Director: Sam Mendes
Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw and Javier Bardem
Review Written By: Michael Dalton
Skyfall is the true follow-up to Casino Royale. The 2006 film was very much a re-invention of the character and a visualization of his origins. By the end of Skyfall, it very much feels as if the Bond introduced in Casino Royale, has completed his origin story and turned into the character we all know and love. This is so much the case that despite the narrative connection between Casino and Quantum, Skyfall would be the film best watched after Royale, due to its thematic and characterization connection.
This is a film that in terms of action peaks in its opening sequence. It begins with a blistering, multi-layered chase through the streets, roofs and ultimately train tracks of Istanbul. This is then followed by the much praised ADELE theme song, which is easily the best to have graced Craig’s era and is an immediate Bond theme classic. However following this brilliant opening, the film slows down and takes a long time to set-up and get to what is ultimately a very simple story. At two hours and twenty minutes, Skyfall is one of the most needlessly overlong films of the year, with its slow pace and unnecessary length preventing it from being the best of Bond, which many have proclaimed it to be.
There is a section of the film set in China that while beautifully shot by cinematographer Roger Deakins, could ultimately have been cut out or severely shortened when its ultimate narrative purpose is revealed. This section also sees the introduction of this film’s “Bond girl” a character who very much feels superfluous and forced into proceedings, in order to tick off a particular box. The film would have lost nothing and gained everything with a drastic re-write/re-edit of this part of the film.
Once we get through China however (Which in fairness does have its moments, keep Shanghai and cutting out or changing Macau would be the best) we are finally treated to the star of the show, in the shape of Javier Bardem’s villain. As soon as Bardem steps onto the screen, the film receives a bolt of energy, a sharpening of the focus and an increase in the enjoyment factor. His introduction is arguably the film’s finest scene as he delivers a monologue while walking from one end of the room, towards Bond to the other, in a single take. Bardem (Also an Oscar winner) is clearly enjoying himself in this role and lets the audience in on the fun. He perfectly straddles the delicate lines of being cunning and chilling, as well as camp and comedic. Every time he is on screen, the film elevates to another level. He is not only the best villain to have faced Craig’s Bond; he may be one of the best villains in the franchise’s history.
ADELE and Javier Bardem are not the only stars however and the king of cinematography, Roger Deakins deserves to also go down as ‘One of the best’ in his respective category. Visually, Skyfall may be the most beautiful Bond film yet. From the introduction shot of Bond’s silhouette slowly walking towards the screen, to the neon lights of Shanghai through to the fiery night at Skyfall in Scotland, you could take frames from this film and hang them up as paintings.
For a director who has mainly specialized in human drama until now, Sam Mendes handles the action sequences effectively and efficiently, however beyond Istanbul, many of this film’s sequences may not satisfy those looking for something ‘bigger’ and following Mission Impossible’s scaling of the tallest building in the world, for once Bond may not be the king of stunts. However perhaps in gaining one of the best shot, sung and acted Bond films, we have lost some of the action in return.
However this film doesn’t suffer from a lack of consistent and inventive action, its flaws instead reside in its script. As noted, the film takes too long to establish what is ultimately a simple story of revenge. The comedic one-liners in this film also have the disadvantage of probably not reading well on paper and then having to be delivered by Daniel Craig, who does not seem at all comfortable delivering the quips, some of which in this film are extremely out of place and in one scene in incredibly poor taste. However while the writers do overstretch their story, take too long to get to it and appear to be forcing in elements for the sake of it no matter how poorly done (Macau, the ‘Bond girl’ and the one-liners) they do give the film a strong thematic focus and are constantly aware of the way in which the world has changed around this timeless series. Constant references are made to the way in which Bond is now an old-fashioned figure of the past, how in the new world of technology, just what good is he? It is fitting that for the franchise’s fiftieth anniversary, a film is delivered which makes note of, mocks and examines the current standing of this character and his relation (Or lack of) to the world today.
This is perhaps best established during a conversation with the new Q (Brilliantly played by Ben Whishaw) where Bond directly asks, “Well, why do you need me?” This self-examination is accompanied by a plot, which observes the relationship between M and Bond, brining the film to a very personal, relatively small conclusion. With an ultimate event which may split people in regards to its worthiness and emotional effect. While some may be disappointed by the film’s decision to have its climax be essentially a darker and grittier version of Home Alone in Scotland, I liked it precisely because it was a darker and grittier version of Home Alone in Scotland. With the music, cinematography and acting during those last fifteen minutes being absolutely superb.
Ultimately, by the time Skyfall ends I was back with Bond and ready for more. With its final scene bound to put a smile on the face and a chill down the spine of many Bond fans. However I think many critics have oversold this film’s accomplishments, failing to note its awkward handling of the humour, its simple, plot hole ridden, silly and underdeveloped plot (Although to be fair which Bond film doesn’t have one of those?) as well as its slow, sluggish pace (The first half…) and unnecessary length (Two and a half hours, could have easily been half an hour shorter). However Skyfall’s individual parts are ultimately greater than the sum of these parts. We have a great theme song, a great villain and some great action sequences (Istanbul, London underground and Scotland) as well as a strong and smart thematic focus and an intelligent re-invention of some of the franchise’s most beloved figures. This was a very good Bond film that was a re-write away from being a great Bond film.
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister,
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