JAMES MITCHELL wasn’t hugely impressed with the latest Bond.
This is a tricky one. I really wanted to love this film and, having read a few reviews from the ‘real’ critics, I was sure that I would. Perhaps I was expecting too much.
Let me at least start with a positive. To mark fifty years of the James Bond franchise, the producers have made sure that this latest offering pays homage to many of the things that have made Bond films so memorable. Adele’s clever Bassey-esque delivery of the opening theme gets the film off to a good start for example, and the classic Aston Martin DB5 makes a welcome cameo appearance later on. Regardless of which Bond-era you prefer, there is enough on offer here to satisfy most people’s nostalgic cravings.
This film however is not a classic Bond.
In Skyfall, the audience is invited to examine Bond as a person and we get an unprecedented insight into the man’s traumatic past. That for me was a mistake. The film is too introspective and suffers for it. Perhaps the writers were attempting to make the character more human – someone we could relate to a little better – but it didn’t work. The attempt seemed indulgent and unnecessary. Bond is a cold, hard-nosed, killing machine. Do any of us really care why he ended up that way instead of becoming a social worker?
Bond is also at his best when he’s taking on powerful, shadowy crime organizations, hell-bent on world domination. Following a massive security breach, Skyfall focuses more on getting house and home (i.e. MI6) in order and thus feels much more like a Bourne film than a Bond epic. Controversially, I actually quite liked Quantum of Solace. It was a good addendum to an interesting plot – and I would have preferred something that followed up on that film’s antagonist, Mr. White. Instead, we got a select committee on whether or not we need a Secret Service.
We are also used to Bond operating alone in the field. He’s a one-man army, occasionally supported with fancy gadgets and his chums at the CIA. Skyfall, however, isn’t just about Bond. Many of the peripheral characters have principal roles in this Film. It is perhaps inevitable that the hugely talented Judi Dench as ‘M’ would be given a few more lines, but it isn’t just her. We now have Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw sharing the limelight. Alas, this is no longer the Bond show – and I can’t help but think they made the right decision when they ditched these characters in Casino Royale.
I was also put off by Skyfall’s sentimental undertones. I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot, but Bond gets a bit weepy towards the end. The problem is that when Daniel Craig was announced for the role, we were told we were finally getting Ian Fleming’s Bond – the cold blunt instrument that he had intended. For fans of Brosnan and Moore, this proved a bit hard to get used to. For the vast majority, however, it was a breath of fresh air. So to see this new, tougher bond come over all emotional made me rather uncomfortable. It was a bit like seeing your dad cry.
Javier Bardem is as creepy a Bond villain as there’s ever been, though he isn’t better than Ledger’s Joker as some reviews have preposterously claimed. Dench also shines as M in this departure from her normal, administrative role. Craig is also good here, as you’d expect – but in my opinion he has yet to better the performance he gave in Casino Royale. Mendes was an inspired choice for director and, alongside cinematographer Roger Deakins, he has managed to shoot a beautiful movie. Some of the scenes set in Shanghai and the Scottish Moorlands are breathtaking.
Skyfall is entertaining – the first hour or so in particular. The acting is exemplary, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few Academy Award nominations in the new year (the fifty year anniversary might also help on this front).
So, does this film exhibit some of the best of Bond? Absolutely. Is it the best Bond film ever?
Not even close.