Four years after the rather unpopular Quantum of Solace, Bond is back, and director Sam Mendes brings the iconic hero to life with an enthusiasm that’s palpable. Most importantly, Skyfall has remembered that Bond should be fun, and whilst I do have qualms with the film, it’s certainly a strong outing for the cinematic franchise’s 50th year.
Skyfall follows continues this reboot generation’s trend of delving deeper into the character of Bond himself. I’m really enjoying the fact that the Craig films have been a continuation of the same storyline (even if you have to ignore the fact that Judi Dench was in the Brosnan flicks for it to make any sense). Speaking of Dench, her M gets a huge portion of the screentime here, and the film is better for it. At the centre of Skyfall is her relationship with 007, and this portion of the narrative doesn’t disappoint.
As for the villain, Javier Bardem has an incredible time as Silva. To say he is pantomimic or chewing the scenery would be unfairly critical, because his performance is at the same time subtle and deliriously over the top. Bardem has really crafted a villain to remember, perhaps on par with Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal. Silva’s master plan isn’t about taking over the world, yet is something intrinsically personal. This is the best part of Skyfall: it’s all about personal actions and regrets. Sure, national security and MI6 itself is under threat, but this merely forms the backdrop.
The penchant for shaky-cam that began in Casino Royale and reached ridiculously horrid levels in Quantum of Solace is completely absent here. It shouldn’t really be a surprise – can you imagine a Mendes film with shaky-cam? – but every single shot is a thing of beauty. There’s a real majesty about the cinematography, and this is definitely a film that needs to be seen on the big screen.
The action scenes are brilliantly paced and edited, and the film isn’t afraid to take its time in getting to them. Only one brief scene felt like it had been injected into the script unnecessarily, but it was over before it had time to bother me. The visual effects are mostly successful however there are a handful of shots that look terrible, particularly early on in the film. On the other hand, there was a fairly epic scene of devastation that clearly made use of miniatures – a deliciously old-school moment. The problem was that it didn’t look any more convincing than CGI would have.
One last element comes to the fore in this film: the silliness that was once a mainstay of the series and was completely absent from the first two Craig outings. I was in two minds about this. Such ‘wink, wink, nudge, nudge’ moments really took me out of Skyfall, and their inclusion felt self-conscious. On the other hand, part of me welcomed their return, as Quantum of Solace seemed to get tangled up in its own efforts to remain serious, and ended up a little stuffy and po-faced.
Overall Skyfall is a great Bond film. It does feel a slightly off-kilter at times, but for the most part it hits all the right beats. Here’s hoping that the revitalised series goes from strength to strength from here on in.Rating: