Film Reviews and Discussion.
Dir: Sam Mendes
Duration: 143 mins
Look who’s back. Yearning for a welcome shot of familiarity? Or curious to know if there is any new life in the old blood? Bond returns for his 23rd feature.
Around the time of Casino Royale, the 2006 instalment of the James Bond series, there was not a great deal of expectation. Internet chatrooms and comment sites were filled with antagonistic references to the casting of Daniel Craig as Bond. It was an act of heresy to cast a blond Bond. It was heinous to have someone who was not overtly suave and sophisticated. The naysayers were plentiful. The aftermath of the Casino Royale release was that not only was Craig a fantastic Bond, he was quite possibly Bond’s saviour. He had made the series hip again, when it appeared to be outdated and outmoded, a nostalgic nod to days of old.
After Casino Royale‘s runaway success – widespread critical acclaim and huge box office receipts (the golden ticket for any movie), came the first bump in the road in the form of the flawed and confused follow-up, Quantum of Solace. For a time, it looked as though QoS would be the full stop, rather than a comma, in the story of the British Agent. MGM pulled the plug on funding in light of the international monetary crisis and their own subsequent slide into bankruptcy. What a pity for this great institution to bow out on a whimper. In the years that followed, the faithful trumpeted up a lot of support and the cries for a further film grew.
Thankfully, Sony stepped in and enabled production and distribution for this particular offing (and this is abundantly clear from the neat product placement in the feature itself).
To outline the plot of a Bond film is not really essential to the review of the content. All Bond films are at once exactly the same, yet also different from each other. It is the routine and checklist of the format that forms part of its appeal. Accordingly, all the Bond tropes are adhered to in Skyfall. Suitably bombastic and dramatic theme song? Check. Gadgets (or lack of) dispensed by Q? Check. Opening scene chase sequence? Check. Memorable baddie? Check. The list could go on. What is important is that Sam Mendes has taken control with a healthy respect for the films preceding Skyfall, and also an enthusiasm to deliver his own stamp on the franchise.
This is Craig’s third outing, and his presence is by this point familiar and comfortable. There is no shock in his brand of delivery. There is no updating required. There is a need, however, to reinstate the standing of the films after the aforementioned disappointing predecessor. The films opens with a strong hand; a suitably ambitious cross-city chase that incorporates cars, bikes and trains, before providing a heart-in-mouth moment that fires up the adrenaline and provides appropriate reminder, if needed, that we are in James Bond territory. Soon, Adele’s theme song plays and the credits roll. The song itself is a welcome return to the grandeur of the theme songs of old, with a Spy Who Loved Me, ‘Nobody Does It Better’, and Goldfinger sense of import. Rather than being a peripheral character, this version pulls in more substance for M, who becomes a major player. Forever reliable, Dame Judy Dench imparts necessary quintessential English reserve to the part. Javier Bardem, who enters proceedings at around the mid-point, is a revelation. One of the saddest aspects of the film is the fact that not more is made of the interplay and verbal interaction between him and Bond. With more emphasis on the psychological swordplay between the two, this could have been an outstanding film. As things stand, he is wily, assured, cunning and cool, making a volatile cocktail of disenchantment and frustration.
This is a solid action film, and one that will arrive with a lot of good will resting on its shoulders. People like the series and want this to do well. Does it succeed? The inclusion of the basic elements of fire, ice and water lead to a full house of dangerous tricks, but some parts work better than others. The penultimate showdown falls a little flat, despite pyrotechnics flaring up in a supernova of light and smoke. The story is not really substantial or absorbing, despite a more than generous running time. Does this matter? It will depend on your own inclinations.
In short, this is another Bond film much like all the other Bond films, and yet also its own work… Well, you probably knew that already. If you are fond of the antics and escapades of 007, then you will find much to enjoy and revel in here. If not, then this will not necessarily convert you. Business as usual then.
If you like this, try this: 24 (2001-2010) – like an American James Bond, only one that specialises in terrorism, this icon of the modern television era entertained audiences over the course of 8 seasons. Events unfolded in real time.
You can see the trailer for Skyfall here: