The 23rd James Bond film has all the correct elements that makes the franchise recognizeable and yet there is still a certain unique vision behind this installment that if anything only furthers the panache one expects. The film is classy. The film is stylish. Thankfully, this installment has the correct mix of action-blockbuster-ism and significant character development. With similar revamped series such as Jason Bourne and Batman also having installments this year, Skyfall finds a way to move the saga a step forward while still harkening back to what makes the films work for so many people.
I suppose it's interesting then, that so much of this film has to do with the past of several characters as they stand concerned for their futures. When a mission goes awry and the identities of numerous MI6 agents are compromised, a former agent of M's (Judi Dench) known as Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) attacks the British government all with the intent of revenge against his former boss. Bardem plays Silva with such an enigmatic and villainous flair, that his sheer commitment to his goals places Bond (Daniel Craig) in a position that forces the agent to turn to his own past. This all of course progresses naturally under the direction of Sam Mendes (most notably of American Beauty) and the screenplay by John Logan (having recent success with Hugo). Craig, Mendes, and Logan have determined that part of this film's structure should certainly include some future-shock anxiety. Bond's job is considered a young man's game, but in a brilliant sequence during M's trial hearing as Bond rushes to stop Silva's attack, M posits that all the anxiety a government might feel about their current troubles should only come back to one ideal- if they are doing the right thing, they will perservere.
As silly as an anology this might seem, Mendes seems to hold to the same ideal that if having faith in a character like Bond and that his own directorial vision is right for the story, than the result is both a breath of fresh air with a sense of familiarity. Mendes' regular cinematographer Roger Deakins is doing some of the best work of his career. For example, the finale in Scotland in particular in how the fire plays against the dark sky is especially evocative of the mood that Mendes seems to want to hold over the final gambit that M and Bond play against Silva. The scope of the camera image is always wide, giving characters and props enough room to move throughout a frame. Even if it's a dialogue-based sequence like Silva's introduction, Mendes and and Deakins aren't afraid to "go big or go home".
Mendes also decides to have more action sequences than action scenes. The opening for example moves from sneaking around a building, to a car chase, to a shootout, to a motorcyle chase, and to a fight above a train. While the second act of the film concludes with a chase through the sewers, through the subway, onto the street, and ends with a shootout in a coutroom. The action carries just as well as the dialogue does and that is perhaps the most complimentary thing I can say about the pace with which this movie settles into.
Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, and Ben Whishaw all join the cast in what is sure to be regular roles. Stepping away from Bond's fight with QUANTUM (should that ever continue) has allowed the series to almost present another re-evalution (with Craig's first outing perhaps being the last significant film) of where the series can go. As a filmgoer, it was pretty exciting, even more so as a Bond fan.