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Skyfall: Why this may be the best Bond film of all time

Director Sam Mendes has created a version of James Bond that isn’t a great James Bond movie. It isn’t a great spy movie. It isn’t a great action movie. Instead, it’s a great film, period. This fact alone separates the latest installment of the Bond franchise from a vast majority of its predecessors.

It would be difficult to say outright that Skyfall is without a doubt the best film in a series of 23 adventures, and this version of Bond is quite different from the previous films. What can be said about Skyfall with absolute certainty is that the movie makes an effort to ditch the traditional James Bond tropes in order to introduce a character that is much more relevant and up to date with today’s current generation.

When attempting to support the idea that this Sam Mendes directed thrill-ride is superior to all of the other Bond films, there are many that can easily be eliminated from discussion. The films that would cause a reviewer hesitance towards crowning Skyfall as the best James Bond movie are essentially the films in which the famous agent is portrayed by Sean Connery, specifically the first film Dr. No, the second film From Russia with Love, and, what is arguably the most famous of the bunch, Goldfinger. Another important aspect to observe is how this most recent effort differentiates itself from Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, the other films in which Daniel Craig was given the responsibility of playing the protagonist.

While I enjoyed the previous films where Daniel Craig took the lead, and I do believe it’s between him and Connery as the best Bonds in the series, there was a glaring mistake that was made in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. The two films were an attempt to make the films darker (a goal which was accomplished) and establish a new James Bond. The films didn’t really show much respect, however, to audiences that have grown up with the Bond franchise and have come to love the series. Both films entered into a realm that became too dark for an audience that was used to the charming quality of the Bond universe, where there was a sense of silliness to situations, silliness that has been captured in parodies many times (for example Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery).

I do respect the previous two Daniel Craig entries for trying to take the series into a new direction, however the lack of closure to Casino Royale and the fact that the movies may have been better served to be cut down into one single film was part of the two-part series that bothered this particular writer. It was, I believe, the first time there was an attempt of continuation with the Bond franchise, and ended up as more of a distraction than anything.

Where Skyfall succeeds in contrast to Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace is the way in which the film slowly disposes of the old-time Bond traditions, while not completely abandoning the series trademarks altogether. Skyfall contains a self-deprecating quality that makes the film an admission of sorts that the old misogynistic qualities of the series, along with the insane gadgetry, are a thing of the past, yet this series is still going to employ those things of the past when they are useful and make sense.

This is where the case can be made that the newest entry is far superior to the older, “classic” Bond entries. Much of the appeal of the Connery versions (I apologize to the Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, or even George Lazenby fans out there but I am writing this as though Connery is the gold standard of the character), was about the togetherness and coolness that agent 007 embodies. This characteristic, while is something that may appeal to some, can tend to make a character boring. It’s essentially the difference between Superman and Batman. Batman has always been a more interesting character due to him being a normal human being with plenty of weaknesses. With Superman, Kryptonite has to somehow find its way into the picture.

The weakness and mythology introduced in Skyfall is one of the most appealing strengths about the film. The audience gets to see Bond fail and then become resurrected, a strong theme of the film. In creating a character with legitimate weakness and a strong sense of doubt, Sam Mendes has accomplished for the Bond franchise what Christopher Nolan managed to accomplish with the Batman franchise. He has managed to resurrect a character that has become stale in the eyes of audiences around the world and he has created a universe in which it James Bond’s existence can be argued as necessary.

If that’s not convincing enough to at least consider Skyfall as at least one of the best films of the Bond series, then one must also consider the fact that in this film, it is a distinct possibility that one of the most memorable onscreen villains in the history of film was brought to life with another brilliant performance from Javier Bardem. The performance leaves virtually no argument that there has been a more capable or convincing villain than Bardem’s Silva. This character is a brilliant mind with an actual sense of morality (no matter how warped that morality may be) and unlike most bond films, this is very much a villain with a personal vendetta instead of a goal of world domination or money.

Skyfall is a true reboot to a series that had forced itself into a hole by desperately holding onto the old traditions of the 1960 Sean Connery films. Instead of continually reinventing itself, the series became dull and repetitive. There were a few good entries here and there, but in the end they never could live up to the earliest adventures of the suave main character.

Now, with Skyfall having a performer who is truly able to excel in a different role for James Bond, a flawed character instead of an unstoppable one, a Batman instead of a Superman, if you will, there is a great opportunity to bring about many more special films in the series. There are many who will still pine for the old days of Bond, when the women had ridiculous names and James Bond would get through the biggest messes without a scratch. But one thing is for certain, Skyfall has changed the series for the better, and has done away with many of the disruptive tendencies of the series. And this makes Skyfall one of, if not the, best films of the James Bond Collection.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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I'm Kevin Licht, a graduate from the University of Missouri with a bachelor's degree in English and a minor emphasis in Film Studies. When I'm not working I watch and write

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2 Comments

  1. I agree on how they have not made him a superhero and instead portraying his weaknesses. Great read! One of my favorite Bond, especially out the the recent three.

  2. SKYFALL has a bad third act, is insistent on making Bond a hero by making him more of a victim, reboots the series to business-as-usual for the next installment, and by making it “greater” only aligning it with the elements of depth and maturity that have existed for much longer in other spy films and novels (John Le Carre, for ex.) but also falls short of even more maturity (“Harlot’s Ghost”, for ex) and so is stuck somewhere in the middle — like gourmet candy or those bourgeois cupcake shops.

    Just as Christopher Nolan is the awkward dork’s Michael Mann, so SKYFALL is GOLDFINGER for the non-drinking, non-smoking, non-womanizing, non-gambling, and non-interesting with no sense of humor. It is international glamor and intrigue- as- strip mall Jumba Juice. It is shot, though, by Roger Deakins.

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