Film review: SkyfallBy Kim Francis
October 24, 2012
Action, sex, gadgets, comic book-style villains, puns, wisecracks and innuendo.
That’s what people have historically enjoyed about James Bond movies, and in the past, the loyal fan base has resisted changes to the formula.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, for example (in which Australian George Lazenby takes on the 007 role and, contrary to Bond’s usual womanising ways, falls in love and gets married), didn’t achieve the success of the Connery era.
In recent years, however, the massive shake-up of the franchise that came with Daniel Craig’s casting, and in the wake of the grittier spy-based Bourne series, has been embraced.
Craig signalled a harsher, more realistic Bond. The franchise rewound to tell Bond’s back story and an altogether more serious tone emerged.
Audiences loved the more vulnerable, human, sombre James Bond they saw in Casino Royale. But the mess that was its follow-up, Quantum of Solace, arguably undid everything that was achieved.
And so, with Craig’s third outing as Bond – in an original story not based on Ian Fleming’s books and after studio problems that nearly meant the film wouldn’t go ahead – it was back to the drawing board for Skyfall.
In comes acclaimed British director Sam Mendes and back comes Bond’s sense of humour and pared-back story, where villain takes centre stage. If Quantum of Solace was convoluted, Skyfall is the polar opposite.
Essentially, the story involves M (Judi Dench) and her ability to do her job being called into question when her past comes back to bite her. When MI6 is targeted, Bond must track down whoever is responsible and put a stop to the perpetrator’s deadly plans, even when events lead James to his childhood home and emotions come to the fore...
The simplistic story clears the way for some sensational action set pieces, and some super home-grown locations. Brilliantly shot and edited, there’s none of the confusion and disorientation of its predecessor and, consequently, stunts and action sequences seem fresh and thrilling.
Sadly, the story and characters let it down. There is little to make you warm to any of the primary characters – most are bland and dry, including Bond, making it difficult to care, even though the film asks you to.
The only time the screen seems to come alive in terms of characterisation is when Ben Whishaw appears, as Q. He’s quirky and sweetly geeky; the most human of all the characters. Javier Bardem as villain Raoul Silva is, by contrast, a two-dimensional damp squib, although Bardem, being the actor he is, manages to inject plenty of colour.
Skyfall has the feel of an episode of BBC drama Sherlock or similar – not only in its interweaving of characteristic Bondian quips and lightheartedness into the high octane action and easy-to-grasp story, but also in its pantomime villain, tone and pacing. In this way, it feels like it’s been heavily influenced by what’s current – as if Mendes et al aren’t brave enough to let it speak with its own voice.
It’s riding on coat tails, and the strong sense you’re left with is that you’re watching a film that’s been made to tick boxes and put bums on seats. What you really want to feel is that you’re seeing a film that’s moving the franchise on, and one that’s been made with love and respect.
Ending with a couple of significant reveals and benefiting from the presence of Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney, Rory Kinnear and Naomie Harris among its cast, Skyfall has several assets to make it a worthwhile watch.
But on top of its flaws, you’ll also find yourself wondering if it’s actually just setting the scene for a slew of Bond remakes – starting, perhaps, with Dr No...