In 2012's Skyfall, we get a more relaxed Bond then in the previous entries but, unlike Quantum of Solace, Craig's last foray into the Bond-verse, we actually get a good script this time! Just about everything is raised in quality from the last film: the villain, the story, the action set pieces, the locations, the cinematography (though a little too Dark Knighty), etc.
Skyfall is NOT a direct sequel to Quantum of Solace so we essentially get the first episodic Bond chapter of Craig's Bond career and the film is better because of it. While Casino Royale remains Craig's crown jewel in his three picture set, that film is essentially an origin film. And Quantum of Solace is the second part of that origin. When Quantum of Solace ended and Bond shoots through the gun barrel, like the beginning of every Bond film before it, the natural thought was: so THIS is the beginning.
However, if Craig were to not continue his excellent performance as Bond and the series ENDED right here and now, an argument could be made that this is essentially a prequel to Dr. No. I'll save the spoilers but there is a scene at the very end of the film where one suspects, if not for the obvious nods to 21st century technology, that we are seeing the beginning of what we saw from 1962 onwards; from Connery to Brosnan.
What I really enjoyed about this entry in the series is that it manages to be the 'new' Bond the series was rebooted as with Casino Royale but also a positive, 'greatest hits' of the older films. In fact, there are elements of many older Bonds in this film in terms of plot devices: the villain shares a less comical and more believable malady as the villain in The World Is Not Enough. Oddly, Bond suffers an injury and is handicapped the way he was in The World is Not Enough as well.
Bond escapes a trap the way Roger Moore did in Live and Let Die, some computer voodoo via Goldeneye is utilized, the villain is very similar to Sean Bean in Goldeneye, and his motivations are more down-to-earth, like Sanchez in License to Kill.
More importantly, Bond is funny again! Not outrageously cheesy or ridiculous but witty and dark, which is how Bond should be. Bond broods his fair share but we aren't talking the level of angst and unpleasantness we felt in Quantum of Solace. Bond is relaxed and gets to be a bit more suave. It does lessen the danger a little bit, at least when the main villain isn't involved, but this is escapist entertainment.
Lastly, before we move on to the ratings, Skyfall decides to utilize Judi Dench as M in more of a dramatic, involved way and I am thankful for that. M is usually a sidebar character meant to give order, deliver exposition, or help the plot along. Since her inception as M in Goldeneye, Dench has made due with what she has been given but was only really involved as a plot device in one film. In this, she basically part of Skyfall's entire plot functioning and, minor-spoilers, the motivation for the villain's evil-no-gooderey!
Now, off to the ratings:
9 out of 10; Craig is relaxed, knows just how much humor to put into the situation but is still Bourne-enough to kick some major ass. Luckily, his villain is less of a physical specimen and more of a mind-gamer, giving Craig some intellectual chops to add on to his brawling.
10 out of 10; one of the best in the franchise (we'll see if that changes when we continue to review these films). Javier Bardem brings his mega-watt acting ability to his performance as former spy Silva. Everything he does is unique but also, for the first time I can remember for a Bond villain, overtly sexually devious. And Bardem plays for both teams in that regard, taking interrogation to a new level Bond has probably never experienced. His mixture of Hannibal Lecter AND Buffalo Bill makes for an engaging performance.
5 out of 10; understated doesn't mean bad but Naomie Harris, as Eve, and Berenice Marlohe, as Severine, pale in comparison to the unbearably sexy ladies of Casino Royale (Eva Green) and Quantum of Solace (Olga Kurylenko). Harris is an understated beauty who is hit or miss as an actress while Marlohe is pretty stunning, though pretty useless, as the former sex slave Severine.
Cars and Gadgets
6 out of 10; not much in the way of gadgets here as Bond is relegated to more low tech affairs like a palm-imprinted gun and a normal radio. However, Bond does get himself a Goldfinger-era Aston Martin DB5, equipped with machine guns in the front and an ejector seat. I'm not kidding!
Action Set Pieces
9 out of 10; Bond fights a villain on a train and it is thoroughly harrowing. I audibly gasped a few times. Bond also does battle with some gangsters in a Gila monster pit (or maybe it is something else) that echoes Gladiator. There is a pretty suspenseful and slow game of hide and seek in a room of glass at the top of a skyscraper that gets the blood boiling as well. The main villain isn't a romp-and-stomp kind of guy so not a lot of good one on one action there but Bond does have an epic finale that lasts about half an hour involving hand made explosives, old style shot guns, helicopter shenanigans, and under water fighting!
Main Song/Title and the Music
6 out of 10; I don't mind Adele's song but I'm not in love with it like everyone else is. I might need another listen. The opening title does a good job of both showing the condition Bond is in as well as highlighting every major set piece in the film without you realizing it. Like most of the movie, it pales in comparison to Casino Royale but most Bond films do!
The music by Thomas Newman is sometimes bizarrely out of place and/or non-existence. Only the occasional reprise of the cherished Bond theme stirs the musical bones. I miss David Arnold!
9 out of 10; Bond goes to Istanbul, Shanghai, Macau, Scotland and London. Every location was exotic and different from the previous visited place, allowing for some amazingly diverse cinematography and setting.
Full Bond Score: 54 out of 70