SKYFALL (Sam Mendes, 2012)
For Daniel Craig's third outing as the British super spy that needs no further introduction, and in celebration of 50 years of 007, the producers opted to go retro, as in go for the minimalist treatment in terms of story, set pieces, action sequences, themesong (Adele's delivery of "Skyfall" is so melancholic) and yes, gadgets. The story also goes back to Bond's beginnings, in order to confront a monster inevitably created by their cruel and unforgiving line of work.
Overtly paying homage to the classic Bond films through the use of familiar elements, SKYFALL manages to be not only a return to form but also a character study and moral reevaluation. The villain (played by Javier Bardem) is a victim of circumstance, out to seek revenge on the one person who single-handedly destroyed his life- "M" (Judi Dench). Bond (Daniel Craig) would not let this happen, and even if M's bad judgment call almost led him to certain death (Bond's near-fatal encounter cum David Blaine act during the opening partly mimics 1967's YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE), he manifests his growth as an operative by dissociating personal issues from duty (although in the third act, shit gets real personal).
Bond tracks down the assailants who are out to get M, and who bombed MI6 in the process, and we are back in familiar 007 territory. From Shanghai to Macau to Scotland, the action moves in a relaxed but disquieting pace. The story propels the action, and even at times when there are no bullets flying or bombs exploding, the drama is so well-played it triggers you at the heart.
We get classic references in subtle fashion: the vodka martini which we all know how Bond likes to have (clue: definitely not stirred!), the promiscuous sex (which in this case seems to be more of a psychological adaptation for Bond, as means of recuperating from depression) and yes, Q! Ben Whishaw does a terrific rendition of Q, so close in fact to the original Q played by Desmond Llewelyn that fans will likely shiver.
A lot of Oedipal complex happens onscreen. M is represented as the mother, and both Bond and Raoul Silva (Bardem) have an uneasy relationship with her. Silva is pure revenge, while Bond sees past the betrayal and the abandonment as collateral damage. In the process, M is able to dwell on her past mistakes, and we see her introspection as brilliantly channeled by Judi Dench, that M as MI6 chief ought to be firm and relentless, but as a human being she has remorse and kindness.
In fact, SKYFALL may be the most psychological Bond film yet, as there are a lot of unresolved issues that spring out from within, and these issues drive the plot into emotional territory. CASINO ROYALE comes in at close second (with Bond's need to prove himself worthy of the double-O status, Le Chiffre's ego, and the death of Vesper) but SKYFALL takes the crown even with the third act alone (which I shall not spoil for you). The setting for the film's finale is the most psychological you can ever get for a Bond film, and while CASINO ROYALE is still the best Bond film for me in the overall scope, SKYFALL managed to thrill me in ways unimaginable. Thus proving further that story is "king".