I’m certain you don’t want somebody to tell you that Skyfall was good – I’m certain your keen powers of observation have already deduced that much, seeing as it’s the highest grossing James Bond film of all time and the ninth highest grossing film of 2012. James Bond turns 50 and I’m here to blow out the candles with a review of Skyfall.
A botched mission in Istanbul results in James Bond (Daniel Craig) presumably killed in action and M’s (Judi Dench) loyalty being put to question as her past resurfaces. When a cyber terrorist attacks M16 James Bond finds himself compelled to answer the call of duty and return to shoot people and cause millions in property damage for Queen and country.
By now you know the formula, we’ve seen it so many times, that is 22 times for those who were paying attention. Twenty-two times you’ve seen the same dynamic: opening chase sequence/ shootout-opening credits-sexual innuendo-cars-villain with accent-alluring Bond girl-gadgets- Bond gets captured-sexual innuendo-Bond isn’t captured anymore-Bond shoots people-sexual innuendo-end credits.
It’s a formula that’s cemented itself into James Bond mythos for 50 years. Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because it has worked for the most part. Sure Bond has had a couple missteps in the past, with films like Die Another Day and Never Say Never Again that honestly give me night terrors, but at the same time it’s difficult to find another franchise that has lasted 50 years with perfect films throughout.
I say difficult because another franchise doesn’t exist. However with Bond being rebooted in 2006 it granted an opportunity to deviate from the formula and bring Bond into the real world. Sam Mendes has not only achieved that by breathing new life into an age old series but has also made groundbreaking contribution to the Bond franchise, paving the way for future instalments.
Now I know what you’re thinking – ‘What about Adele’s Bond theme?’ Thing is, it works. It truly fits into thematic elements portrayed in Skyfall, most notably: Bond’s relevance. Adele’s theme captures a character who has finally realised he has been thrust into a world that no longer needs him. As said to him by M in Goldeneye: “...you’re a relic of the cold war…”
Bond embodies the golden age of espionage, here we see the dynamic shift into the 21st century, a society driven by media and technology. Skyfall introduces characters such as Q (Ben Winshaw) and the delightfully sadistic villain Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) who contrast Bond exquisitely due to the fact that they have adapted: both of whom could do more damage behind a computer screen than Bond can in an entire lifetime.
This is where the theme is captured and where Bond’s emotional vulnerability lies: in this day and age: do we need a man with a gun? Craig pushes the portrayal of James Bond, his transition from a reckless, naïve agent in Casino Royale to a darker, older Bond is evident. As you watch Craig’s performance, you’re watching a man whose profession has left him both shaken...and stirred- I’m sorry I don’t know what came over me- I apologise for that. You’re witnessing for the first time a Bond who has finally realised he is disposable.
The film itself boasts a number of thrilling set pieces and amazing shots of gorgeous locales. Sam Mendes and his screenwriters took the liberty of inserting pieces of nostalgia in jokes, characters and gadgets. As the movie plays out you see it as a true love letter to fans with elements of previous James Bond films being reintroduced in a more modern and believable setting.
The film also surrounds Craig with an amazing supporting cast, such as Ralph Fiennes and Javier Bardem and don’t forget...Javier Bardem. He has played, so far, the most formidable villain in Craig’s series and possibly goes down as one of the most threatening Bond villains of all time. We also can’t forget Judi Dench with another flawless performance as M, whose relationship with both Bond and her career are put to breaking point in this film. Of course while the film does hit it’s high notes, it does miss one or two steps: such as the Bond girls, with Naomie Harris as an inexperienced field agent. Although it’s always nice to see Miss Harris in films, her lines felt forced and much of her interaction with Bond felt awkward. All the more for the exquisite Berenice
Marlohe as Severine, who is stunning but again, her relevance in the film was questionable seeing as she was simply eye candy.
So let’s face it. You get the gorgeous women. You get the guns. You get Bond. You also get substance. The film truly delivers, not only as a Bond film but as a milestone. Sam Mendes hasn’t just made a James Bond film; he’s probably made one of the best Bond films to date. As the film closes, you’re not only watching one film close, but witnessing the birth of an entirely new series.
Mendes has proved that he’s taught an old dog some new tricks by making hands down one of the best films for 2012. As we await Bond 24 in 2014 we know for certain: 007 is reporting for duty.