Should I Watch..? Skyfall
What's the big deal?
Skyfall is an action spy adventure film released in 2012 and is the twenty-third entry in the James Bond series. It marks Daniel Craig's third film as 007 and was released to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the first Bond film Dr No (1). The film sees Bond return from a period of absence to investigate a cyber-attack on MI6 orchestrated by a former MI6 operative. It became a critical and commercial hit, becoming the first Bond film to gross more than $1 billion worldwide and the most successful Bond film in history. It also became the first Bond film to win two Academy Awards and the first to win any since Thunderball (2) in 1965. To call the film a return to form would be the understatement of the century...
What's it about?
Patrice, a mercenary, has got his hands on a list of all NATO operatives working undercover in terrorist organisations around the world. In Istanbul, British secret agents James Bond and Eve Moneypenny are in hot pursuit but while Bond and Patrice fight atop a speeding train, M orders a nervous Eve to shoot. She does and accidentally hits Bond, knocking him off a bridge and into a river. Patrice escapes with the list and Bond is presumed dead.
In London, M finds herself increasingly under pressure to resign from the Chairman of the Intelligence & Security Committee, Gareth Mallory. In addition, MI6's servers are hacked by an unknown source and an explosion occurs in M's office which kills a number of people, although M survives as she watches the explosion whilst returning from a meeting. With MI6 forced underground, M is startled to find 007 at her private residence, eager to rejoin. But after getting a little rusty having been away for so long, and with the stakes rarely higher, M has no choice to but send Bond to investigate...
Neal Purvis, Robert Wade & John Logan *
Release Date (UK)
26th October, 2012
Action, Spy, Thriller
Best Original Song, Best Sound Editing
Academy Award Nominations
Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Sound Mixing
What's to like?
For the first time since Goldfinger (3), all the right pieces were in the right place at the right time and not only that but there is finally some acknowledgement of Bond's previous cinematic career. The cast are superb - Craig genuinely feels like Bond now that he's rediscovered his sense of humour but the film belongs to Dench and Bardem. Dench's M has been a staple of the series since 1995's GoldenEye (4) and her resolve and determination are as solid as ever but Bardem's Silva is a genuinely menacing and unsettling character, unpredictable and very dangerous. For me, he is right up there with Gert Fröbe's portrayal of Auric Goldfinger for the best villain in the series. All we need now is a bad guy called Mr Bronze and we have the whole set...
The action is the best we've seen in the series for a long time. Gone are the excessive stunts and in comes close-quarter, brutal action that feels real. In Singapore, the film has arrived at a truly stunning location - the sequence involving Fabrice's assassination and his scrap with Bond feels like a neon-lit nightmare, filmed just out of shot on the set of Blade Runner (5). For long-time fans, the reappearance of Q and Bond's trusty DB5 provoked squeals of delight. Whishaw shares a wonderful scene with Craig at the National Gallery that's as funny as any of the great Desmond Llewelyn's scenes. Even Finney, who's little more than a cameo really, has a great line when the action moves to Scotland and it's here in the final moments when Skyfall begins to unexpectedly suffer.
- Dench, as M, has more screen time in Skyfall alone than Desmond Llewelyn had as Q in the 17 films he appeared in. This makes her portrayal of M the most common recurring character in the films after Bond himself.
- This marks the first time that the F-word has been audibly heard in a Bond film. Timothy Dalton can be seen saying it in The Living Daylights (6) but it can't be heard due to plane engine noise.
- The opening sequence shot in Istanbul took two months to film, three months of rehearsals, four months of preparation, 200 English crew members and another 200 local crew members to film 12-14 minutes of footage.
What's not to like?
The moment the story moves from London to Bond's ancestral home in a remote part of the Highlands, the film starts to run out of steam. The finale, while making sense in a story perspective, doesn't feel like it fits in with a Bond film as it comes across like a deadlier version of Home Alone (7) with exploding lightbulbs and floorboards. I also didn't like the idea of Silva's private island base, shot in the haunting location of Hashima Island off the coast of Japan. It felt a little convenient, script-wise, and also a little old-fashioned - the sort of thing Blofeld might have considered if he couldn't have got his fake volcano built in You Only Live Twice (8).
Apart from these minor niggles, the film is an absolute delight. Part of me wishes that Craig's films would stop trying to appeal to fans of the earlier Bond fans, which became more bloated with bad jokes and special effects as the years rolled by. Craig feels like his own Bond now and there should be no room for gimmicky henchmen, women with silly innuendo-laced names and ridiculous gadgets. They have fought hard to regain some sense of reality instead of existing in a world where megalomaniac villains are around every corner and an assassin lurks in every bush.
Should I watch it?
It's hard for me to separate which one is the better Bond film - Goldfinger or Skyfall. Both are brilliantly entertaining pieces of escapist cinema with plenty to enjoy and a story that keeps things ticking along nicely. But Craig is closer to Fleming's original vision of Bond, the action is much more convincing, the scenery is more impressive and the baddie is equally as memorable. But the film fan in me just prefers Goldfinger - the name Pussy Galore never stops being funny...
Great For: action fans, Bond fans, film fans
Not So Great For: errr... I'll get back to you on that one....
What else should I watch?
The fact that Skyfall is so close to Goldfinger in terms of admiration speaks volumes, not just about how good they are but how average a number of other Bond movies are. The only other Bond I have given 5-stars to is Craig's debut in Casino Royale (9) which is just as good but not as much fun as the Big Two.
Of course, there are plenty of people who enjoyed the likes of The Man With The Golden Gun (10) and A View To A Kill (11). But personally, I felt that they lacked the fun and wit that Bond was supposed to be about. Skyfall has plenty of action but also makes you laugh at times, such as Bond's distaste for M's Union Jack-adorned porcelain bulldogs. I can't recall a single laugh in Quantum Of Solace (12)...
© 2015 Benjamin Cox