Review: Skyfall

I’ve left it a while to write this review because I didn’t want to get swept away in the torrent of critical acclaim that gushed forth from pretty much everyone at the time of release. Perspective often helps to shape a more truthful review and I felt that people were so relieved that this was immeasurably better than Quantum of Solace that their reviews sounded a little too raving.

So, Skyfall is the film to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the franchise and, as such, had to be a massive improvement on the previous film to keep Bond relevant enough and viable to keep on funding. Enter Director Sam Mendes to see what he can bring to the table after the forgettable effort of Marc Forster, though the failure of Quantum of Solace was not entirely his fault, as the script was written during the writer’s strike and Forster had to pad out the sparse dialogue with Jason Bourne style action sequences which made it feel nothing like a Bond film, the complete opposite of what was set up by Casino Royale a couple of years before it.

What Mendes and his writers have done is move back towards the more self-contained nature of the Bond films instead of the episodic formula introduced to the franchise along with Daniel Craig. This is not a continuation of the story and, in some cases, is reminiscent of The Dark Knight Rises; Bond, like Bruce Wayne, has taken some time out and is a shadow of his former self, in a physical sense, but must rebuild himself for one more confrontation because his sense of duty outweighs his longing to give up.

We start with a sprawling chase sequence through Istanbul which involves cars being crashed through markets, motorbikes being driven on roofs and through windows and finally a train with Bond chasing the villain with the aid of a JCB. Finally after a fist fight on top of the train Bond is accidentally shot by a fellow operative, Eve (Naomie Harris), after being given the order by M (Dame Judi Dench). In all this time you forget that you haven’t even seen the iconic title sequence yet, which is praise enough for Mendez. The title song by Adele has the classic crooning soul feel that inspires memories of classic bond themes like ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ by Shirley Bassey and the visuals are evocative of the Roger Moore/Sean Connery films.

It takes a while to get Bond back to London and in the meantime we focus on M and her mistake of losing a hard drive with the names of MI6 agents, which is the reason for the ‘death’ of Bond. This sounds like a preposterous gaffe for the head of MI6 to make, but if you look back through the news in the last few years spies, MPs and military officers are always leaving laptops, hard drives and dossiers on trains! In fact, this is less of a Bond film and more of a film about M. Or at least the relationship between the two…and the main villain.

Javier Bardem plays Silva, a former MI6 agent who was given up by M while being tortured and has got his hands on the top-secret information and has started giving away the spies identities on Youtube…not to mention destroying MI6 headquarters. His entrance doesn’t happen until a long way into the film, but when it does it is a brilliant scene. He has the scariest hair in Bond history and treads the line between unstable and unflappable precariously. The first encounter between Bond and Silva brims with sexual tension with Silva caressing Bond while commenting on his physique with Bond quipping lines back at Silva to throw his bravado back at him.

The film is 143 minutes long but never drags, in fact there were some sequences that had me on the edge of my seat, literally. Towards the end Bond steals M away to his ancestral home in Scotland for the final confrontation. With the help of the groundskeeper, Kinkade (Albert Finney), they rig the house with booby traps which is reminiscent of a grown up Home Alone. This is the point in the film that lost me slightly because it seemed that there was less at stake because the action – of which there is an insane amount – is taking place on a remote lodge in the middle of nowhere. But then again, the point of this film is the relationship between the two men and their boss, so perhaps it is right that it came down to a showdown between the three of them. The last confrontation of Silva and M is another of the moments where you get completely immersed in the tension.

By the end of the film we have been introduced to a couple of significant characters, namely Q, played brilliantly by Ben Wishaw and Moneypenny, we are also reintroduced, albeit briefly, to the DB5 from Goldfinger complete with ejector seat and machine guns. Which doesn’t really make a lot of sense in the scheme of things, but then Craig’s bond does drive a DB5 in Casino Royale.

In the end this is a break from the serial nature of the last two Bond films, but after the failure of Quantum of Solace, the only way to go was as a standalone film. And although some of the call backs to previous films were a bit awkward, on the whole this was a barnstorming success and warrants the continuation of one of the biggest franchises in film. If you’ve not seen it already you’re missing out.

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2 Responses to “Review: Skyfall”

  1. A strong Bond; agreed!

    • I was so happy that it was a success, even if it isn’t as good as people are making out. It needed to be on a par with Casino Royale and it nearly made it. So much better than QoS…but then, it couldn’t be worse!

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