Skyfall is the third James Bond film starring Daniel Craig, an actor who has successfully managed to keep himself detached from his Bond status in Hollywood. This can be attributed to his mission, which has seen him play 007 in every anti-Bond formula film since Casino Royale.
The 007 franchise needed a shake-up, and intentions were revealed when Daniel Craig was cast as the new James Bond in Casino Royale, an intense blonde rogue, who replaced Pierce Brosnan’s suave Gillette schmarminess with a steelier, tougher and more realistic model.
Three films in and they’re still riding on the concept of a deconstructed Bond, trying to turn the simple action, seduction, luxury and save-the-world-in-your-spare-time lifestyle of Bond into something with a little more substance. In Skyfall, American Beauty director Sam Mendes takes aim at Bond after Quantum of Solace didn’t quite hit the spot with Marc Forster.
Mendes directs a Bond that bristles with action intensity and international appeal, starting with a full-tilt opening chase sequence in Istanbul, only to dazzle with artistic flair in the colour spectrum of a neon lit Shanghai building as the chase resumes. He’s been tasked with killing and delivering a phoenix, in yet another film that sees a jaded (super)hero fall from grace only to rise from the ashes.
More focus on character and story give the action something to lean on in Skyfall, although it could have been the generic script to any great espionage action movie involving a special government secret service. Yet, the James Bond insignia, characters, protocol and products rein the script into the realm of Bond.
French actress, Bérénice Marlohe, may be this year’s Bond girl – a title that almost deserves a sash and a tiara, but if it were up to screen time and overall significance, Dame Judi Dench would be more deserving of the coveted title. Dench has been with the franchise for some time as M and finally gets a weightier supporting role alongside everyone’s favourite super spy.
Skyfall’s ace is not Craig, Dench or Marlohe, but Javier Bardem. The actor is a force to be reckoned with, delivering a complex villain, who steals the show after a rather late arrival. Bardem’s presence is comparable with Heath Ledger’s role as The Joker in The Dark Knight and his power as imposing as the cyber terrorist threat in Die Hard 4.0. Great Bonds are often driven by great villains and Bardem delivers a sinister performance as a fallen angel.
Other noteworthy appearances include: Ralph Fiennes, a second-in-command character and shadow to M, Ben Whishaw who has been cast as a young, savvy, minimalistic tech operative and Naomie Harris, who sets the ball in motion.
While they’ve assembled a fine ensemble, the characters and treatment have become cold and clinical with Dark Knight overtones. Ian Fleming’s Bond was a charmer and a gentleman. The new Bond may seem deeper, but there’s very little heart in this cold-blooded killer’s swagger. This is exacerbated by the supporting cast, who are serious to the point that the villain’s maniacal personality probably makes him the funniest and most charming of the lot.
There’s no wink-wink and it’s all gravity, something that adds to the realism and dopamine levels but breaks any cool-under-pressure levity. Then to make matters complicated, there’s more chemistry between Bond and the villain, than between Bond and the “Bond girl”. It’s a reversal, but how many anti-Bond moves can you make before the film ceases to be Bond at all?
Skyfall has strong influences from The Dark Knight, but it even strays into Home Alone, Silence of the Lambs and Straw Dogs territory in the third act. All of this boosts the entertainment value with a rebellious Bond film that refuses to obey the rules, much like Sean Connery’s love/hate relationship with the character that made him famous.
The latest Bond has been heralded as the best Bond yet by many, including Roger Moore. However, it all amounts to hype as Skyfall slots in neatly between Daniel Craig’s first outing in Casino Royale and the scatter-shot Quantum of Solace. At two-and-half hours, you can praise Skyfall for being a gripping espionage epic that plays by its own rules to simultaneously purge and reinvent the franchise, but in doing so – it betrays the very bonds that made the spy famous.
The bottom line: Treacherous
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