Going missing, presumed dead, after failing to stop the theft of a drive that contains a complete list of MI6’s undercover operatives, 007 must come out of seclusion when the drive is revealed to be in the hands of a terrorist that has a personal grudge against M and seems willing to bring the whole of MI6 down to get to her.
If you like the Daniel Craig take on the Bond franchise or not, it’s a fact that the series needed a serious change in direction. As much fun as some of the Brosnan films were, they simply began to seem like immature children compared to the game-changing Bourne franchise, a series of spy films that sat much more at ease with the cynical attitude of a reasonably dower time.
So Bond DID change, it even rebooted, presenting a much less chirpy Bond, who was reliant on little more than his own skills, to an admiring audience, who, for the most part, welcomed the changes as exciting and necessary. Casino Royale, though borrowing liberally from such franchises as the aforementioned Bourne series and District 13 for its action, was a crowd pleaser nonetheless thanks mainly due to a solid story and Craig’s straight faced portrayal of Bond. Quantum of Solace, a rare direct follow-up Bond adventure, didn’t fare so well, over complicating matters to an unfocused conclusion.
Now we have Skyfall, coming at a time when perceptions are again changing, with a director at the helm who is considered to be one of Britain’s best and most trusted, in Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition), who, it must be said, has an eye for tradition. Is this leading to me informing you that we are back with a more traditional, gadget wielding, wisecracking Bond? Well, to a certain degree, though in less the ways you would expect, but the fun is in the watching to find out how.
It certainly FEELS like a Bond film, and one of the better ones at that, with everything you could possibly ask of one; great action, mental villain, the seduction of ridiculously attractive ladies, dashing suits, intense maleness, spy based intrigue and actual excitement. Equally as important, it doesn’t especially feel like a Mendes film, the veteran director opting to tell the story in a clean, straightforward way. He does, however, bring a sense of real Britishness that may never have been present in any of the previous films and incarnations. This is in part due to the fact that so much of the film is actually set in England, but there’s also a contributing factor that it’s harder to put one’s finger on.
Visually the action beats and FX work are seamlessly impeccable, always grand but without drawing attention to their complexity. It’s all textbook filmmaking really, exactly the kind thing we should expect when sitting down for a good old-fashioned popcorn flick.
On the acting side of things, Craig goes a little broader this time, bringing the darkness of the previous films but not being afraid to add a bit of smug whimsy into the mix. Javier Bardem gives us a beautifully over-the-top villain of the old school. Indeed, he plays the maniacal part so well that come the revealing of his motivations, it all seems disappointingly small, drawing out of his character less of an evil genius, more of a sulky cry-baby, but I guess that’s more of a problem with the writing.
The only other disappointing factor of the film is a sin far too many films are guilty of these days, and one I’m no stranger to complaining about, and that is the fact that none of the action sequences, including the climactic one, ever really live up the pre-opening credit sequence. It has to be said that it IS a hell of an act to follow, but dear lord, save some juice for the end.
That being said, you couldn’t really ask for more from a Bond film, or any crowd pleasing actioner come to that, the cherry on the cake being that, by the end, enough hints of tradition are woven in to have even the most devout Bond enthusiast smiling from ear to ear.
B- grade – for originality
B+ grade – for storytelling
A- grade – for action
A grade – for Bondiness
Overall grade – B+