Film review: Skyfall (2012), directed by Sam Mendes
Daniel Craig returns as James Bond! As usual with these later style 007 films it starts with an action sequence. Bond and another agent, Eve (Naomie Harris), are chasing Patrice (Ola Rapace), a man with a harddrive containing the real identities of a lot of agents undercover in terrorist organisations. Things don’t go quite to plan.
Back in London, M (Judi Dench) is under fire and is forced into retirement. She’s not happy about it, or about her replacement, Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), but there’s a baddie to catch (Javier Bardem), beautiful women to bed (Bérénice Marlohe), and another assignment for Bond, James Bond, to travel to Singapore and back home again in order to save the day.
Man, trying to stay relatively spoiler-free is hard work!
Also starring Ben Whishaw as Q, Rory Kinnear as Tanner and Albert Finney as Kincade.
The funny thing about Bond films is that the Craig films are a franchise reboot, like the modern Doctor Who. They’ve taken something kinda naff and made it a lot better. We still have the action and everything like that, but the cheese and kitsch is gone. The last of the old style Bond films, Die Another Day (with Pierce Brosnan) is laughable. The baddie ventured into sci-fi, but considering he was played by Toby Stephens I’m not complaining too much (although that was the only reason I watched it, groan). The dialogue was cheesier than cheddar, and it just isn’t a good film at all. The style worked fine back in the 1960s, when Bond had competition from The Saint, The Avengers (no, not those ones), and even Thunderbirds, but nowadays it’s just ridiculous.
And then Daniel Craig came along. Suddenly, Bond was watchable. Not because of Craig’s chiselled features and blue eyes – it’s not as if his predecessors were aesthetically challenged – but because they made him real. If you can call it that.
In Skyfall they make callbacks to the old films repeatedly, especially when it comes to gadgets. “Were you expecting an exploding pen?” and so on. Exploding pens were fun, but they weren’t exactly real. Fun, yes, but not very realistic. The new Q is modern, tech-savvy and hacks computers. He might put together the odd exploding pen in his spare time, but generally it’s more like Spooks than anything else. And we could believe in Spooks.
The lairs in volcanoes, baddies stroking cats and saying “we’ve been expecting you, Mr Bond” in a funny accent are not real. You wouldn’t see Harry Price go up against one of those. A baddie hell-bent on terrorising MI6, for purposes you’ll have to see the film to find out, is a lot more real. Everything is of course not perhaps exactly 100% realistic, but there is more realism for the general cinema-going public today than razor-sharp hats or giants with metal teeth.
The modern Bond films are also less sleazy. Yes, he does have sex with beautiful women, but it’s a lot more restrained (they’re quick to jump cut to the next scene), and he doesn’t need to resort to innuendo all the frickin’ time.
And M, what a great character. Dame Judi Dench really owns the part, and I can’t help but love her. Daniel Craig, yeah, he’s Action Man and all that (apparently, he did a lot of the stunts himself, for which he got a lot of kudos from the crew), but Judi Dench is brilliant.
I didn’t recognise him at all at the time, but it’s fun to see how both Ola and Noomi Rapace are getting Hollywood work now. Javier Bardem has been in a few things already, but the blonde hair really didn’t suit him. Why couldn’t he just have been allowed to keep his natural (dark) hair colour? It looks so much better on him! He made a good baddie, though, making your skin crawl in ways Goldfinger or Blofeld never managed.
Skyfall is explosive, but it’s a good film. Great action sequences, great explosions, great car chases, and so on and so on. Bond is back, and I’m actually happy about it. These shenanigans are definitely worth the price of a cinema ticket, which, as I mentioned before, Die Another Day certainly wasn’t. They actually do the stunts for real, rather than relying on CGI to bail them out. That’s great film-making, and that’s why 007 still has a place on today’s billboards.
4 out of 5 porcelain bulldogs, and currently a #242 on the IMDb Top 250 list.