Movie review: Skyfall

20121031-155729.jpgDaniel Craig returns for a third time as Ian Fleming’s James Bond in a film that’s every bit the James Bond film we’ve come to expect in a post-Bourne movie landscape. That’s not necessarily a good thing.

After following up the fantastic Casino Royale with the floundering Quantum of Solace, Skyfall has the unenviable task of recapturing those unimpressed by the previous effort as well as be a film that represents the past 50 years of Bond on the big screen, 2012 being the 50th anniversary. It attempts to do this by including little nods to the franchises past and by adding a few elements present in previous Bond adventures but not seen in the Craig era films. They’re cute, they’re (mostly) funny; and some hit the target nicely, like the introduction of Q, albeit a younger version than the one we’re used to, but some veer into almost comedy double taking pigeon territory (a ejector seat gag for instance). However, nods to the past do not a good film make, so does Skyfall stand up on its own merits? Yes, but only just.

After the admittedly great opening sequence in which Bond is supposedly killed in action, the first hour or so is dedicated to getting Bond back in the game after enjoying his time being dead. He’s only compelled to come back into the fold when MI6 is attacked. The subtext here is rather obvious, and it takes guts for a film series that is fifty years old to ask the question: how is Bond (both the character and the franchise) still relevant in this day and age. It’s a question that was tackled in Goldeneye in which M described Bond as a ‘sexist, misogynistic dinosaur…a relic of the Cold War’ but that thread was swiftly dropped in favour of being the same movie we’d seen before. Skyfall takes a different tack; Bond is shown to be out of shape and in a fragile mental state for the first hour, and it’s the most enjoyable part of the film watching him regain his confidence.

After that however, I felt the film slowed to a snails pace, with Bond investigating a lead in the slowest possible way until he eventually uncovers the villain behind the MI6 bombing. It also leads to an entirely pointless 20 minutes involving the de rigueur Bond girl (whose name I can’t even remember) that could have been excised completely and wouldn’t have affected the plot one bit, but I suppose you have to have the Bond-sleeps-with-mysterious-lady scene in there somewhere.

The introduction of the main villain, Silva (Javier Bardem) is quite fantastic, filled with menace and a slightly camp quality setting him apart from previous overly macho/unbelievable adversaries of the past. But after that introductory scene he becomes rather ineffectual and doesn’t ever appear to be much of a threat. His connection to M is fairly obvious to anyone who knows this genre well and at this point he main thrust of the film is changed to highlighting the relationship between Bond and M. An apparently maternal relationship that I’ve never once bought into and appears to be shoehorned in to this film in a very rushed manner, in the hope of making us feel something when M is threatened.

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I should point out at this juncture that I’m not a huge Bond fan (you may have noticed) but at the very least I expect to be entertained. Throughout this film I was checking my watch because it really drags at times, and is at least half an hour too long. I hoped this would recapture the energy of Casino Royale, but for me it’s strayed too far from the Bond formula (Royale got the mix spot on in my opinion) for the homages to previous films to work and most importantly, it isn’t much fun to watch. I think the novelty of Daniel Craig has worn off now, and we’re left with a Bond that’s terribly depressing. I’m not asking for him to start quipping all around him a la Roger Moore, but a lighter touch is perhaps what is necessary.

But after all those negatives, I honestly don’t think it’s a bad film. Just not as good as I had hoped. I will say that the action is top notch with the opening being a highlight, the cinematography is gorgeous at times (particularly in the Shanghai scenes), and the whole cast is tremendous. I just wasn’t a fan of the script at all.

3 stars

Review by Jonathan Cardwell.

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