(I found this review on my computer, forgotten, half-written and unloved. Having just seen Skyfall for a second time on DVD, I have been able to add a few thoughts and, in doing so, make it slightly more publishable.)
I have never been one of those die-hard Bond fans, as sacrilegious to cinema as it may seem. As much as I can admire its long reign in the British film industry, I’ve just never embraced the product as fully as others have – perhaps something to do with its sidelined position in my upbringing, as I grew up watching Bond both sporadically and often lackadaisically.
But before I begin to rant about some sort of lacking in my childhood (if Bond was the only deficiency, then perhaps there is hope for me yet), let me confess that I was actually quite eagerly anticipating Skyfall. Expectations were not exactly sky-high, but they were enjoying some stature, and although I didn’t really feel like the franchise owed me anything through this film in its 50-year celebration, I still wanted to join the party.
We’re used to seeing Bond in exciting foreign lands (and true to form, here he can be seen bounding around in Istanbul, Shanghai and Macau), but Skyfall brings much of the action closer to home as an attack is launched on MI6 by former employee Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem). Turns out Silva’s got one b-i-i-i-i-g vendetta against M (Judi Dench) in particular, meaning Bond’s need to protect gets a little more personal. In fact, these personal touches form the basis from which Skyfall derives much of its charm: Daniel Craig’s Bond is no more a mere suave and charismatic shell of a man, for the characterisation delves much deeper, with insight to his childhood and an off-duty lifestyle that doesn’t revolve solely around bedding pretty ladies. Somehow Bond becomes even more likable, cementing his position as national treasure.
Aside from feeding British pride well, one of Skyfall‘s other biggest strengths is that it is very well cast. With Javier Bardem on board to portray the spine-chillingly magnificent Silva, Ralph Fiennes as government top-dog and Judi Dench back to reprise her role as M one last time, the credits are twinkling with stellar names. Newbie Q brings a breath of fresh air and youth to largely middle-aged cast, complete with those all-important geek-chic specs and OAP knitwear.
The song of the same name by Adele deserves a mention, too, as it is magnificent – enchanting even. I can also say this with the wonderful impartiality gained from not being part of Adele’s sprawling fan club that formed immediately in the wake of Someone Like You‘s release, meaning that my praise should be considered to be of some magnitude.
Of course, the film overall isn’t perfect, as nothing ever is. One of the main gripes I have is that his ‘assumed-dead’ period is never fully justified. Bond plummets to what should be a fatal death around ten minutes into the film, so we all know he lives because otherwise things would be rather on the short side, but it’s as if the filmmakers have relied on us knowing this without confronting why. I almost respect the filmmakers for not even attempting some shoddy, cheap attempt at a reason (bulletproof vests, a bible in the shirt pocket, etc.) but this is almost respect; it’s not quite there.
The presence of Heineken was also shameless. As Bond lounges in bed having screwed the bejesus out of yet another exotic beauty, he reclines and swigs sorrowfully on a very suspect green bottle. Even he looks quite dismayed as what his life has come to – gone are the days of shaken martinis and fast cars, hello to a new life of sipping on average beer like anyone else. This small feature that offended me so much didn’t really seem to faze anyone else. As I smirked incredulously in the dark cinema, my friend slowly turned to me, asking what was wrong. Maybe it’s just me, but when it also popped up in the midst of a major MI6 emergency – one of its employees casually slurping as though it was a quiet Sunday evening at home – I was almost vowing never to drink the stuff again.
Skyfall is essentially everything it set out to be, working as a fantastic celebration of one of Britain’s finest characters. At times things can get a little cheesy and sentimental, but what else would you expect for a 50th anniversary?
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