It has been a while. 4 years since feeble Quantum of Solace, 6 years since solid Casino Royal, and finally, Bond is back on the screens, just in time to celebrate 50 years of Bond franchise. And it delivers, despite it not being, strictly speaking, a Bond movie. It is actually totally different from what has been done with Bond before.
Now, meet the biggest innovation in Skyfall: Bond movie finally has an atmosphere. Even though the film still is not even remotely as atmospheric as, say, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, it is a giant leap for a franchise that has been infamous for the lack of real, believable characters and presence of cardboard environment. At last, you can see human beings in Bond movie, vulnerable, intimidated, desperate to survive, and this makes wonders: it actually forces you to follow the plot, rather than watching from fight to fight. It is possible to empathise to not-so-perfect Bond on his losing streak, as opposed to some flawless guy in tuxedo.
The second biggest innovation: it is not about Bond anymore. In this, the movie follows the recent trend in the comic books movies – now authors spend well more time on villains than on the good guys. It started with Joker, continued with Loki, culminated in Bane, so now meet Silva – the most charismatic villain in the Bond series, played brilliantly by Javier Bardem, who inhaled life in the character and easily outshined Daniel Craig. In fact, you can easily imagine almost anyone in Bond’s place, be it Tom Cruise or Harrison Ford; but it is impossible to imagine anyone else as Silva. Of course, he lacks the psychopathic charisma of Joker or Bane, but nevertheless Bardem delivers the best performance of the film.
Next innovation: strictly speaking, there is no Bond girl in this movie. In fact, the new Bond girl this time is M. And this marks another turning point in the history of 007 – the usual chic, gloss and charm offensive of the classical movies are gone, giving way for more down-to-earth agent 007. More of Bourne rather than Bond. It has become more intelligent in that sense, relying less on gadgets to tie the script together, and more on the intelligent schemes and smart moves. Q even jokes about it, asking whether Bond expected exploding pens along with PPK and radio.
Of course, some things about Bond never change. There is still a lot of product placement: Bond still wears Omega and drives outlandish Aston Martin. It is still visually stunning, it is even hard to pick one scene to prove it – there are so many of them, be it Shanghai shining building, or Bardem walking away from the burning building in the Joker manner, or exploding Underground. The fights and chases are still breath-taking, even though they are never reaching the level of construction site chase in the Casino Royal. The plot is still somewhat patchy, despite the best attempts to tie it together. And yes, the opening sequence is arguably the best in the 50 years of Bond, thanks to the amazing soundtrack by Adele and impressive visuals.
Skyfall is not your usual Bond movie. The world crumbles; Craig never smiles; the story is dark and unforgiving. Yet if I was directing, I would have done the same film. It is somewhat a shame that to make the perfect Bond movie, authors had to remove Bond from the story altogether. This suggests that we will not see anything like that again soon. But for now – enjoy the culmination of the franchise and celebrate 50 years during which Bonds of all shapes and sizes saved the world and England from disasters.