Review by Luke Whitmire

James Bond celebrates his fiftieth year on the big screen, and we are introduced to all the elements that make the mythology so endearing: the gadgets, the beautiful girls, the exotic locations, and the eccentric villains. Skyfall is the 23rd movie in the most successful film series of all time, and what is most surprising is it inherits and transcends the mythology, taking the heritage to new heights. You know the man. You know the rules by now.

The film opens with 007 in Turkey pursuing a hired gun who has procured a MI6 disk drive of all the deep cover agents placed undercover in terrorist cells around the world. This opening sequence is over 10 minutes long and the action is orchestrated brilliantly. Bond skillfully rides through the streets of Turkey on a motorbike, and fights on top of a speeding train fast and furious. Sam Mendes directs a compelling and beautiful opening sequence that sets up the best 007 film of all time.
I won’t waste any time here. What makes Skyfall the best Bond film of all Bond films is its realistic touch. Now we see James Bond (played by Daniel Craig) as a human being, a broken down soul who is an anachronism in his field, not the indomitable, campy caricature that we have seen many times before. We see a much more human Bond struggling with incipient alcoholism and an apathy for his career. When he does decide to get back into the game, his skills are now deemed too antiquated and inefficient. He is older, weathered, and several steps behind his fellow agents. We see Bond trying to adapt to the post-9/11 sophistication of technology used by younger minds. “This is a young man’s game,” says Bond. Skyfall teaches that the world is now being run by a generation of crafty youth, who are cognoscenti with a computer keypad and other advanced technological gadgets. And one of the strongest sequences in the film is Bond going through a rehab process at a secret MI6 base. He is mentally and physically destitute, and we come to know that Bond is still valuable, but a replaceable asset.
Trying to be spoiler free here: Bond is reinstated as a deep cover agent for MI6. Once Bond is revitalized, so is the franchise. Bond’s mission now is to protect M (Judi Dench) from her dark past before it catches up to her. She is under threat by a vicious former agent, Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) who is attacking London and MI6 with advanced cyberterrorism. Javier is the best Bond villain to ever grace the series. He’s reminiscent of Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight. He is cold, calculating, intelligent and methodical in his agenda. Fearlessness is his ally. Skyfall is commanded by Javier every time he’s on-screen. And the film completely ascends to the stratosphere when he’s first introduced. His preening, effeminate quality is carried by a twisted derangement that is bizarre and haunting. What’s scary is how he has channeled his demented rage against M and Bond into a destroy-all view.
The real brilliance of Skyfall is the new and refreshing backstory for Bond. The writers (Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan)  must have noticed the formulas from DC superheroes and chosen to institute a popular origin story very similar to Batman. Bond is an orphan who lost his parents at a very young age. “Orphans always make the best agents”, says M. Bruce Wayne became an agent of justice (Batman) due to his parents’ murder. And we are to infer that James Bond became an agent of justice (007) due to the death of his parents. In the last act we see Bond’s old Scotland home, secluded and monolithic like Wayne Manor. And like I mentioned before, Javier’s portrayal of Silva has nuances of Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight. It’s obvious that Mendes was influenced by Christopher Nolan’s realistic Batman trilogy. There is a  pervading sense of mortality here that the earlier entries didn’t accentuate. And the emotional intelligence resonates so well that we care about the story and the characters that inhabit it.
This entry will also be hailed as the best-photographed James Bond film in the series. I would also say that this is the best-photographed film in the last ten years. Cinematographer Roger Deakins is at the top of his game, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins the Oscar for best cinematography. His color schemes and hues for each location are visually captivating.
Bottom line: Sam Mendes devises the best Bond film in the 50-year-old series. Whatever parallels it shares with Batman, it doesn’t abandon the essential elements that have made James Bond so compelling. Skyfall shows a Bond that bleeds, suffers and hurts, grounding our hero in a more emotional and naturalistic vortex. Finally, a Bond film with weight and gravitas.
* * * * *
5 out of 5 stars