Release Date: 26th October 2012 (UK)
Running Time: 143 mins.
Director: Sam Mendes
Writer: Robert Wade, Neal Purvis, John Logan, Ian Fleming (Original Characters)
Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Naomie Harris, Bérénice Marlohe, Albert Finney, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Rory Kinnear
Skyfall comes at an interesting time as it marks the 50th year of the Bond franchise and it follows the disastrous Quantum of Solace which. Skyfall has to be good as it is under assault from modern spies like Jason Bourne who just feel more relevant. How good is it?
Istanbul, James Bond (Craig) is on assignment with fellow field agent Eve (Harris) tracking down a computer hard drive which contains the identity of almost every NATO agent embedded in terrorist cells around the globe. Things go wrong when Bond is wounded and falls into a river leaving M (Dench), back in London, with an agent down and major security headache all while she is being pressured into retirement by the Parliamentary security committee chairman Gareth Mallory (Fiennes). Then MI6 headquarters is attacked during a cyber-terrorist assault on British Intelligence. With events spiralling out of M’s control Bond comes back, joining forces with the new Q (Whishaw), to track down the person behind the attack, first heading to Shanghai then to Macau where he meets Severin (Marlohe), a woman who knows about the plot and how it is linked to a man named Raoul Silva (Bardem).
I have to admit that I am not the biggest fan of Bond. Despite being British and having watched every film in the franchise I always found the fantasy elements and the thin characters rather dull. There was never any sense of jeopardy and the stories were increasingly irrelevant. I soon switched to the Bourne trilogy of films. When Casino Royale was released it introduced a new Bond in the form of Daniel Craig and it replaced the silly gadgets and outlandish plots with gritty realism and gripping character drama. I loved it. Then A Quantum of Solace was released, a film that had a lot on character but awful action, a boring villain and a dull plot. Once again I lost interest. Thankfully Skyfall manages to resurrect the franchise by bringing everything back to basics, back to M and MI6 and back to Bond himself.
The film feels more relevant than other Bonds. Gone are the invisible cars and exploding pens and in comes a cyber-terrorism plot linked to the characters and Britain’s history. While a bit fantastical it is less far-fetched than the franchise is used to.
The direction of the film was placed in the hands of Sam Mendes, a man whose background on stage and previous films like American Beauty shows that he can do character while his work on Jarhead and Road to Perdition shows he can shoot an action scene. He gets off to a brilliant start with a thrilling chase through a bazaar in Istanbul on bikes then a furious punch-up on a train. The film is full of numerous exciting fights and chases and each are shot well, even beautifully at times, and at the centre of all this chaos is Craig.
He has to be my favourite Bond. While the older incarnations seemed too charming, too slick and too gentlemanly, Craig looks like he can kill. He is a mixture of Anglo-Saxon brute and smooth-operator. His Bond can psychoanalyse people using Holmesian powers of deduction and knowledge and his Bond can take a punch as seen in conversations, scenes where he outwits opponents and in the brutal fights where he takes damage and deals it out. That he looks awesome in a tuxedo and gets the gorgeous girls all adds to his glamour.
Thankfully there is more to him than this. Indeed, all of this spy-craft seems to be wearing Bond out and we see him have to claw his way through complex emotions surrounding his work and his relationship with M brought on by being exhausted both mentally and physically and having to deal with the fact that he is expendable and quite mortal. He could walk away from his job but he continues and this exploration of his character and his motivations is intelligently handled. That it is linked to Britain’s national image is shown in a magnificent sequence which cross-cuts Bond chasing Silva through London with M quoting Tennyson.
Craig is supported by a great cast. Judi Dench’s M is the picture of British officiousness but despite the grit she is just as vulnerable as Bond and the shocks of the plot are linked to her history. She and Craig have great chemistry with witty put-downs and one-liners used to cover up their genuine concern for each other. There is a brilliant villain in the shape of Javier Bardem’s Silva who reminds one of Anton Chigur with his bad hair but is mostly mad. His slippery nature and obsessiveness are believable and watching him antagonise M and Bond is gripping thanks to a big performance which makes him memorable as a Bond villain. The Bond girls are sexy without being reduced to dolls with ridiculous names that they were in previous films. They are equals to Bond. They are emotionally complex, aggressive and professional players who play an important role in the film and are not just eye-candy and they have their own character-arcs and draw empathy.
