Film Review: Skyfall

As the 50th anniversary film of England’s most famous secret agent, it was important that Skyfall, the 23rd in the series, did the franchise justice. Many hailed the return of Bond with Daniel Craig’s first outing in Casino Royale but it took a big step back with the incredibly underwhelming Quantum of Solace. Now Skyfall has finally hit screens after being dogged by studio problems, it gives fans a perfect anniversary celebration whilst offering plenty to keep the series moving forward.

After Bond is accidentally ‘killed’ trying to retrieve a stolen list of embedded NATO operatives, M (Judi Dench) comes under pressure to resign. However, when an explosion at MI6 kills eight people, Bond resurfaces to protect her from cyber terrorist Silva (Javier Bardem) who is making her face up to her past.

Skyfall moves away from the Quantum storyline of the previous two films, acting as a standalone piece whilst still retaining the gritty feel and realism that distinguished them from pre-Craig films. Some have said that it doesn’t feel like a Bond film, but it features everything that makes Bond such a beloved franchise. There are car chases, shoot-outs, great cars, a superb villain, and a Bond girl (although maybe not the one you might expect), but updated for this generation. Only perhaps on the gadgets side of the things does the film lose its roots, but, again, this is part of the new direction the films are being taken in and is something that is specifically referenced in Bond’s conversation with the new Q (Ben Wishaw).

It’s an important direction that the films are going in. The last of the Brosnan films were pretty terrible and a re-imagining was sorely overdue. Casino Royale brought a more realistic Bond and Skyfall is a further extension of that. Bond’s humour is darker with fewer pithy quips (those that are there now feel somewhat out of place) and he’s now more rugged action hero than suave super spy. This may irk some but Bond films are a product of their time and it simply wouldn’t be possible to create a film nowadays that felt exactly the same as those from the Connery, Moore or even Dalton era. Skyfall manages to take just enough from its predecessors to feel loyal but presents a refreshing take on the Bond formula.

The opening scene of a Bond film has a certain responsibility to be exhilarating and exciting and Skyfall’s doesn’t disappoint. There are guns, bikes, cars, trains, the lot. Following this, however, the film struggles to find its feet a little and does plod along at times. That is until we meet Silva and we’re treated to arguably the best villain intro in a Bond film yet. Javier Bardem is superb as Silva, perfectly encapsulating what it is to be a classic Bond villain but also giving it his own spin. Silva’s opening scene is also yet another example of how far the series has come – no spoilers here, but it includes a moment that would never have happened in Bond films of the past.

Bardem is a scene stealer and his interactions with Bond and M are some of the finest moments in the film. He manages to invoke the creepiness and sinister side of his role as Anton Chigurh in the Coen brother’s  No Country For Old Men, whilst still managing to retain a  However, whilst his backstory is integral to the film’s overall narrative, it’s perhaps not quite as developed as it could be. He’s an incredibly intriguing character, but a little more character development and exposition could have made his motives and relationships that bit more effective.

Skyfall is more character driven than perhaps any other Bond film, particularly in its second half. However, this in some way negates much of the work done in the first half. With talk of lists of secret agents and cyber terrorism in the film’s first hour or so, these become incidental to other events later on to such an extent that they do feel like a little forgotten. This does make the film feel slightly disjointed but if these aspects are treated as merely a set up rather than integral to the plot then it really doesn’t become a problem.

Despite the many dissenters upon Daniel Craig’s announcement as Bond following Brosnan’s departure, it didn’t take him long to settle into the role and, again, he provides another excellent, high octane performance. However, it’s the subtleties he brings to the role that enable him to stake a claim for the best Bond yet. A wry smile here, an adjustment of the cufflinks there, and also a fragility that reminds us that he is human after all. Skyfall also marks the seventh film for Judi Dench as M and this is finally her time in the spotlight. She has a much more involved role than in any of her previous Bond films, so much so, in fact, that this is perhaps just as much her story than anyone else’s. Ben Wishaw as the real successor to Desmond Llewelyn as Q is also worthy of a mention and looks set to be a notable addition to the series.

Something that can’t go without praise is the stunning cinematography of Roger Deakins. From Shanghai to Scotland we are treated to a a rich and visually arresting mise-en-scene that results in a Bond film that looks head and shoulders above the rest. Simply put, Deakins’ cinematography is just as important to Skyfall as any other element, be that the villain, the cars or James Bond himself.

Skyfall very much feels like a celebration of all things Bond from over the past 50 years. There are nods to several previous films which, although might send the heads of those looking for a coherent Bond timeline into a spin, add a layer of pleasing fan service and pangs of nostalgia. Is this the best Bond film yet? Well that, just as whether Craig is the best Bond, purely comes down to personal preference, but there can be no doubt that it’s one of the highlights of the entire series and a perfect way to mark half a century of being licensed to kill.

Chris

About these ads
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

28 thoughts on “Film Review: Skyfall

  1. Tyson Carter says:

    Excellent write up buddy. Going to see this at some point this week, looking forward to it :)

  2. ckckred says:

    Great review. I’ve heard great things about Skyfall and I can’t wait to see it this weekend.

