Skyfall

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Bond 23.  After 23 official movies (and the non-canon Never Say Never Again), it is hardly possible to have an entirely original Bond film. Indeed, the 21st Century has been replete with sequels, reboots and re-imaginings. Skyfall is the 3rd picture in the series featuring Daniel Craig’s interpretation of the character. His Bond has been less caricature and more grounded than most previous versions. And more angry – sharing a heritage primarily with Timothy Dalton’s Bond. It is this more fallible and human interpretation which has made the character seem fresh again.

Skyfall enjoyed much critical and box office success as a result of this “reboot.” It is the first Bond film to take in over $1 billion worldwide and enjoys a 93% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes falling just short of the 95% enjoyed by 2006’s Casino Royale. (The highest rated Bond films are the first 3 – Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger – all with 96%. Goldfinger seems to enjoy the top spot as the best of the “classic” Bond’s.)

Skyfall’s plot is eerily similar to the wildly imperfect 2002 Brosnan film Die Another Day.

Die Another Day

Both films see Bond’s return after an extended absence, Bond feels betrayed by M (played by the luminous Judi Dench in both movies) and must endure rigorous evaluation before returning to work. But while Brosnan’s Bond struggles to regain M’s trust, Craig seems to have finally earned it from his work in the previous two installments. In fact, M goes on a limb to return Bond to the field, certifying his fitness for duty despite his testing failures.

That M would exert this confidence in Bond becomes a nice plot device as the villain Silva, attempts to ingratiate himself with Bond and develop a rapport by revealing the lie. Silva (played with seething menace by Javier Bardem) is another disfigured and weirdly blond Bond villain. His psychopathology and obsession a perfect contrast to Bond’s own.

In fact, Skyfall is a film of beautiful and haunting contrasts. The contrast between Bond and Silva, both a product of M’s influence in their lives and both nursing the physical and psychological wounds of a shocking betrayal. However, Bond seeks to protect the betrayer, while Silva seeks to destroy her. Bond declares his hobby to be “resurrection” while Silva goes to elaborate ends to bring about his own death.

The films color palette’s reflect the contrasts as well. Cool blues inject an action sequence in Shanghai with cold, calculated indifference and a warm, earthy tone introduces the character Severine. Warm tones abound then as Bond then moves to Macau in pursuit in a lavish and beautifully executed sequence involving floating dragon boats and a couple of hungry komodo dragons. The same color themes are used again in the films climax – evoking Bonds cool detachment and Silva’s burning obsession.

The film also contrasts the sleek and modern world of those two sequences against the crumbling decay of Silva’s island retreat – perhaps reflecting his own moral decay.

Throughout these contrasting themes, Skyfall brings some spectacular action sequences to life. But it is the rare emotional core of this picture that really sets it apart from other Bond pictures. There are echoes of the films that have come before, and references to previous movies abound from Goldeneye’s exploding pen, to Goldfinger’s machine gun equipped Aston Martin. Bond is world weary and damaged as Connery was in Never Say Never Again. It all plays well and finally coalesces into familiarity as Bond stands in M’s office. It is all there, the trim suit, Moneypenny at her desk and M at his. Even the familiar hat rack is there. It is as if time has been reset to the beginning and Bond is new again. Resurrection.