11. Skyfall (PG-13) - Runtime: 143 minutes
Starring: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench
Director: Sam Mendes
It was an odd choice for the studio to pick Sam Mendes to direct this installment of the Bond franchise. After all, he's done nothing but a handful of American-focused dramas and a comedy - it's not like he's established himself as an action-oriented director. But the risk paid out - Mendes nailed this one and made it into one of the best Bond movies ever.
Unlike Quantum of Solace's meandering and messy plot, Skyfall gets straight to the point when it comes to the story. Bond has been presumed dead, KIA and a terrorist has taken a valuable document listing all MI6's agents locations and real names. Duh - Bond's not really dead and it's up to him to ferret out the villain. Unlike previous Bond films, the villain doesn't show up until halfway through the movie. But it is quite an entrance for a Bond villain. It's not flashy - but it is effective. Javier Bardem is suitably creepy and mysterious enough to warrant him at least consideration for top 5 Bond villains. Whereas most villains main source of motivation for being evil is money - Bardem's Silva is strictly out for revenge.
It's nice to see the franchise get back to its roots in some form or another: gadgets are back (although not that flashy - again I'm sensing a theme here), the villain is outrageously comical (the dude literally has his own secret island and that hair. Oh that hair.) and there's actually some steamy, sexy sex going on (Bond bags three ladies in this one!). While I enjoyed the previous two Daniel Craig outings, they were lacking in the camp/fun department. I call this the Bourne effect. It seems like Bond was trying to hard to be Jason Bourne, rather than himself. And while that paid off with Casino Royale, it was showing its wear and tear in Quantum of Solace. Thankfully, Skyfall fuses the more serious parts of Bond with the camp and cheesiness from yore in an entertaining way.
For the serious part - Skyfall delves into the past lives of Bond and M. Silva is a figure from the past out for revenge and apparently has enough money and goons to make his dream come true. As for the more campy elements - Q returns with his gadgets, Komodo dragons make an appearance and the aforementioned sexy sex happens quite a bit. Plus there's a lot more jokes/humor in this movie than the previous two combined.
Special mention has to be made for the direction and cinematography of Skyfall. There's a fight scene in Shanghai at the top of a building that is simply stunning. The lighting and camera angles make for some beautiful shots. The final act of the movie is also quite riveting - Mendes knows how to make destruction look beautiful and successfully captures Bond's almost-demise perfectly.
That's not to say this movie has some flaws - the final act, while stunning, drags a little bit and could have benefited from a shorter ending. And while I do say the movie gets back to its roots - it has a very limited leash. The movie isn't flashy enough in certain points. The gadgets are not really gadgets (seriously - a tiny tracking device and a palm-print ID'd gun? That's all you've got, Q?) The film itself acknowledges this when Q says "What did you expect, an exploding pen?" But that's what we want! So I'll knock the film a little - it plays it safe when it comes to reality-bending devices and plots (although the villain is pretty unrealistic from the get-go. Seriously the dude has an island and a bajillion supercomputers with which he can hack into any secure server in the world. Plus he has an unlimited amount of money and resources and he's able to predict his enemies actions/reactions.).
Aside from these nitpicking annoyances, the movie is solid. It has some amazing action scenes, a pretty involved plot that really has some character development and there's a decent amount of jokes. It may not match any of Sean Connery's outings as Bond in charm or wit - but it's pretty fantastic for a modern action movie and it deserves to be called one of the best Bond films!
Rating: See It!