film review: Skyfall (2012)5 Comments
James Bond has returned in… Skyfall
This year sees 50 years of Bond and, for once, we’re talking about films that I have a history with. The first film I ever remember seeing was A View to a Kill and I saw every Bond that came out from then on. Sometime in the ’90s, courtesy of a hotel in Amsterdam I stayed in a family holiday, I managed to catch up on almost all that came before that… so you could probably call me a fan.
Like all fans, I have a pretty set idea of what I want from Bond. Now I’m sure not all fans agree on what that is but for me, I expect action. I expect gadgets. I expect hot women, cheesy double entendres and some kind of super villain. For me, the last two Bond films have not delivered.
I understand that with a new Bond came the opportunity to update the franchise, to move away from the romanticised, suave, sophisticated and yes, sexist, Bonds of yore… It was a new era, post 9/11 and 7/7. Everything had to be gritty, more real. Daniel Craig’s Bond is a workaday spy doing serious business, no trips to outer space for him. But… thing is… I liked those old Bonds. I liked how ridiculous the films were, they were escapist cinema. I never wanted see Bond get real. Casino Royale? Quantum of Solace? They were no fun at all.
So… I wasn’t really looking forward to Skyfall. As much I would identify myself as a Bond fan, Daniel Craig was looking like a bit of a write-off to me. I was on the look out for the news of maybe a new Bond altogether.
Then along came Skyfall
Skyfall isn’t particularly a throw back to the old James Bond, but it is an acknowledgement of them. Where Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace seemed to have disavowed all knowledge of Bond’s former glory, and they will remain days of glory to me, Skyfall at least pays a little tribute to them.
Which is not to say that they have jettisoned what they learned in the first two. It wasn’t entirely a mistake to modernise Bond. They’ve kept the plot here simple, there’s no trying to cause an earthquake or any orbital space ray satellites flying around. As much as I like the wacky plots, they’re not exactly conducive to efficient storytelling. They’ve also amped up the action with some good hand to hand work and gun play. It’s all a little more personal as opposed to global and it works. Skyfall clocks in at around 2 hours 20 mins but you won’t spend any of that scratching your head or staring at your watch.
I have to say, I was skeptical about Sam Mendes when he was announced but I can see now this was entirely unfounded. And that rumour that some people tried start about Mendes cutting down on the action to try and get into Oscar territory was completely ridiculous. If anything this is the best action for ages.
It also looks beautiful, 9 time Oscar nominee Roger Deakins (always the bridesmaid, never the bride) is on cinematographer duty and I wouldn’t be surprised if he picks up another nomination for this. I hope he does anyway, in fact, surely he deserves to win by now. Cinematography isn’t something I expected to be commenting on for a Bond film but it’s a welcome surprise.
However, the pièce de résistance in this adventure is Javier Bardem. In Bardem we finally have a real Bond villain. He may not be trying to establish an undersea civilisation but you know what? He has a personality. Something that’s been sorely missing in the last two films. Not just from the villains but from Bond and everyone else involved. Alternately menacing and camp, Bardem manages to balance the two and convince you of his utter madness and the sincerity of his convictions, while still making you laugh. And that’s not just because of his odd blonde wig.
Daniel Craig himself continues to be serviceable. He’s not the most charismatic actor around but he’s got the grizzled, world-weary look and the sharpness in his eyes that you might imagine a hard-working international spy might have in reality. I would love it if he was a bit more… dapper? suave? fun? Bond? but I’m slowly coming around to the new reality… I may still not be entirely convinced that Daniel Craig makes a good James Bond but it’s starting to look like he might be. If this had been the first of Craig’s outings I would have been highly enthusiastic. As it is, let’s see how he pans out.
The one stain on this otherwise enjoyable romp are the Bond girls. I’ll give the film a little leeway as you could argue that Judi Dench is the real Bond girl in this but the truth is I think they’re still having trouble reconciling the curousing hedonistic Bond with today’s society. Personally, I think there’s place in the Bond films for strong, smart, sexy women but it seems they’ve stepped away from the concept of the Bond girl as a whole. I thought they had come some way with the Pierce Brosnan films but now, in my mind, they’ve taken a step backwards by pushing the women out of the limelight altogether. Shame.
The script as well is a little… well, there’s a few stumbles here and there. At times jokes fall flat and threats aren’t as convincing as they probably looked paper but plotwise I can’t fault the film. There’s plenty of action on offer… and crucially, action that makes sense. There are also some stunning set pieces, credit again to Deakins and of course director, Mendes. Whatever my discomfort with Bond himself, this is definitely a Bond film, not a Bourne pretender…
With so much to offer and little to fault I wholeheartedly recommend Skyfall. I’d book now to avoid disappointment on 26th October 2012.