Skyfall

Posted: October 29, 2012 in Film reviews
Tags: ,

Directed by Sam Mendes. Starring Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem and Judi Dench.

 

First off an important point, I’m trying to keep spoilers to a minimum, but if you really want to remain spoiler free it might be worth seeing the film before reading the review…

And so, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first Bond film, Dr No, and four years since the last Bond film (the longest gap in the franchise’s history without a change in actor) Skyfall is finally here. As a big Bond fan, to say I was a little bit excited as I waited to see it Friday might be a bit of understatement….

 

The film opens in Turkey, where Bond and fellow MI6 agent Eve (Naomie Harris) pursue a mercenary known as Patrice who’s stolen a hard drive containing the names of all NATO agents embedded in terrorist cells around the world. After a breath-taking chase encompassing cars, motorbikes, trains and a mechanical digger, Bond is shot and takes a plunge from a very high bridge into the raging water below…

Three months later and M finds herself in increasing hot water over the loss of the hard drive, which is being laid solely at her door, and Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes—excellent as always) chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee advises her that it’s time to retire, something M rails against.

When MI6 headquarters is bombed the pressure on M mounts, which is when 007—who’d been missing, presumed dead—decides to return, because MI6, and more specifically M, is under attack.

After proving his fitness and collecting some not very gadget’y gadgets from the new Q (a nice turn from Ben Whishaw) Bond flies out to Shanghai where he encounters Patrice once more. He also meets Severine, an enigmatic woman who agrees to introduce Bond to a man named Raul Silva, the man behind the attack on MI6…

 

Ok I’ll be honest here, I’m one of the five people in the world who liked Quantum of Solace, and I’m also one of the twenty people in the world who don’t think Casino Royale is the greatest Bond film ever (not that I don’t like it). I do, however, think Daniel Craig is a great Bond, despite some early reservations which proved very unfounded, and my first comment about Skyfall is this; it’s nice to see Daniel Craig playing Bond in a proper Bond film, and make no mistake, however good Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace were, they never quite felt like proper Bond films.

That’s not to say Skyfall sees the return of the more ludicrous elements of Bond’s past, there’s no secret volcano lairs, no space shuttle jaunts into space or invisible cars, but there is a more relaxed attitude. This is a Bond film that isn’t embarrassed to be a Bond film, a film that never seems uncomfortable in its own skin in the way that Craig’s previous outings did.

At two and a half hours long it’s one of the longer Bond films (up there with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Casino Royale) but the pacing is spot on, so whereas Casino Royale does tend to drag a bit in the final third, Skyfall mostly keeps its momentum going. It’s a film that doesn’t shy away from being dark and gritty in places, but it lets the humour that’s been sorely missed back into the frame, though it’s a drier humour more suited to Daniel Craig’s delivery rather than the quips of Moore/Brosnan (although there are a couple of lines which almost qualify) and M gets almost as many witticisms as Bond.

Skyfall is a rare beast, a film that’s comfortable with its heritage yet strives to be something new as well. It makes plenty of nods to that heritage with a slew of references to the Bond pantheon, much in the way Die Another Day (the 40th anniversary film) did, though it’s a little more subtle this time around. Despite nods to the past, this is also a film not afraid to shake it up a little, and in many ways it’s an atypical Bond film, with large portions set in the UK, and a plot that revolves in part around a Commons’ Select Committee meeting! It’s also the Bond film that gives M most to do, even more than The World is Not Enough. The film is a near seamless merging of the old and new, both seemingly happy to sit side by side.

A Bond film can rise or fall based on its villain, and in this respect I do have an issue with Javier Bardem’s Silva…he isn’t in it enough! As was expected, he does a great job in creating a strong villain, one that, in some respects, we can sympathise with. Certainly he’s the best nemesis Craig’s 007 has faced, and he might well be the best villain since Sean Bean’s 006. He manages to be creepy, scary, camp and—almost—empathetic, and his entrance is great…trust me, Bond’s never faced an implied threat like this before!!

The film’s punchiness is down to great direction, plus a good script and editing, and excellent cinematography. The cast is perhaps one of the best assembled for a James Bond film; Craig, Bardem, Dench, Finnes etc, plus Albert Finney!

I do have issues with it, Silva’s plan is ridiculously convoluted and seems to rely on almost supernatural timing, the lack of a true Bond girl (unless M counts!) feels a trifle odd, Albert Finney’s character seems to only exist to drive the plot, and though the final third is good, the film does lose a little momentum here, although it has to be said that the inversion of the classic Bond finale where 007 attacks the villain’s base is an interesting idea.

I’m being unduly picky however because the film kept me riveted throughout, and whilst repeat viewings will be required in order to ascertain whether this is a truly all-time high of a film, all I can say is, James Bond will return, let’s just hope it’s in a film as good as this one!

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