  3. Good review my friend :D

  4. vinnieh says:

    Great review, I’m really looking forward to seeing this.

  5. Nostra says:

    Great writeup on this movie, which I really loved. It was a bit strange indeed that they kind of dropped the stolen list, but it didn’t matter. One of my favorite movies this year…

    • That was one of my biggest annoyances with it, to be honest, but I couldn’t go into it too much in the review for fear of spoilers. It was played up to be a massive deal at the start and I know they got Silva’s laptop, but it was as if they forgot about it. Having said that, it didn’t in any way spoil the film for me, I loved it!

  6. Steve Edler says:

    Great write up mate. Really enjoyed the film too.

  7. Mark Walker says:

    Excellent write-up Chris. Your particular mention of Deakins’ cinematography is spot on. His work was the real highlight for me.

    • Thanks Mark. Deakins really helped make the film for me. I enjoyed it immensely aside from that but that just elevated it even more. I know he did the cinematography on The Assassination of Jesse James, which I’ve heard is phenomenal and I have sitting in my collection at home but haven’t got around to watching yet.

      • Mark Walker says:

        Jesse James is absolutely stunning. I always keep an eye on what Deakins does. He’s my favourite cinematographer and he’s not the Coen Bros’ regular without good reason. The man has a keen eye.

      • I’ve not long been aware of him to be honest although I have seen more of his stuff than I realised. Looking forward very much to Jesse James as I have it on Blu-ray to fully appreciate it.

  8. ruth says:

    Can’t wait to see this tomorrow night, woo hoo! Got my tickets already.

    “…also a fragility that reminds us that he is human after all” That’s what I noticed about Craig in Casino Royale, that scene where he comforted Vesper in the shower is just brilliant and so moving. I still love Dalton first and foremost as he originated the more ‘human’ Bond but Craig is a close second.

    • Yeah it’s definitely something that is part of Craig’s Bond and it needs it too. Without it, I think he’d be a bit intense, especially considering the much dryer humour this time around. Hope you enjoy it, I’m fairly confident that if you liked Casino Royale then you’ll like this.

  9. sati says:

    Great review! I really enjoyed the film, even more than I did Casino Royale, probably because the idea of Bond and M relationship being in the core of the movie seemed so fresh to me. I agree that Silva could have been developed more – I wish we saw a flashback of his imprisonment or at least more scenes with him that weren’t surrounded by so much action.

    • Yeah I would definitely liked to have seen some scenes of his imprisonment or even when he was an MI6 agent. I’m a little torn as to whether I like this or Casino Royale more, I think I’ll need to see this again before I decide just how much I like it. It was great to see the relationship between Bond and M, she was his real Bond girl this time around.

  10. Glad you mention Chigurh, Chris. I think its amazing now… Silva may very well wind up cracking my top ten villains of all time list, and that would make TWO villains played by the same actor in the top ten! Amazing.

    I disagree when you say the film plods, or struggles to find its footing… I never felt that once. I thought it was tight across the boards. Everything had a purpose and a meaning, and the film had drive.

    This was an interesting paragraph and a good point: “Skyfall is more character driven than perhaps any other Bond film, particularly in its second half. However, this in some way negates much of the work done in the first half. With talk of lists of secret agents and cyber terrorism in the film’s first hour or so, these become incidental to other events later on to such an extent that they do feel like a little forgotten. This does make the film feel slightly disjointed but if these aspects are treated as merely a set up rather than integral to the plot then it really doesn’t become a problem.”

    You’re right, the movie is probably more character driven than even “Casino Royale”, which did a great job with that… I dont think it negates all the talk about terrorism and espionage, etc, I just think that those arent necessarily the primary goal of the film. The commentary on the modern role of espionage is still valid, it just doesnt wind up as primary as it might have initially appeared.

    I dont feel it was negated… they just said their piece and were done with what they had had to say! :D

    Debate aside though, glad you really enjoyed it too, I think its easily one of the year’s best movies so far! :)

    • Saying it plods might be slightly unfair but I just didn’t feel instantly captivated. Perhaps I was expecting a little too much too soon and I was being impatient! Lol. For me it only really truly got going when Silva came into it, not that I was bored at any juncture whatsoever. I’m sure upon a second viewing I’ll feel differently.

      I totally agree that the cyber terrorism and all that jazz aren’t the primary focus of the film but it spends quite a while setting it up as such only to forget about it all. Again, it didn’t hamper my enjoyment one bit, it’s barely even a criticism, more an observation.

      I freakin loved the film though, I really want to see it again and there hasn’t been many films this year that I’ve said that about so quickly after first viewing.

  11. Awesome review. Definitely agree :)

  12. dryan1989 says:

    Great review as always, unfortunately I am one of the few that feel it didn’t have the same Bond feel as Casino Royale but that is just my individual sexy opinion.

  13. “Skyfall is more character driven than perhaps any other Bond film, particularly in its second half. However, this in some way negates much of the work done in the first half.” —agreed. Pretty much sums up my thoughts. Skyfall is still a good movie, but fell just a tad bit short of being the BEST bond film overall. Nice review.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,004 other followers

%d bloggers like this: