Bond: Everyone needs a hobby.
Silva: What's yours?
Skyfall is so unlike a typical Bond movie, yet at the same time is the quintessential Bond film. The usual ingredients are all here: despicable antagonist, multiple international locations, disposable female characters, some of the same team at MI6 and many shots of a shirtless Daniel Craig (the last of which I will never complain about). In the hands of director Sam Mendes, however, Skyfall is the most masterfully shot film about James Bond I've seen.
The film starts in media res, chords from the Bond theme playing in the first shot as Craig's Bond quietly walks down a dark hallway. His boss M (the marvelous Dame Judi Dench) has him searching -- along with kickass Eve (Naomie Harris, 28 Days Later...) -- for a stolen hard drive that contains a list of all the NATO agents covertly working in terrorist organizations. M is catching flak from her new government overseer Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) for her lack of control over the situation.
Bond is then thought dead for a period of time after a colleague accidentally shoots him. Hearing that tragedy has struck MI6, he returns to the agency to search out the troublemaker: a blonde Javier Bardem as Silva, the baddie who has a past history with M.
Skyfall's roundabout plot has Bond on a rooftop motorcycle chase in Turkey, tussling with an assassin in a Chinese highrise, flirting with a kept woman named Sévérine (newcomer French actress Bérénice Lim Marlohe) in a Macau casino, exploring London's tube system, and driving through Scottish moors. Craig continues to bring depth to his role of Bond, and Dench gets far more screen time here than she has in the two recent adventures. Ben Whishaw (Bright Star) is on board as the new younger, nerdier Q. Bardem is extremely campy, but isn't that what Bond villains are supposed to be? He plays Silva as unstable, scarily tech-savvy and haunted.
Mendes, prolific cinematographer Roger Deakins and the visual effects crew work with a bleak, yet beautiful, palette in Skyfall. At times, silhouettes stalk across the screen. One of my favorite action sequences occurs in a dark room in Shanghai; illuminated only by the lights of nearby skyscrapers, the fight seems downright poetic.
The opening credits sequence (to Adele's "Skyfall" theme) contains multiple symbols of nature and death that show up in the movie. I loved noticing something I had spotted in the sequence -- it was like an Easter egg hunt. Skyfall isn't flawless, but it is easy to overlook the slight inconsistencies and get caught up in the action and visions on the screen.