Skyfall * * * 1/2
Director: Sam Mendes.
Screenplay: John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade.
Starring: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Wishaw, Naomie Harris, Berenice Marlohe, Albert Finney, Rory Kinnear, Ola Rapace, Helen McCrory,
Whenever a new James Bond film is released, it seems to strike up enthusiasm and excitement amongst moviegoers. I’m admittedly not a massive Bond fan but having the reliable Daniel Craig shaking the Martini’s and introducing himself by surname first has worked a treat so far. It’s also not too shabby when Oscar winning director Sam Mendes is at the helm, as well as having an Oscar winning actor play the proverbial nasty. Even though I couldn’t summon the same enthusiasm as others, I also couldn’t resist in seeing what all the fuss could be about.
After a botched mission in Istanbul, Bond (Daniel Craig) is presumed killed in action. In actual fact, he’s been laying low and indulging a bit too much on alcohol. He resurfaces when he hears the news of attacks on M16 headquarters in London and M (Judi Dench) brings him back to resume service. It transpires that the attack on M16 HQ is at the hands of Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) who has a score to settle with M herself.
This is not your average Bond movie at all. Recently they have been doing away with the conventions of the franchise and stripping it back to basics. I, for one, have been a fan of this recent minimal approach but I still wasn’t prepared for how bare this one was. A lot of attention is placed on character development which is almost unheard of from a movie featuring this character. In a lot of ways, it seemed like this film was making a new statement and relaunching a new take on Bond. It dares to make some serious plot developments involving prominent characters and introduces new ones in the shape of Ben Wishaw as a welcome and convincing Q and a new introduction to Miss Moneypenny. The other developments I won’t divulge here. It even gives a little history and backstory to Bond and also shows some weaknesses in his character; Bond isn’t as invincible as some of the earlier instalments which is a welcome change of direction. Of course, this is all handled well by Craig who is very convincing in the role, further fuelling the argument as to whether he’s the best yet.
No Bond write-up would be complete without mentioning the villain of the piece and this is where the excellent Javier Bardem comes in. He puts in a marvellously on edge and surprisingly humorous performance that I really wasn’t expecting. Bardem can do these type of creepy characters with aplomb but unfortunately, it’s the decisions of his character that leave his addition to the ‘Bond baddies’ rather ordinary in comparison. When the writers intend on keeping things more realistic it would probably be wise not leave gaping holes in the story and have the characters behave a little more cautiously. It seemed to me that they’d rather have the best of both: they wanted the realism as well as the indulgence and the two don’t really go hand in hand. The villains in previous Bonds always made critical mistakes but to have one that just stumbles around as if they’re invincible is a little insulting to, not only, the deadly 007 agent but also to the audience. That being said, it’s still a decent flick and there’s plenty of enjoyment to be had with some clever nods to the Bond movies of old and some sumptuous cinematography by Roger Deakins.
I’m not sure how Bond enthusiasts will receive this one. There’s a good chance if you’re into the franchise then you’ll like it but personally, I thought it was a little underwhelming. It doesn’t match the intensity of Craig’s first outing in “Casino Royale” but is admittedly an improvement over his second “Quantum Of Solace“.