If Skyfall isn’t nominated for Best Picture this year, I hope it does what it was obviously designed to do: prove, once and for all, that Daniel Craig is the best Bond the franchise has ever known. In fact, after watching his adrenaline crushing and superbly transcendent performance as 007 in Skyfall, the only option for the owners of the franchise in any potential post-Craig Bond world is to completely reinterpret the character and thereby the modus operandi of cinema’s most enduring icon: Bond will have to be female or black or gay or all of that to be anywhere near as interesting as this creation from Daniel Craig and director Sam Mendes.
Much has been made of Javier Bardem joining the cast as the villainous Silva, and as superb as he is, it has to be said that the real star of the movie aside from Craig is the plot. For once, a major Hollywood action thriller has a storyline to match its unending adrenaline rush: the movie is essentially a series of brilliant sequences about the passage of time and the aging of Bond movie icons, brilliantly strung together in dramatic and moving fashion that will leave you both breathless and wondering why all movies that aren’t art house fodder can’t be this incisive, thoughtful, or existential. Yup, you read right: the 23rd Bond movie is an existential cinematic experience. Not “existential” in the Tree of Life way that ponders humanity’s place in the Universe, but a less ambitious second guessing of characters like M (Judi Dench) who wonder if she isn’t past her prime and must hasten the passing of the torch to the next generation.
Bond is “killed” in the first 20 minutes after a spectacularly choreographed chase sequence in Istanbul, but we know he hasn’t really died because a) he’s Bond and b) it’s way too early in the film. As she ponders the fate of her “deceased” agent, M begins to face a challenge from Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) who wants her to prove that she is still worthy of managing M16. She doesn’t think she’s ready for retirement, but maybe her body isn’t telling her the truth. Living a life of deception and covertness has a way of making you guess at what’s real and illusory.
Skyfall will be a huge, monster hit at the box office, not only in North America, but across the globe. It’s a popcorn movie that tastes gourmet, and will easily spawn a half dozen more sequels. It will also officially induct Daniel Craig into the bastion of Hollywood icons. An absolute must-see.