Much as I love the Bond franchise, I’ll be the first to admit that the last three movies were pretty friggen bad. Most people hated Die Another Die and everyone hated Quantum of Solace. Granted, Casino Royale was pretty well received but personally I thought it was overrated. Although I didn’t see Skyfall in the Cinema, I’ve recently seen it on DVD and, seeing as I’ve reviewed all the previous Bond films, I figured I’d take a look at it.
Also, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS!!!!
On a mission in Istanbul to receive a stolen computer hard drive, James Bond (Daniel Craig) is accidentally shot by Eve Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) under orders from M (Judi Dench). Bond is mistakenly presumed dead but is in fact still alive, while he is happily screwing South American women and getting royally pissed, M’s job is on the line and the goverment is questioning whether the Double 0 department is nessarcery anymore. Eventually the hard drive is tracked to a villain named Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) an exceptionally talented computer hacker who had previously been left for dead by M and is out for revenge. From there, Bond tries to protect M from Silva, a mission that takes him back to the Bond estate in the misty highlands of Scotland.
I must’ve read about 30 different reviews for this film and each one said exactly the same thing, that Skyfall was one of the best Bond films ever. Well, I watched the film and I have to admit, I was very impressed. After three bad films, we finally get a good Bond film. Skyfall is brilliant; the acting is good, the story is good, the action is good, the cinematography is good, the villain is good, M is good and Bond is good. There are a few of these that bear expanding on, mostly regarding the story, villain, Bond and M. Firstly, Bond. I think this is the first film where I actually didn’t hate Daniel Craig as Bond, I don’t know if it was the story, the writing or the performance but there was definitely something done differently than before. Throughout the film there are silent moments, mostly centring around Bond and M, where characters will just stand and the camera focuses on their faces. Skyfall does this very well and takes advantage of the fact that these are characters that don’t talk about their problems, just by seeing Bond’s face you can see the anger and pain he feels at M’s betrayal and his personal debate about whether he should return. I also love the fact that Bond loses his game; his aim is damaged by his shoulder injury. It took a good 20 films to show Bond really getting the crap beaten out of him but we’ve never really seen him perform badly at his job and it’s an aspect that I really like, it adds some realism to a franchise that has often been accused of being anything but realistic. I’ve heard criticism about the ending where Bond cries after M is killed but I actually think it works, it adds to his psyche. Bond isn’t easy to crack emotionally, he’s never cried in the history of the franchise, not even when his wife was murdered. Skyfall is filled with references to M being some sort of mother to the Double 0’s, Silva and Bond, the climax is set in the Bond family’s ancestral home and a slight reference is made to the death of Bond’s parents in the Alps. Because of this, M’s death is clearly reminiscent of the death of Bond’s own mother. A lot of fans don’t really like this aspect because Bond is a cold-hearted bastard but I’d argue that the shock of failing to protect M and the fact that he’s surrounded by reminders of his mother’s death probably gets the better of him.
M is also really good in this film. This is probably the most M oriented film we’ve had since The World Is Not Enough. We actually see the emotional turmoil that sending agents to their deaths causes, she never says anything but everything is expressed in her eyes. In a way, M probably has a harder job than Bond. All Bond has to do is kill and if he dies then that’s the end of it but M actually has to send the agents into dangerous situations, knowing that they may be killed, and if she screws up then her entire career is on the line. M doesn’t deny that she betrayed Silva, she did what she had to do, but it doesn’t mean she didn’t create a monster. I mean, dear God the man’s missing his upper jaw due to faulty cyanide, not to mention the months of torture he suffered at the hands of the Chinese. Skyfall is one of those films where the majority of protagonists are not purely good, if anything their morality is grey. The villain is also really strong. Silva reminds me of some of the older Bond villains, he’s psychologically insecure and has a memorable physically impairment (the man’s missing his upper jaw, I cannot state that enough). Not only that, it’s implied that Silva is some sort of depraved bisexual, the writers are really trying to make this guy a creepy, memorable Bond villain and it works. I think Silva is possibly one of the best Bond villains in the history of the franchise, not just because of his appearance and psyche, but also because of his motive. The fact that he doesn’t want destabilise the global economy or monopolize the cocaine market, he just wants revenge. As Bond villain motives go, it’s probably one of the most simplistic, and I can see how people may take it at face value and think little of it, but Skyfall takes a simple motive and makes into something far stronger. Silva talks about M as a mother and there’s a great deal of pseudo-similarity between him and Bond. We’ve seen villains like this before, Francisco Scaramanga and Alec Trevelyan spring to mind, but Silva actually has a relationship with M that’s not unlike her relationship with Bond. Or at the very least, you can tell Silva and M were once more like M and Bond. M genuinely seems both shocked and saddened by what her actions have resulted in and Silva seems genuinely hurt by M’s betrayal. The other characters are also pretty cool. Moneypenny is pretty badass and I like the fact she’s black and the idea that she has a background as a field operative. Q is great, I love the little back and forths between him and Bond. That old gamekeeper guy is freaking awesome, although am I the only one who thought it would be cooler if he were played by Sean Connery? Also, Malory is a great replacement for M, Judi Dench is great but if anyone can replace her it’s Ralph Fiennes
In many ways I think that Skyfall is a great example of how Die Another Day could’ve been done right. Where Die Another Day really fucked up the idea of referencing past Bond films, Skyfall finds a really good balance, there are references to Goldeneye, Goldfinger, Thunderball and some of the other classic Bond films. Not only that but it also deals with some pretty meta issues like the argument among some fans as to whether Bond films should be darker and more psychological or the more cliché, formulaic style that we saw in the Connery-Brosnan years. There are constant lines about the past and old tricks and it kinda reminds me of Goldeneye, the idea that Bond is pretty redundant nowadays and that terrorism and crime has progressed beyond the need for Double 0’s. I really adore the fact that Skyfall manages to find the balance between making a film that explores the psyche of a man who kills for a living and a film that gives us all the silly clichés that we’ve come to love from Bond movies.
The theme song got a lot of publicity in the early days of this film’s release. I’m sort of in the ‘ok’ group when it comes to Adele, I mean she’s alright but I’m no obsessive fan boy by any means of the word and when I heard she was doing the song I thought it would be alright, nothing special but nothing God-awful. Then I heard the song. Adele’s theme is not only good but it’s arguably one of the best Bond themes ever. I think it may even eclipse anything Shirley Bassey ever did; it really is a very good song.
I’m not gonna lie though; the film does have its problems. Severine is a totally pointless character. Her only purpose is to make Silva out to be a real dick, give Bond a reason to meet Silva and to be fan service. That’s literally all she does and it’s a shame because the acting isn’t bad and she could’ve been used far more effectively than she was. You could’ve made her into a really tragic character; she’s been a prostitute since she was a girl so that automatically means you’ve got a lot to play with psychologically, not to mention what you could’ve done with her and the villain. You could’ve dived into their relationship and how each affects the other, it would’ve been great. What we got, however, was a pointless character that could’ve been so much more. The CGI is also pretty poor at times. Those komodo dragons look awful and, aren’t the crowds reactions to the Komodo dragon pit fight just a little underdone? I mean, they’ve just seen a guy get dragged to his death by a vicious animal and not a single one of them screams? Also did anyone really believe that scorpion was actually there? Other than that, I’m not sure if there are any problems.
Skyfall is a film I’ve been waiting for for a very long time. The story is good, the characters are great (especially Bond and M), the villain is strong and the song is great. I can’t believe I’m saying this about a Daniel Craig Bond film but it’s probably one of the best Bond films ever made.