Well, everyone, I seem to have gotten into another rut where I can’t seem to finish any of the games I’ve been playing lately so it’s time for another movie review. And today it is time to review the latest Bond film, Skyfall. Now, I have to admit that I am not the biggest Bond fan in the world. I liked some of the earlier Sean Connery films that dealt with his battles against S.P.E.C.T.E.R. and the Dalton films but for the most part I was never really able to get into them. The villains were just too cheesy, the plots to ridiculous and some of the gadgets they came up with in these movies were just…bizarre. That’s not to say that I hate these films but I was just never able to get into them the way a lot of other people were.
However, back in 2006, the reboot Casino Royal was released and holy hot damn was it good. The acting was fantastic, the action was great and the storyline was able to successfully modernize the franchise, making it plausible in our world and many consider it to be one of the better Bond films out there. And then we had Quantum of Solace. Now, I don’t mean to jump on the band wagon and hate on this movie but it was really underwhelming and an unworthy follow up to its predecessor and felt more like a written out additional act of Casino then it did a sequel. And after four years of waiting we have the next entry in Craig/Bond series, Skyfall.
Apparently taking place several years after the events of Quantum, the story of Skyfall revolves around Bond, who after nearly dying and leaving MI6 returns to duty after a cyber-terrorist attacks MI6 and begins leaking the names of various undercover agents around the world who apparently has a grudge against “M” and it’s up to 007 to track this terrorist down, save “M” from this madman, and ultimately decided if he still wants to be a part of MI6 and it’s horrors.
So what’s good about this movie? Well, like its predecessors, the acting is fantastic and the writing for the characters is up to par with the performances. Daniel Craig once again proves that he is the best Bond by all at once being badass, charming, sociopathic, but is still able to show that he is still a fallible human and has his own personal demons. For the first time he really seems to question his life choices and we get a bit more of his background which had been lacking in previous films. Judi Dench is once again fantastic as “M” in her seventh film appearance as the character and like Bond, we get a bit more of her backstory and find that she is a fallible leader and that it’s very possible that her time as MI6’s leader is coming to a close. Javier Bardem is probably the weakest of the main cast but is still very effective as the flamboyant cyber-terrorist, Silva and made for an interesting dark contrast to Bond. Naomie Harris was great as Eva and the flirtatious relationship she has with Bond is delightful to watch. Ben Whishaw was a welcome addition as the new “Q” giving us a new modern version of the character as well as paying homage to the old versions. Perhaps the biggest surprise in the casting, however, was Ralf Fiennes as the bureaucrat, Gareth Mallory, who was cast against type as “M”’s only real ally in the elected government and as a result he gives his best performance in years. Albert Finney is also great in his role but sadly I can’t reveal to much more due to spoilers.
While the main storyline of the film does leave something to be wanted, (more on that in a minute), a lot of the themes they explore are worth noting. The main one seemed to have been the role of organizations like MI6 and agents like Bond who seem to becoming increasingly obsolete in the 21st century and I find it really interesting that anyone would dare tackle that idea. The ending is fantastic and really gives the sense that it’s time for Bond to become the big franchise that it once was. It’s also full of a lot of great tributes to the older films such as the mentioning of an exploding pen and the appearance of the car from Goldfinger and you really get a sense that the people who made this film have a love for the franchise, and are not deprived of humor.
I was also very pleased by the special effects as the director seems to be one of the few directors out there that understands that practical effects done well will almost always look better then CGI. The final positive to note is opening theme, Skyfall as it was a radical improvement over the last song and I could listen to it for hours without any context.
However, the film suffers from four big problems and quite frankly I find them impossible to ignore. The first is that it really has next to nothing to do with the previous films in terms of its story. There is no mention of Mr. White or the Quantum organization and I really wanted to see a continuation of that storyline. The second is the themes they explore in the film, such as “M”’s past, the role of MI6, and Bond questioning his role in MI6 and whether or not he wants to be a part of it. While these themes are great, I don’t think that they pushed them far enough and believe that they could have made a masterpiece out of this film if they had. The third problem is the action scenes. One of my big problems with Quantum was that many of the action scenes felt like they were recycled from older Bond films and ultimately felt stale. Here, however, it’s very obvious that this is the director’s first action movie and as a result the action scenes are not very well shot or edited together. In one scene, for example, you get a hand to hand combat fight with Bond and an assassin and almost all of it is done in one shot with little to no editing. It ultimately comes off as similar to the action of The Dark Knight, where many of the hand to hand fights were under edited and just came off as underwhelming.
And speaking of similarities to The Dark Knight, I hate to be this kind of person, but this movie ripped a little too much off of the 2008 Batman film and once you see these similarities they are impossible to ignore and will take away from the experience. The most notable were several plot elements that were ripped straight out of the film, including a brief sequence that took place in China that led to the main story and the villain allowing himself to get captured in order to achieve his goal with a plan that some people might say was unnecessarily complicated, (and I might add that with this film that argument would have a lot more merit). This wouldn’t have bothered me so much if The Avengers hadn’t done the exact same thing back in May, (and much more effectively I might add), and as a result it just comes off as a bit of a stale plot point. The final similarity is, believe it or not, the score. While the Skyfall opening theme is original and the classical James Bond theme is unmolested, the rest of the score that doesn’t involve these things sounds WAY to similar to Hans Zimmer’s score in the Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception. I’ve heard some people take this a step further by saying that the relationship between Bond and villain Silva was a little too similar to that of Batman and the Joker but I don’t really see it and even I think that that is taking the similarities to far.
All around I would say that this film was better than Quantum but not as good as Casino. The acting, characterization, humor, themes and tributes to the older films are all great but it was taken down a few notches by failing to really push these themes, action scenes that left something to be wanted and a little too much lifted from The Dark Knight. It seemed like they were trying to do for the Bond franchise what The Dark Knight did for comic book movies, but ultimately failed to understand what made that film so good and just ended up lifting plot points from it. However, if you liked the first two, are a Bond fan and want to see a more serious take on the franchise then this is a film for you. It successfully adds on to a great Bond story arc and I honestly cannot wait to see what they do next.