Like many others, I grew up with the James Bond franchise, and to some extent, I considered it a rite of passage to seeing my first glorious gun barrel sequence. In contrast to many other franchises though, many people have lost interest in whether or not the latest movie lives up to any preconceived notions, because if it turns out to be lackluster, you can always wait for the next one as inevitably as the fucking tides.
So Skyfall, then. Picking up where Quantum of Solace left off, director Sam Mendez takes his shot at the Bond franchise with admirable gusto, incorporating much of the tight action sequences and sprawling set pieces that the re-envisioned series has been praised for. Daniel Craig returns once again as the legendary MI6 agent, taking on the role with his laudable swagger and undeniable charm, cementing his place in the franchise as one of the most popular Bonds to date. Series veteran Judi Dench returns as M (as if the continuity wasn’t fucked up enough, considering her appearance as M in GoldenEye in 1995, eleven years before the series rebooted with Casino Royale) who delivers and commendable performance, but admittedly stops short of extraordinary and is perhaps overshadowed by Craig. The baddie this time around, disgraced former MI6 agent Raoul Silvia, is played by Javier Bardem – winner of the Academy Award for best supporting actor for his role as Anton Chigurh the the Cohen Brothers classic No Country for Old Men. Bardem’s performance was the highlight of the affair, bringing to the table an engaging and complex villain.
I can’t help but feel, however, that Mendez was intentionally ripping off Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight in his portrayal of Silvia as a psychotic murderer, indifferent to the consequences of his actions, in the same vein as Heath Ledger’s Joker. Even the sequence when Silvia is disguised as a police officer is eerily reminiscent of some of the more pulse pounding moments from The Dark Knight. I’m willing to write this one off as a coincidence because of Bardem’s excellent performance, but niggling doubts cannot be held off for long.
In terms of cinematography and style, Mendez brings his own unique flair to the Bond universe while still maintaining a respectable consistency and continuity with the previous films. I feel as though, if given free reign and not forced to conform to an established style, Mendez’s skill could have produced something magnificent. As it stands, Skyfall’s direction is competent yet unremarkable, a phrase which I employ with much chagrin- as I see so much potential- but is nevertheless the most accurate description I have arrived at.
On the other hand, it was refreshing to see Bond’s character receive a more personal touch through his relationship with M. In that respect, the film excelled, as It worked well within the context of Royale and Solace. Had the two previous films not already established a certain relationship between Bond and M, and elaborated on Bond’s connection to MI6 as a lone wolf susceptible to self destruction and delusion, his previous misconduct, and to a lesser extent his early life, I believe the story would have floundered and the audience would have been left with a barebones action flick with an unnecessarily well developed antagonist. Of course, simply stamping the 007 brand onto the production might have had something to do with it’s widespread success…
Now, I’ve taken serious umbrage with the franchise’s return to the old school 1960’s-1970’s roots. In a sense, I believe it betrays a large part of what the new Bond is supposed to be about, namely bureaucracy’s ongoing war with far reaching global terrorism and the implications of lone actors on a global stage in the post-Soviet era and sweet Jesus, I don’t believe that I could be any more pretentious right now. Seriously though, I felt cheated when Eve introduced herself as ‘Moneypenny’ and Bond walked into and exact replica of the MI6 offices as in the first 007 films. I was left wondering “Is this what we’re in for now? Perpetual rehashing of old ground now that the franchise has come full circle?”
The Bond franchise has been through a lot, and has shown that it can bounce back from embarrassment. I remain cautiously optimistic that it can show us something new in Bond 24 and 25, which Daniel Craig has already signed on for. If you’re a Bond fan, you’ve probably already seen it twice. If you’re not, I can still squeeze out a recommendation in light of my perceived disappointments.
Rating 3.75 out of 5
PS: Did anyone else think that Silvia would end up being the new Jaws when he unhinged his jaw in front of M in the holding cell?
PPS: I’d like to apologize to our followers for going silent for a while. The holidays are stressful for everyone, no?
PPPS: Which is your favorite Bond film and/or who played 007 the best? Leave a comment!