2012 has been a year of much-anticipated movies. The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit – all of them would have been the most hyped-about film in any other year. Then, of course, there’s Skyfall. The trailers have had people salivating for months. Early reviews called it the best Bond film ever made. And it ever-so-nearly lives up to the hype.
Sam Mendes has done an absolutely tremendous job in bringing Bond back to the fore after the disappointing Quantum of Solace. It’s full of great performances, has a water-tight script, and best of all is absolutely stunning to look at. The direction is vibrant, varied, powerful, and even a little emotional at times. Even if it’s not the best 007 venture ever, it’s certainly the best-looking one.
Skyfall takes a lot of risks, too. It’s a serious film with a surprising level of depth for a franchise built on the foundation of “man kills man, man sleeps with woman, man makes pun”. Without going into spoiler territory, it touches a little on the aftermath of a service agent’s life after missions, and what happens to an agent left behind by his agency. Not only that, but (whisper it) Skyfall briefly delves into James Bond’s personal history, and even M’s back story.
It’s also very interesting in terms of scale. The finale is not a villain’s volcano lair; in fact, the film drops in size steadily. In the first half of the film, Bond is in his natural habitat: jet-setting across the world, killing people and getting frequent flyer miles at the same time. But slowly, the scale shortens. We go to London, and then to a plot of land in Scotland. The end, in contrast to most Bond films, is incredibly small-scale and introspective. In spite of this – or perhaps because of it – it packs an incredibly powerful punch.
It’s rounded off with some great performances too. Judy Dench gives us another look at the stoic, witty M she so successfully portrays, and Daniel Craig simmers with pent up aggression throughout. Newcomers to the series Ralph Fiennes, Naomi Harris and Ben Whishaw deserve plenty of credit as well: particularly Whishaw, who brings Q bang up to date.
Javier Bardem steals the show, though. His performance as Raoul Silva is absolutely terrifying. A Bond villain to be proud of, he is dangerous, charming, seductive, funny, and completely and utterly insane. His plot doesn’t revolve around world domination, or wealth – he is not the greedy Bond villain archetype in the style of Goldfinger. Instead, Silva is entirely focused on the destruction of M and the MI6. He’s not a Blofeld. In fact, if he’s to be compared to anyone, it’s quite possibly The Joker from The Dark Knight.
It’s not the only comparison this film bears to Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece, either. There are certain directorial similarities – in particular an abundance of breathtaking location shots, and a grounded sense of realism. The most important similarity, though, is the desire to build a film around themes instead of set-pieces. Skyfall has a message beyond “watch things get blown up”, and as a result, it is a much stronger movie than your regular popcorn-munching blockbuster.
There are a few quibbles to be had, of course. There are a few more light-hearted moments that jar a little with the overall tone, and there’s a particularly silly scene with Komodo dragons that doesn’t quite work. Thankfully, the film only has these few, minor problems.
In short, Skyfall is fantastic. It sits happily in the top tier of Bond movies alongside the likes of Goldeneye, Diamonds Are Forever and You Only Live Twice, continues 2012’s magnificent run of excellent major releases, and most importantly does something new – and positive – with one of the most beloved movie franchises of all time.
Apologies for the lack of new posts in the last couple of weeks. There have been a few exciting developments recently, one of which I can talk about. A number of my film fanatic friends, along with yours truly, have formed a brand new site called Geek Clique. We’re going to bring fantastic reviews and opinion pieces on film, including both new releases and retrospectives. If you head over to the site now you’ll see a wealth of other James Bond content.
So, if you fancy having a gander it would be much appreciated!
More new content here, and at Geek Clique, soon.