The climactic end to 2 years worth of Bond binging
1st November 2012
A little bit of background
In 2010, Metro-Goldwyn Mayer - the parent company to almost everything 007 - went bust. Production of Bond 23 was put on indefinite hold. Luckily for everybody in the world, the studio emerged from bankruptcy before the year was out, and immediately set back to work on one of their biggest franchises - albeit at a slightly reduced budget.
Before you continue, please bear this in mind: this review is completely full of spoilers and I'm not going to mark them. Just watch the bloody film first.
So, is it any good?
Skyfall is probably the least 'Bond' of all the Bonds. The tone is completely different, the structure isn't even remotely similar to the Goldfinger formula, and if it wasn't for the characters, you would be forgiven for thinking you were watching a completely different series. Ironically, I think that despite the complaints, Quantum of Solace is actually the most Bond-like of all Craig's films.
Having got that off my chest - Skyfall is, by an absolute mile, the best film of 2012.
That's no small feat in a year that's seen The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, Looper, Lawless and more still. The whole production team has clearly taken an absolutely ridiculous amount of inspiration from The Dark Knight (more on that later) and they've taken on board every single criticism that came Quantum of Solace's way. It's a fantastic film.
But it's not perfect.
What's the best bit?
What impressed me most about Skyfall is, despite the fact that the majority of the $150m budget was clearly being spent on a massive marketing campaign, they managed to keep M's death completely under wraps. Sure, by the time the film is halfway through it's fairly obvious that's what's going to happen, but before entering the screen I had absolutely no idea. Dench shines in her final outing in the role - she departs the series with the same amount of appearances as Sir Roger Moore (one more, if you count the fact that he wasn't really in A View To A Kill) and deserves every inch of praise she'll get for her services to the franchise.
Where QoS was too jet-set for its own good, Skyfall takes a much more subdued path, only stopping through Turkey and China before spending the majority of the film back in good ol' Blighty. This isn't a bad thing though, it's a good amount that makes the storyline flow with a lot more sense. Every lead, thread and tail has a reason, and each location has its own focus. The bike chase across Turkish rooftops is gripping. The chase through London Underground is exciting (and holds close sentimental value to us Brits). Bond's fight with an assassin in Shanghai is breathtaking. And the finale in ('Welcome to') Scotland is just bloody brilliant.
The whole film echos The Dark Knight in many ways. The music could have been lifted straight from a Christopher Nolan film, and the scenes in Shanghai particularly echo the futuristic-cross-gothic style that the Batman trilogy evokes. MI6's new bunker shares many design elements with the Batcave, and if the film had come any later, I'd say that Bond becoming a washed-up old man who is losing all his skills was directly lifted from TDKR.
There is one glaringly obvious comparison to draw, though. In the same way that The Dark Knight wasn't a Christian Bale film, Skyfall isn't a Daniel Craig film. Javier Bardem is Skyfall's Heath Ledger. Give the Joker a motive, and you have Raoul Silva. He plans his attacks years in advance, letting people believe they're winning before punching them in the metaphorical groin and running riot - such as when he's a captive of
Batman MI6 and escapes by planting a bomb in an inmate's stomach releasing a pre-compiled virus to open all of the bunker's security. This leads to the best scene of the film where M is reading poetry at her hearing, blissfully unaware of the approaching chaos that Silva and his men are causing outside.
I could go on all day about Skyfall's best bits, but I'm going to sum up here: every action sequence is brilliant, it has the best storyline and villain that the series has seen so far, and the script is consistently strong.
But like I said, it's not perfect.
And the worst bit?
Continuing the Bond reboot, some major characters have been re-cast. Q is done quite well, a modern techie who is a bit more arrogant than he deserves to be and you can see where they're going to take the role. However, Moneypenny's new story is appalling. The idea of making her a strong, empowered agent who works the field is a bit stupid considering she ends up essentially being M's bitch. If she retired from field work she would get a considerably more respectable role than secretary. Naomie Harris is also a pretty poor actress, and both her and Craig seem to wince at their love scenes, compared to the brilliant chemistry that was present between Lois Maxwell and Connery.
One major issue I took with the film is the amount of 'tributes' there were littered around. The ejector seat button, the exploding pen, and many other things make the film feel like a 'spot-the-reference' game that often leaves me cringing. I get that it's the 50th anniversary, but Die Another Day went down that path, and it was a bad idea. It also leads to some serious continuity issues. You can't have a rebooted Bond with a new Miss Moneypenny, Felix Leiter and James Bond but then leave in the exact same car from 1964. I welcomed the return of the beautiful Aston Martin, but it should have been reinvented along with the rest of the franchise.
My last gripe is rather minor, really - I was excited to see Daniel Kleinman's title sequence after the brilliant ones he did for Casino Royale, but it was a little underwhelming. However, this is something that I'm almost 100% sure will be better on the second watch with the benefit of hindsight. And you can tell I'm clutching at straws if I'm criticising the credits, which in most films is white text on black.
What about the theme tune?
I'm not an Adele fan, but this song is perfect. It's classic 007 through and through, and it suits the darker, more sinister tone of the film absolutely perfectly, and the lyrics - whilst as always a little nonsensical in their order - allude to various moments throughout the film. I will say that the second I heard the opening line 'this is the end' I put that together with the knowledge that 007 'dies' to get that the title sequence would begin with him falling into water to Adele's warblings. Talk about minor spoilers. I'm just glad they removed the line 'M is dead' before it made the final cut, otherwise the whole film would have been ruined.