With “Skyfall,” the third Daniel Craig Bond film, the franchise is brought full circle. If “Casino Royale” was a kind of origin story for Bond, “Skyfall” represents his maturation as a super spy. The least said about “Quantum of Solace” the better.
“Skyfall” starts with a lot of the elements of the Craig approach to the Bond series, the grim, relentless atmosphere, the hard edge approach, and a villain who is not an over the top megalomaniac, but rather a creepy lunatic. But slowly, even subtly, familiar elements of the previous Bond films, the music, a quip or two, a familiar character, and even a familiar gadget, are brought in. By the end of the movie, everything we know about Bond since “Dr. No” has been put back into place. What is old is new again. Bond says at one point in the movie something about going back into the past. That happens in more than one sense of the word.
As for the plot that holds things together, a man named Silva, a cyber terrorist with ties to M’s past, has gotten an encrypted file of a number of NATO operatives who have infiltrated terrorist organizations. Silva used to be an MI6 operative and had worked with M a couple of decades ago. Silva also has serious unresolved mommy issues.
Indeed, the movie is as much about M, played once again with acerbic wit by Judi Dench, as it is about Bond. Because of a series of disasters visited upon MI6, her job becomes in jeopardy, from politicians who think that the old style of human intelligence is obsolete, and from a man named Gareth Mallory, played by Ralph Fiennes, who is after her job.
M, by the way, gives a sterling defense of why blunt instruments like Bond are more necessary than ever in an era where enemies of civilization do not have flags or countries. This point is driven home in a spectacular and bloody fashion later,
As for Bond, because of his almost having been killed early in the movie, he must do what he does best while not operating at a 100 percent. Indeed M knows that technically he is not ready for active service. But he must be in active service nevertheless, so he must draw upon a strength he doesn’t know he has. And he has to rely more on his wits than in gadgets. Q Branch is not into exploding pens any longer. That is one concession to the 21st Century Bond that does not change.