The opening gambit is an action packed romp filled with stealthy maneuvering through halls, car and motorcycle chases through foreign cities, plenty of destruction of property and finally an intense hand-to-hand combat scene set on the top of a moving train. I'd have to go rewatch the previous opening scenes, but this is the best one in recent memory.
The opening scene ends with a very abrupt surprise twist that transitions into the melancholy opening song performed by Adele. During the opening credits, the emphasis tries to up-play the event that ended the opening scene. Essentially it was clear that they were preparing us for some very dramatic events yet to come. Plus the song is hauntingly cool. :-)
The storyline of this film is pretty intricate and fun. It's still gritty and dark like the previous Daniel Craig films but the writing and tone has also pulled together more of the humorous quips and situations that were a staple of earlier Bond movies. The cheesy puns certainly aren't as overused as they were in the 70s-90s but they are there and make you grin and groan at the same time.
We are smack in the 21st century with an elusive single terrorist working on his own accord to carry out a mission with no political or financial motives. Rather than the spy against government, gangs, armies or corporations we have a case of spy against terrorist. This transition is obviously intentional and there's a scene later on with spoken commentary on the point in case you missed it. In a world of uncertainty where you can't know who the real enemy is, are you willing to trust government security in order to feel safe at night? It was a little heavy handed, but it worked.
After the initial confrontation with the villain and the moment when the story had seemingly resolved itself, I was surprised to see the plot continue to ratchet itself up a bit and noticed that we still had considerable time left in the film. I thought maybe we'd just see them tying up the "forced retirement" thread since that seemed to be where it was logically going. I was pleasantly surprised to find that we were in for more action and adventure and not just bureaucratic discussions.
This last action sequence also continued the idea of acknowledging the feeling and content of previous Bond movies. Similar to the increase in cheesy puns and one-liners reminiscent of Bond films gone by, the final third of the movie has a lot of fabulous "fanboy" service that really made me smile. By the time we reach the final 5 minutes of the movie I felt like we have literally transitioned back into a Bond film from the 60s. And I absolutely loved it. Don't get me wrong, I don't want us to "backtrack" in terms of storytelling, tone and theme in future movies but I am super excited to see the subtle and elegant ways they are reincorporating elements from the past.
Overall I absolutely loved this movie. While I enjoyed Quantum of Solace, it felt like a step down after Casino Royale and really left me wanting more. This one obviously continues the idea of humanizing James Bond and filling out his character but it does so in a much more rewarding and enticing way. I totally loved the nods to Bond movie history and I had plenty of nostalgic glee at the small (and big) elements re-introduced here. The overarching plot had a couple of points where it fell apart for me but generally it flowed pretty well and was acceptable for an action-adventure movie where reality is stretched thin anyway.
Casino introduced us to the new grittier Bond and was a great vehicle to bring Bond into 21st Century reality . Quantum pulled us down into murky darkness and gloom and was less satisfying. Skyfall redeemed the pull and brought us back on an upward trajectory where I am earnestly looking forward to see where Bond goes next not only as an adventure but as a character. If you're a lover of Bond films new or old, you should enjoy this film.
4 out of 5 stars