[Review] Skyfall

At the time of writing this post, since New Year’s Day I have watched 131 films. Of those 131 films, some have been watched at the cinema while others have been watched from the comfort of my own living room. One of them was even watched outdoors at an impressive medieval castle.

Of those 131 films, 23 have been the Bond franchise.

“The name’s Bond, James Bond.”

You may be asking why I watched the whole Bond franchise in one year. The short answer is that I hadn’t seen all of them. When people asked me ‘Who’s your favourite Bond actor?’ I’d instantly say Sean Connery, though that was a bit unfair as I hadn’t actually seen all the Connery films let alone the Lazenby one, all the Moore ones, both the Dalton ones and all the Brosnan ones. I had seen the two Craig ones, though.

The slightly longer answer is that when Eon announced Bond 23 back in May 2011 when it didn’t even have an official title – that would come in November 2011 – I thought it would be quite fun to watch all 22 films before catching Bond 23 at the cinema. I then duly asked for the box set for Christmas 2011. I was a little late to Bondathon party though, as some bloggers had started their Bondathon a lot sooner – filmsRruss, I’m looking at you and your Blogalongabond.

“Dignity? To hell with dignity! I’ll retire when my goddamn job is finally done.”

So, to Skyfall.

The 23rd film in the Bond franchise, Skyfall was released 50 years since 007’s cinematic debut, Dr. No. Daniel Craig returned to the role four years after his last outing as 007, Quantum of Solace. Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition) took the directing helm while Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson returned in producing roles.

The above quote is by M (Judi Dench), who takes a much more prominent role in this film than M arguably has in any other Bond film. In many of the previous films, M is present in the opening third to give Bond his orders. In some cases, M then returns in the final third to congratulate Bond on the success of the mission or to find him in a passionate clinch with a beautiful woman.

Without giving too much away, which is actually what someone in my office did much to my annoyance, this is one of the strongest films in the franchise. Thinking about it now, some four days after I watched it, the element that sticks out most in my mind is the relationship between Bond and M. Of course it could be the way that Bond was written, but Craig and Dench seem to have a much more natural relationship than Dench had with Pierce Brosnan in Goldeneye to Die Another Day. They seem to be more comfortable in each other company. Bond pushes M’s buttons, but always in a semi-respectable way, of course.

The action is fast-paced and explosive, with Bond showing no signs of slowing down, despite the jibes he receives with regards to his age. Age certainly is more of an issue in this film, with the retirement finger being pointed at M more than once as the above quote reveals. Q makes his first official appearance too, portrayed by the then 31-year-old British actor Ben Whishaw, which causes some questioning. In an amusing scene at the British Portrait Gallery, Bond doesn’t believe that Q is serious when he reveals himself as MI6’s new quartermaster:

Bond: “You must be joking.”
Q: “Why, because I’m not wearing a lab coat?”
James Bond: “Because you still have spots.”
Q: “My complexion is hardly relevant.”

With the appearance of Q, Bond’s support team back at MI6 is nearly complete: the line up of the previous Bond films pre-Craig is nearly back together. Personally, I find this exciting for a number of reasons. It’s great to see the old team back together, albeit with different actors, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the team will get up to in future films now that there is this clean slate. Craig’s Bond, in my opinion, is very different to his predecessors, and through Skyfall we have had a glimpse at his personality away from the fast cars, beautiful women and explosive action. How he will now relate to M, Q and co will be very interesting.

The last element to comment on regarding Skyfall is, of course, Javier Bardem as Silva. In my opinion, Silva will be amongst the more memorable Bond villains, as much for his striking blonde hair as for the motivations behind his actions. Silva is very different to all the previous Bond villains in that he has a personal vendetta rather than a desire to detonate a nuclear bomb and blow up part of the world.

Skyfall is an excellent addition to the Bond franchise, and it firmly cements Craig as Bond. It carries on the recent tradition of pushing Bond’s limits instead of him coming through his dangerous ordeals with nothing more than a few scratches and a witty one liner. Craig’s Bond is not afraid to damage his pretty boy looks, and I think that is exactly the way the franchise should go.

★★★★½

Current order of preference: To be revealed in a future post after much head scratching to decide what the final standings will be…

You can read all my mini reviews and posts in my Bondathon series here.

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