by Sam Mendes
The 23rd installment of the adventures of British international super spy James Bond pumped our hopes and expectations for so many reasons. 1.) Skyfall is the 50 years of James Bond on the big screen celebratory milestone film. 2.) Sam Mendes is going to try to tackle his first action movie. 3.) James Bond is, as sad as it sounds, matters less and less in the map of cinematic accomplishment. But it’s still James Bond. The longest running and most successful movie franchise of all time. People will still watch it no matter what. The question is: would it be worth the wait?
After a hard-drive containing the names of MI6 undercover operatives are stolen, James Bond tried to retrieve the list back only to be declared missing and dead after a friendly fire hits him. He returned a few months later after hearing the news that a terrorist bombed his headquarters back home. From M, he learned that those responsible are the same ones who stole the list. After going through several qualifying fitness test, Bond is back and his first mission is to find the terrorist. His investigation brought him into the hands of Raoul Silva, a cyber terrorist based in an Macau. His intentions was very simple: revenge. Secrets opened, twists and turns tweaked along the way, now Bond is the last man standing between the psychopathic villain and a very dear friend.
Finally, after 50 years, 23 movies, 6 actors, and 52 women shagged, arrives a Bond that actually and properly relevant. Not only to the era, nor how the plot was mirroring something current (at the time) in a fantastically macho manner. As a whole complete package. Being the most successful film franchise in the planet, Bond is not actually the patron of quality entertainment. Since Dr. No, just a few pictures that actually made more effort than the others to make something worth watching the second time. Some may tried to hit and missed, so it’s worth to notice. But the rest? It’s stuck in the entrapping campy formula of an aging Bond, weirdly constructed and ridiculously insignificant mission, bizarre villain with colorfully animated henchmen, boring action sequences that we all know how it would end, robotic girls that tried too hard, and an extravagant climax that’s just out-of-this-world cheesy. Goldfinger was the only one that ran on this ingredients but came out triumphant. The only difference were the actors playing Bond: Connery was the alpha male, Lazenby was the action star, Moore was the funny lover, Dalton was the dark side, and Brosnan was the modern flamboyant. The tone was coming out of the same printer.
But does really a Bond movie should always presented with the same structure over and over again just because Dr. No was that popular? The producers never really had any guts to reboot the franchise and being consistent about it after three different Bonds in the next 40 years. Because it was that popular. They tried with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but George Lazenby’s failure to live up the expectation made them chickened out again, which prompt the return of Connery to do his last (and one of his worst) mission. They tried it with Casino Royale, and it was a huge hit, but then they soften up and made the following Quantum of Solace with the repeated standard. They thought they couldn’t lose the charm. But everything gets old. Including Bond. You can’t expect this series to go forever only to drive in the same direction over and over again. This might work for a TV series, but not a film franchise. They forgot that in 40+ years, people grew up, the world matured, and espionage got trickier. The people who watched Brosnan’s Bond were those who grew up watching Moore’s line of embarassing bravados, so Tomorrow Never Dies and Die Another Day were considered improvements. But those who watch Royale are those who realised how ugly those two movies were, thus Solace did not meet the expectations. That’s why Skyfall is here. Because Bond, like fashion and technology, needs to be relevant.
Sam Mendes have to be proud of himself, because he crafted one of the best James Bond film ever -yes, what you read on those other reviews are right. He brings life to a dusty half century old blue print into a piece that is not only relevant, but first class in all points. He turned Bond into a very human, loyal, and never surrendering friend instead of just merely a super spy. He tackled the theme of cyber-terrorism, a threat that is very much real as well as reasonable. He gave us the best -yes, I said the best- Bond villain ever in the playfully psychotic Silva. He showered us with non stop gorgeous adrenaline shots that this franchise desperately needed. The most importantly, he brought us the most original and wonderfully scripted James Bond in the last 43 years. And in honor of the 50 years anniversary celebration, he spread numerous references and brought back some little things, traditions if you might, that made the franchise as lovable as we remembered it. With Skyfall, Mendes in his first attempt doing a blockbuster, made Bond mattered again.
If you like James Bond since the Connery days, some details may disturbed you. It did to me. The personal approach to Bond’s life that took most of the film’s focus was a little off put for a James Bond film. A lot of things are there because maybe Mendes did not want to miss a single beat, which backfired and made Skyfall somehow a little cluttered like your adolescent days closet: too many things in a very tight space. But for going the extra mile -and going for even more and more until the very end- Skyfall answered our expectations, deserved all the praises, and made us wanting for more Bond in the end. This is James Bond for the new generation.