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REVIEW: Sam Mendes' Newest Bond Installment, 'Skyfall', is the Best Bond Yet

Sam Mendes has managed to create an homage to 50 years of Bond movies while simultaneously breaking new ground and crafting a thoroughly entertaining masterpiece.

By: Jake Horowitz
Published: November 9th, 2012 in Culture » Film » Reviews
Daniel Craig in Skyfall

This month James Bond turns 50. Yes, the most famous and bad-ass spy with a license to kill is officially old enough to get slightly cheaper car insurance. But with 23 films, six actors, and a hell of a lot of expensive vehicles, amazing gadgets, stylish tuxedos, and beautiful women in the past 50 years, the newest entry in the Bond franchise proves that things are only just getting started.

Back in 2006, Casino Royale rebooted James Bond and took the MI6 agent back to basics. Played by Daniel Craig, the new Bond had less unrealistic gadgets, more unmatched style, and some of the best action scenes in movie history. The film brought Bond to a new generation of moviegoers and is now considered one of the best movies in the franchise's history.

Following the success of Casino Royale came Quantum of Solace in 2008. Quantum was essentially the exact opposite of Casino Royale, complete with unnecessary action sequences, a “plot” that made absolutely no sense, and a villain who's only crime was trying to sell water to people who were thirsty. As much as Casino Royale was one of the best Bond movies, Quantum of Solace was one of the worst.

But after taking a few years off and reloading, Bond is back in Skyfall and it feels like the first time; except it's even better. With Skyfall, director Sam Mendes does the franchise a great service by ignoring Quantum of Solace all together and carrying on as if it never happened. No, Skyfall isn't a complete reboot, but it does wipe the slate clean and end up being hands down the best James Bond movie of all time.

Skyfall opens with Bond chasing a bad guy around the streets (and rooftops) of Turkey. A file containing the identities of all undercover M16 agents has been stolen, and it's up to Bond to recover it. After one of the best chase scenes in movie history, Bond ends up on top of a train in hand-to-hand combat with the bad guy. After a bloody fight and some quick ducking under tunnels, Bond is accidentally shot by his partner and the bad guy escapes. And all of this happens in the first 10 minutes.

One of Skyfall's greatest strengths lies in it's ability to turn on a dime and move the story forward at a dizzying pace. While Casino Royale was about a gambling terrorist and Quantum of Solace was about a legitimate businessman who apparently was evil for no reason, Skyfall's narrative comes from several different directions. The film moves from Turkey to Shanghai to Macau to London with incredible ease and each locale manages to be more impressive, beautiful, and dangerous than the last. With each change of pace in the story, Bond manages to get himself into more and more trouble until it looks as if there's no way out. But Bond being Bond, you know it's only a matter of time until he reverses a gun on someone, kicks them in the shin, uses their body as a shield, and takes out 10 more guys shooting at him. And yet it's still more impressive than it's ever been.

In years past, Bond has become somewhat of a joke. Even in one of the most respected films, Goldfinger, there's a guy who throws his hat at people and the main villain plays golf with Bond and treats him like a dear friend. With Skyfall, all of that ridiculousness is gone and Bond's life is threatened each and every time he gets in a confrontation. Adding to the threat is the main villain, who is undoubtedly the most dangerous and maniacal in Bond history and has actual motivation behind his actions. Played by Javier Bardem, he's terrifying and sympathetic at the same time, and it's due in large part to Bardem's masterful acting. On par with Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, Bardem's performance lends itself to what should go down as one of the best movie villains of all time.

Sam Mendes has managed to create an homage to 50 years of Bond movies while simultaneously breaking new ground and crafting a thoroughly entertaining masterpiece. In Skyfall, Q is back and so is Bond's Aston Martin DB5 complete with eject button from Goldfinger. There's shaken martinis, Miss Moneypenny, and the signature catchphrase, “Bond, James Bond,” but it's all very different this time around. Here it's more threatening, more realistic, and way more awesome.

Related articles: Skyfall, James Bond, Film Review, Movie Review, Sam Mendes, Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Casino Royale, Quantam of Solace
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