When Bond’s latest assignment goes gravely wrong and agents around the world are exposed, MI6 is attacked forcing M to relocate the agency. These events cause her authority and position to be challenged by Gareth Mallory, the new Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee. With MI6 now compromised from both inside and out, M is left with one ally she can trust: Bond. 007 takes to the shadows – aided only by field agent, Eve – following a trail to the mysterious Silva, whose lethal and hidden motives have yet to reveal themselves.
The movie’s innovations begin in its first shots, which abandon the familiar stalking silhouettes in the iris lens, and hit the ground running. Bond and another agent are in Istanbul, chasing a man who has stolen a crucial hard drive, and after a chase through city streets (involving no less than three Fruit Cart Scenes), 007 is running on top of a train. We know from earlier films that Bond can operate almost anything, but “Skyfall” incredibly has him commandeer of a giant Caterpillar and continue the chase by crushing a flatcar filled with VW Beetles.
It’s the kind of absurd stunt we expect in a Bond movie, but this one relies on something unexpected: a dead-serious M (Judi Dench), following the action from MI6 in London and making a fateful decision. After an enemy agent grabs Bond as a human shield, M’s other agent, Eve (Naomie Harris), has both men in her gun sights. The stakes are very high. “Take the shot!” M commands. Bond seems to die, although since this happens around the 20-minute mark, we’re not very surprised that he doesn’t.
M begins to compose the obituary of Commander James Bond, and she might as well also be writing her own. Time has passed her by, she’s older, and her new boss, Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), convenes a public (!) hearing requiring her to defend her tenure. It’s time for a generation to be put out to pasture. Even Q and, as it turns out, Miss Moneypenny are practically kids.
M is not quite ready to retire, and “Skyfall” at last provides a role worthy of Judi Dench, one of the best actors of her generation. She is all but the co-star of the film, with a lot of screen time, poignant dialogue, and a character who is far more complex and sympathetic than we expect in this series. The film is guided by a considerable director (Sam Mendes), written by the heavyweights Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan, and delivers not only a terrific Bond but a terrific movie, period. If you haven’t seen a 007 for years, this is the time to jump back in.