Skyfall Review

Third time’s the charm
Originally published in the Trinidad Guardian, November 09, 2012
In a stylishly photographed scene from Skyfall, James Bond (Daniel Craig) stalks a killer.

Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond film in the long running franchise, sports a strong pedigree and not just in front of the lens. Directing is Sam Mendes, the grandson of Trinidadian Albert Mendes and guiding the screenplay, along with Bond veterans Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, is playwright and screenwriter John Logan, notable for the films Rango and Hugo.

Together they weave a tough-minded and gritty story about a blond secret agent, abandoned by his ruthless handler M, who is forced to come to terms with the consequences of that decision.
He’s a dapper dude, smart and deadly, with an eye for the long term plan, a highly charged sexual presence and an absolute dedication to his mission.

It says something about this film that I’m actually talking about the villain, Silva, played with mercurial wit by Javier Bardem. The Spanish actor has a grand time toying with the crazed foibles of the traditional Bond bad guy, relishing his disfigurement, his revenge and his nemesis, 007.

Sam Mendes strips a franchise, already making do with few of the traditional gimmicks that kept it running through years of lackluster scripts and by the numbers directing, to its skeletal structure to figure out just what makes it tick.

When Bond (Daniel Craig) meets his new quartermaster, the intensely nerdy and quietly stylish Q (Ben Whishaw) and gets a tracker radio and a pistol from him, he muses wryly, “Not exactly Christmas, is it?”
“What were you expecting, an exploding pen?” Q retorts with a vaguely disparaging smile. “We don’t do that sort of thing anymore.”

No, they don’t. Daniel Craig’s James Bond keeps running out of bullets, losing his gun and being forced to survive by his increasingly sharp wits, reaching for weapons as diverse as an excavator strapped to a train and shotgun shells embedded in floorboards.

Bond, in Skyfall, continues a somewhat sadistic spiral into the heart of what makes a successful double-oh agent, and after learning the penalty of love in
Casino Royale and the emptiness of vengeance in Quantum of Solace, he must come to terms with his physical limits and the difficulty of being dedicated to service to the Crown.

As you can imagine, there are no surprises in the outcome of this dilemma, but there is considerable suspense wrung from an unlikely final set piece, which explains Skyfall, tells us more about Bond than we’ve ever known and puts the agent, in the final arc of his becoming Her Majesty’s deadliest bastard, in the grip of tragedy in the ruins of his past.

Mendes and Logan amuse themselves with the clichés of Bond conventions, using them as touchstones in their entertaining reimagining of the Bond mythos.
Given the way that Bond films are made (try to do a good one, try to do another good one), it’s doubtful that this arc was intended, so the structure of this film, which gathers the threads strewn though the Craig’s first two and weaves quite a quilt out of it, must represent some careful forethought on the part of the creative team.

Skyfall is Daniel Craig’s third film in the series and the third outing for any actor portraying the secret agent tends to set the tone for his time in the tux.
Goldfinger (1964), with its colourful villain and gadget laden Aston Martin DB5 defined Sean Connery’s suave and cruel assaying of the role, while The Spy who loved me (1977), featuring Jaws, cemented the nod and a wink silliness that would be the lasting legacy of Roger Moore’s contribution to the series.
Mendes leaves us at the end of Skyfall with a series reset to zero.

There’s a theme song by Adele that stands, save for its nonsensical lyrics, robustly alongside Shirley Bassey’s defining Goldfinger, an M in a manly wood panelled office, a Moneypenny and a coat rack just waiting for an artfully flung hat.

Oh, and we also have a Bond who’s been through hell in every imaginable way who’s still standing and ready to serve. Who knows where he goes next?
blog comments powered by Disqus