Cinematography by Roger Deakins is absolutely gorgeous. It only struck me how good it was during the Shanghai segment where the neon signs and the sheen on the glass and metal surfaces and all those bright shiny towers looked so exquisite I could feel the money. The interiors thing reminded me of the gorgeous gold and black like the videogame Deus Ex. Something else that reminded me of that videogame was the soundtrack be Thomas Newman which mixes classic John Barry Bond themes with a sleek and expansive modern electronic edge. The best music has to be heard on Severin’s boat. It is overwhelmingly luscious and grand and a reminder of the best in the franchise.
Overall this has to be my favourite Bond. It is a mix of the best of Bond and gritty, sexy, believable, relevant and fun. The acting is pitch-perfect and its focus on character gives it real depth and heft which other entries in the franchise lacked. It is a modern Bond for a modern age and one of the best action films of recent times… heck, I think it is one of the best action films of all time because I can see me watching this more than Terminator and the Bourne trilogy of films.
10 thoughts on “Skyfall”
My man and I also enjoyed this film. Like you say, it brought life back to the Bond franchise when I thought A Quantum of Solace had snuffed it. Daniel Craig plays the complicated killer, a man trained (and by inclination) to smother most feelings and go after the goal. Yet, he still maintains a code of honor – for protecting his country.
Great to see you!
It seems that Skyfall has won many fans and I’m not surprised because it is a great action film with great actors and it makes Bond an interesting character.
I really didn’t like Quantum of Solace. I thought Casino Royale was good but I enjoyed Skyfall the most of all. I loved all the getting back to basics. It also had shock value – like, with the opening scene – didn’t see that coming. And, I don’t think anyone else in the audience did – everybody was stunned into silence. I thought Javier Bardem was just excellent – but then he was also really good in No Country for Old Men. I thought the final scenes up at the house in Scotland were full of action not to mention more surprises. All in all well worth watching. I would go and watch it again to be honest.
Skyfall is the most enjoyable Bond film. It’s a clean and exciting adventure with little of the fantastical nonsense of previous films. Bardem was a really good villain. He is a much more memorable villain than the ones in the last two films both in terms of character and the actor’s performance.
I loved the scenes in Scotland. It was like another country!
I think I’d watch it again as well!
I’m a big fan of Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw, and to a certain degree Daniel Craig. With such a cast, how can this movie go wrong? I love the opening scenes and as you said, this is probably the exception to most Bond movies, where you can actually feel the danger and the risk for Bond himself – that he is vulnerable, and that things can go wrong, and gadgets are not there to save him during the most critical of times. My father loved all Bond movies and he’s the one who introduced it to me, so I always have Sean Connery in my mind whenever I think of Bond. Craig changed it for me. Someone argued about the irrelevance of Connery and how much Craig will change the whole franchise – in terms of moviegoer’s perception of Bond. I tend to somehow agree. There is still the same brand of sexuality and humor in this latest feature but I think it was elevated to a higher scale.
Maybe having a rival agent (and an American at that!) convinced the producers to do something radical yet ‘traditional’ at the same time.
Come to think of it, this is probably the 3rd movie where Whishaw and Craig acted together. Enduring Love and Layer Cake are the first 2 I’ve watched. I maybe wrong, perhaps there is more?
All that sense of danger was great. In every other Bond film you expect him to escape with some gadget. There was nothing wrong with that but I did not particularly like it and I grew tired with the franchise. I think the Bourne trilogy probably did scare the producers. I cannot think of another rival spy to Bond prior to Jason Bourne’s appearance. The success of that franchise with its take on espionage showed up the Bond franchise!
I saw Enduring Love during its theatrical release but I cannot remember Whishaw and I never would have thought that Craig would have played Bond. When he was announced as the new Bond I thought it was great!
Whishaw’s role is very small. I took noticed because his role in Layer Cake turned out to be very important as regards to Craig’s character.
I agree with your observation regarding Bourne as a rival, and you are probably correct to say the Bond producers got scared. I would if I’m producing a franchise that may have run out of new ideas to spin, but Skyfall ( and the 2 previous films) made Bond relevant again.
Agreed. The last three Bond’s have given the franchise new life which is why Skyfall has been so successful. I just cannot imagine the franchise being able to continue in the same vein as Goldeneye et al.
You love it more than I do. Perhaps I have higher expectation from it. It still Casino Royale who won me over. I have only watched Daniel Craig’s Bond though. But nice to know you enjoyed it!
Hey Andina! Sorry I haven’t visited in a while. I have been very busy!
Casino Royale was awesome but I found Skyfall was a lot more fun and I would re-watch it sooner. Anyway, I prefer this to the older James Bond movies!