam Mendes. Mendes had worked with Logan before, and he had worked with Bond star Daniel Craig before. Mendes wasn’t actually keen on the job at first but knowing Daniel Craig already and being impressed with “Casino Royale” (2006), he thought he would take the plunge into the franchise all the same. He brought in some old crew and some new crew too, shaking some things up, while leaving certain establishments in the film production franchise alone. He was given a budget of between $100 – 200 million to work with. He was able to make a 143-minute Bond film which resonated with fans and became the first Bond film to make over a billion at the box office – $1.109 billion globally to be specific.
This is Daniel Craig’s 3rd appearance as Bond since the franchise rebooted itself with “Casino Royale” (2006). He is as great in this as he was in his previous films, giving a solid performance and making the role authentic. He manages to make Bond real, he’s a real threat to the bad guys, while being vulnerable and fragile himself, something Daniel Craig manages to do really well.
Judi Dench bows out in her 7th Bond film (having made her debut in “Goldeneye” (1995)). She has been a great asset to the franchise and this film and her performance in it is a fitting curtain call. She stays strong throughout with a stiff upper lip, but she occasionally offers subtle looks and expressions which tell Bond, and the audience, who scared and out of place she feels. Dench has been a fantastic servant to the franchise, she has been on the forefront of changing the stereotypes of Bond film tropes, being a strong and powerful woman, in what has typically been a man’s world. Her replacement in MI6, Mallory, is played by Ralph Finnes. While he is a strong suitor to the role, part of me expected there to be a twist and for him to turn out to be a bad guy. This was all on the strength of Dench’s M, and my expectation that she would come out of the film winning back any credit she loses at the public enquiry and being back in control.
Javier Bardem is Bond’s villain in this film, Raoul Silva, the ex-MI6 operative, turned cyber-terrorist. There was something of the old school about him as a villain. He felt like a lot of the old bad guys that went before him, but there was camp jollity to him too, which made him come across as a little unhinged. There were times where he could have been the most dangerous adversary Bond had faced, but likewise there were times where it looked like David Walliams (see “Little Britain” on British TV) wearing a bad wig was sat opposite Bond.
Naomie Harris appears as a reinvented Miss Moneypenny in this and is good, more than just eye-candy as proved in the opening sequence. Ben Wilshaw takes a turn playing the no thrills quartermaster cum techno-specialist Q. While Harris is good, it does not feel yet that there has is any chemistry between her and Bond yet, maybe it is just early days. Meanwhile the new Q explains to the audience how much the franchise has grown up and matured when he gives a bemused Bond a gun and a radio and states “Were you expecting an exploding pen? We don’t really go in for that anymore“.
All in all I enjoyed this film but I have to admit that there were a lot of plot holes and at times the film felt like it had borrowed themes and ideas from a lot of other films – The lost list of agents has been done; getting fake captured has been done; bedding a former sex-slave as a ‘thank you’ felt rapey and wrong (not quite on the level as “Live and Let Die” (1973) though!); killing 3 security guards and then walking calmly out of a casino as if nothing happened; MI6 being openly talked about in an enquiry that isn’t under massive security presence; the uninhabited island lair felt a Austin Powers style silly; the techno-genius that can’t just frame M but has to pull a trigger in front of her…. Really, come on guys?!
Yes, I enjoyed it, but this film is far from perfect. Daniel Craig does however continue his great run as Bond, which is dry, intelligent, fragile, and dangerous. The bad guy of the piece feels a little weak to me, I didn’t feel convinced that he was as dangerous or as clever as he was hyped up to be. Certainly, with some of the things he does throughout the film it left me wondering if there was not a better way in which somebody of his reputation could have handled himself. The real star of the show, other than Daniel Craig, is Judy Dench. The film does feature some great looking and complex action sequences, it was a fun and exciting adrenaline ride which kept me entertained throughout. It’s clear to see how this film became the first billion-dollar grossing Bond film, and it is definitely deserving of the awards and accolades that it has won. I can confirm that this film works well as a stand-alone film if you have not seen any other Bond films. It fits well in the rebooted Bond series which has had Daniel Craig in the lead role. It also works well in the entire Bond-film franchise too.
Title Song: Skyfall – Adele
In terms of Bond films this is an 8 out of 10.
In terms of movies in the long and illustrious history of film I would give this a 7 out of 10.
Bond, James Bond, 007 – Ranking
|1||007: Casino Royale (2006) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: Goldfinger (1964) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: Goldeneye (1995) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|2||007: The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: Skyfall (2012) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: License to Kill (1989) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: A View to a Kill (1985) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: Dr. No (1962) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: The Living Daylights (1987) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: The World is Not Enough (1999) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: From Russia with Love (1963) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|3||007: Thunderball (1965) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|007: Quantum of Solace (2008) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: Moonraker (1979) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|4||007: You only live twice (1967) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: Diamonds are Forever (1971) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: For Your Eyes Only (1981) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: Octopussy (1983) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|007: Die Another Day (2002) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|007 (Unofficial): Never Say Never Again (1983) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|5||007: Live and Let Die (1973) ⭐⭐⭐⭐|