Skyfall opens with a fatalistic sense of immediacy. The thrilling action sequence is familiar, but it ends with a gasp rather than a cheer. The problem with most Bond films is that there never a sense of urgency felt. Agent 007 will face endless numbers of enemies, gunmen, terrorists, etc. but none of them will ever seriously pose mortal danger. What Sam Mendes adds to the franchise is consequences and acknowledging a legitimate threat: that 007 may be obsolete.
Whereas the other twenty two films of this franchise spend a majority of their run-times traveling to exotic venues, Skyfall resides in the rainy U.K. The homeland is under attack and MI6 is facing a lot of critics for its handling of spy matters, "this is the 21st Century," Gareth Mallory (an always withering Ralph Fiennes) argues, 007 and his ilk aren't needed anymore.
Addressing the antiquated nature of James Bond poses a risk to the audience. Will Mendes go too far with this line of thinking and alienate audiences, or will he try to mold the franchise to fit his liking rather than coalesce his talents with those of the character? Fortunately, the director understands that his name is not the one that stands the test of time, it's Bond. James Bond. That said, Skyfall need not be some common trope, but a living, breathing evolution.
Alas, but what is a Bond movie without his counterpart? One of Quantum's problems was that its mastermind was rote; a baron of some sort of holdings that has been seen over and over again. The man tasked with bringing the roof down is not that boring. Or sane. Javier Bardem's Silva lends credence to the maxim blondes have more fun, Bardem is perhaps the most disturbed villain that Bond has faced off against and one of the most compelling. When he is onscreen the air leaves the room, but he is not without the face of service. The foil he presents himself as fits very well with the strained relationship James has with M (Judi Dench in perhaps her finest turn yet as the head of MI6). The supporting cast excels often in Skyfall, but Roger Deakins cinematography must be celebrated in its own right for dazzling scenes in the neon paradise of Shanghai, or the mellow greys of London.
It is open to argument whether Daniel Craig is one of the better Bonds of the seven men who have donned the tuxedo, but he without doubt the angriest. Craig's incarnation of the martini-swilling agent was created for an era bathed in paranoia that slept with the light on at night. He couldn't be the collected Connery, nor the quippy Moore, he needed aggression. For this reason the Craig Bonds have held themselves this far away from the other films. The surprise of Skyfall is that it opens itself to the mythology previously ignored.
In tracing back connections to the lore of Bond, Daniel Craig has become in-step with those before him. Cutting ties with the isolation of Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace with the additions of Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw). Quite simply, this is the Bond for our age. And he is stepping into his own.