Skyfall First Review
Where on earth to begin with our Skyfall First Review? I could wax lyrical about the wonders of the performances from the leading cast, the genuinely well written script that isn’t based on a Flemming novel, the cinematography, the women, the action… As said in Alice in Wonderland, lets begin at the beginning.
Bond films have a tradition of spectacular opening sequences that start everything off an a high – they’re stylistic, creative and action packed, typically with a touch of humour – to ease us in for the ride before the silhouettes of naked women, guns and bullets start dancing about the screen to the latest Bond eponymous track. Safe to say Skyfall doesn’t let us down, and we are witness to a high octane chase involving a trio of transportation as the pursuit shifts between cars, motorbikes and a train. The culmination of this is Bond taking a tumble, presumed dead, but really this is all death – the main theme of the film.
2012 is the 50th anniversary of the cinematic release of Dr. No, the very first Bond film. In every film since, characters both good and bad have perished either gruesomely or amusingly, meriting the famous one-liners that Bond is famous for. Its fair to say that in most of the films, death is a heavy subject treated lightly, and even in ending of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service the gravity of it all seems underplayed as Bond cradles his dead wife in his arms. And yet, Skyfall is an ode to death, daring to bring the darkness of death out from the shadows making the film more emotional and raw – in keeping with the image of Bond portrayed by Daniel Craig.
In the opening sequence, Bond encounters a mortally wounded colleague whom he resents leaving in his final moments. M stands over 8 coffins, ceremoniously draped in the Union Jack. M is dragged in front of a Parliamentary committee, held responsible for these deaths. Talk about Bond’s parents… There are, in fact, many other instances where death is death with in a sombre and appropriate fashion, and yet I cannot go into this for fear of spoiling the film for you.
Exploding pens, Rolex with lasers, Little Nellie, remote control cars and phone tasers have all featured in past Bond films. However, as our new Quartermaster points out, its now about the basics. A gun and a radio. A message to the viewer that this isn’t about the bells and whistles, this is about the man and his physicality (and maybe some branding….!). Of course, this is even called into question – is Bond up to it anymore? Should he retire? Put through his paces in their new underground headquarters, we are left wondering very much the validity of this argument. There has actually been quite a bit in the press as of late saying that it is about time Bond was put to pasture. Now that Skyfall is out and is causing such excitement, I hope they’re busy eating their words right now!
In a refreshing change, the villain of the piece isn’t a megalomaniac with a wealth of resources, army and private plush residence. Instead, Javier Bardem portrays a man with nothing but a personal vendetta on his mind, and whilst he has his own island, it is decrepit and abandoned with the remnants of the former inhabitants littering the streets. This is a stellar performance, and although perhaps a little too camp at times, his transformation from a less than imposing villain into outright ruthless monster is completed with aplomb. Lending to this performance is the intricately well written relationship between his character Silva, Bond and M – all three so similar in many ways, yet damaged in others.
This is the first time that I think the real bond girl is M. Its not about these knock outs with their beautifully toned bodies, their exotic looks and their desperation to climb into the sack with Bond. Its about the tenacity and strength of M, her matriarchal nature, her role at the head of the intelligence agency, her life and her loves. Dench is given the chance to shine in Skyfall and she outshines all the other women! Ok, so I didn’t find her attractive, but she was phenomenal and the Oscar winning actress shows us all why she was the perfect choice for M for all these years.
But what about Bond? Craig has taken Bond back to basics, he’s made him gritty and given him a physical presence that has left those weedy looking predecessors in his wake. Is he the best Bond? Its hard to say, but he seems the truest to the source material (not that there was any for Skyfall), and without a doubt he is the Bond for this generation. He’s well rounded too, not just throwing punches but actually in his acting, playing his bitterness and melancholia superbly, evoking real sympathy and understanding of his devotion to service and to M.
A word about the women – beautiful. But then, there wasn’t much else to them in this film. They are the classic elements of the Bond film that felt they only got cursory nod, like the gadgets. Similarly, there was no ultra-modern car with jet engines or rockets, instead we are treated to the excellent DB5 that first appeared in Goldfinger – M joking about the ejector seat. There are also some deadly animals involved too, because you couldn’t quite get by without them.
Sure, I have my criticisms. I felt the opening was drawn out and convoluted, a lot seemed implausible, and the CGI Komodo dragons were daft. The women seemed to be added for the sake of it and weren’t quite utilised to the point where they felt to be believable characters. The ending at Skyfall was not in a true Bond fashion and felt ridiculous in many ways, it was out of place and would just felt like an ill prepared Home Alone, although it was an admirable direction for Mendes to take. Its an emotional ending too. One thing that bothered me most above all, was the Dark Knight Rises style pointless joke about a certain someone returning, echoing that of “Robin Blake” from Nolan’s epic.
It ends with “returning soon” – an air of certainty I think everyone in the cinema couldn’t have been happier about! Go and see it. Don’t waste any more time reading Skyfall Film reviews.