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BlogalongaBond: Skyfall
After the lukewarm reception that Quantum of Solace received in 2008, the direction of where the James Bond films would go next was uncertain. That uncertainty was worsened when MGM found itself going into bankruptcy, delaying another film by years. The series though would rebound and a new Bond film was to be out in time for the series' fiftieth anniversary. Would this anniversary film, and twenty-third entry, be able to bring the series back on track?

The Craig era of Bond has been about developing Bond as a character and this film goes far in that direction. Taking cues from latter Ian Fleming Bond novels, Skyfall does exactly that. Craig's Bond in particular seems well suited to this as we see a Bond who, after being left for dead after a mission, eventually finds that he must return to MI6 and rediscover who he is again. The film also sees some humor come into the character as well and Craig for the most part handles it well. If Casino Royale was Craig's debut as Bond, then this is the film where he slides into the role of experienced agent.

The film's two female leads are quite interesting. Naomie Harris as Eve is an interesting, if flawed character though the character due to her lack of chemistry with Craig and being perhaps just a bit old for the whole "junior agent" idea to be believable. The other is Bérénice Marlohe as Sévérine who fits much more into the traditional role of the Bond female lead yet is also given some interesting space to develop as well. While neither is perfect, both are memorable and serve the film well.

Last but not least is Javier Bardem as the villainous Raoul Silva. From the moment the character is introduced in what seems to be a long single take, it's clear this is a villain quite different from what we've encountered before in Bond. While he does arguably have echoes of a couple of previous Bond villains as well as the Joker from The Dark Knight, Silva is more than just another madman. He's a compelling figure and a villain that, for the first time in a while, rightfully fights with Bond for your attention whenever he's on screen. There's also a feeling of discomfort that exudes from the character as well, especially in his first and last scenes. The result is perhaps the most compelling Bond villain in some time.

The film also features a strong supporting cast. Returning yet again is Judi Dench as M, getting her largest time in the role here. The film makes good use of her talents and takes the character away from being a stuck behind the desk bureaucrat and makes her a vital part of the film. There are also fine performances from Ralph Fiennes as Mallory, Ben Whishaw's excellent debut as Q, Rory Kinnear as Tanner and an excellent appearance by Albert Finney as Kincade. The result is one of the strongest casts yet put together for a Bond film.

The film also heralds some impressive action sequences. From the opening sequence in Istanbul, the film takes its viewers on a journey around the world from fights in Shanghai to a chase below and on the London streets to a final climatic battle that seems reminiscent of the finales of the classic Bond films of the 1960s yet also incredibly different from them at the same time. The sequences are all well done and are perhaps the most impressive yet seen in the Craig era.

For all of its impressive action sequences, Skyfall feels like that it is as much a drama as it is an action film. Skyfall explores questions of age and legacy, perhaps appropriately for a film series celebrating its fiftieth birthday. These range from questions about Bond's fitness to be a double-o to M's own suitability as head of MI6 to the secrets of both of their pasts which come into play as the film goes on. While the middle part of the film in London echoes The Dark Knight quite heavily (and indeed uses the nearly identical "he wanted us to catch him" line as well), the film works well at bringing together both the action scenes and the dramatic scenes to create a coherent story (and a great improvement over its immediate predecessor). Add on some nice references to the series' own legacy (including the much welcomed return of a character missing from the Craig era as well as icon of the series dating back to almost its beginning) and the result is fantastic all around.

So how does Skyfall stand up as both the fiftieth birthday film and as a Bond film in general? It celebrates the legacy of the series by using the plot to ask its relevance in the modern world and ultimately saying that Bond (and the series by default) does indeed. As a Bond film it pushes the boundaries of mixing action with the dramatic in a way not really seen in the series before now. On both counts then, Skyfall succeeds and does so fantastically.