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Year of release
2012

Directed by
Sam Mendes

Written by
Neal Purvis
Robert Wade
John Logan

Starring
Daniel Craig
Javier Bardem
Judi Dench
Ralph Fiennes
Naomi Harris
Ben Whishaw

Skyfall

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Plot - James Bond (Craig) returns once again in this new adventure. When his latest assignment goes spectacularly wrong, the identities of agents all over the world are exposed. Following this, MI6 is attacked forcing M (Dench) to relocate the agency. These events cause her authority and position to be challenged by Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), the new Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee. With MI6 now compromised from both the inside and out, M is left with only one ally she can trust: Bond. 007 takes to the shadows - aided only by field agent, Eve (Naomie Harris) - following a trail to the mysterious Silva (Javier Bardem), whose lethal and hidden motives have yet to reveal themselves.

First off let me lay out my feelings on the Daniel Craig era of Bond so far for people who haven't already seen them on here before (and just to annoy Brodinski again! ). I have been a fan of the Bond films for a long time, usually always finding something to enjoy through all the different incarnations; from the original Connery period to Moore's campier adventures, Dalton's nastier efforts to the series' resurrection under Brosnan. So far however the Daniel Craig era just hasn't done it for me. Up front I will freely admit that his outings have probably been the closest to Ian Fleming's original source material, but for me they just don't feel like 'proper' Bond films. It's not the Bond that I've grown up with and become accustomed to. So I perhaps went into this with a bit of a chip on my shoulder and an axe to grind. I just don't find the same level of fun and charm anymore, and I haven't really taken to Daniel Craig in any way whatsoever.

And that's where we shall begin, with Mr James Bond himself, Daniel Craig. I have not warmed to him at all. It's not that I think he's necessarily bad in the role, it's just that he doesn't excite, or even interest me whatsoever as Bond. I don't get the sense of any charm, presence, charisma etc. I actually find him rather bland, and just feel he is taking himself way too seriously in the role. And combined with the fact that his look just doesn't feel very Bond to me, I'm still not able to buy into him. The Bond character should be beyond cool, he should embody that sentiment of 'men want to be him and women want to be with him.' I just don't see it. And in Skyfall I didn't feel that any of the attempts at humour from the character really hit, coming across as rather creaky thanks to the script and the fact it doesn't seem to be in Craig's wheelhouse. In his defence however I will say that I don't think he has been particularly well served by the character. Back in Casino Royale we found ourselves in the presence of a raw, flawed and vulnerable Bond. That was acceptable because as people argued that was him just starting out, he hadn't yet become the secret agent we had become accustomed to over the decades. However it's three films later now and I don't feel the character has really progressed all that much, either emotionally or in terms of how good he is at his job.

Then we come to the villain of the piece, Javier Bardem's Silva. I certainly wouldn't call it a 'great' performance and am surprised about the amount of praise and awards recognition he got, but I did find it to be rather entertaining. Bardem plays his role very camp and over-the-top. And as such he was certainly one of the film's livelier components. Given the flamboyant style of performance however I'm not sure that it sat all that comfortably with the rest of the film. Alongside the tone of the film as a whole his performance feels quite outlandish. With his eccentric and oddball nature, manic ravings and physical disfigurement he feels more like a villain who has managed to escape from one of Roger Moore's 70s-era Bond films, and I just don't feel that it sat naturally with the more serious, down-to-earth inclinations of the Daniel Craig era. It seemed like an uncomfortable marriage.

There were however some success stories to be found amongst the supporting cast. Judi Dench is as strong and wonderful a presence as you would expect in this, her swansong as M. As her future replacement, and even if he doesn't have a great deal to do here, Ralph Fiennes is rock solid and shows some promise in the role of M going forward. Even if his section of the film has its problems (more on that later) Albert Finney brings a lot of character as the caretaker of Bond's old family home. In the role of Eve, Rosemary Harris proves to be smart, tough and sexy. While the addition of Ben Whishaw as Q finally brings a little bit of fun into this world, he's very endearing as the geeky gadget maestro, even if he didn't really have any gadgets to hand out. His inclusion finally brings some humour to the series.

Film Trivia Snippets - A large number of actresses were considered to fulfill the role of a Bond girl. Amongst those were Freida Pinto, Olivia Wilde, Rachel Weisz, Esti Ginzburg, Margarita Levieva, Alice Eve, Ana Ventura, Emilia Fox and Ebru Akel. /// Before Javier Bardem slipped into the role of Silva it was rumoured that Sam Mendes originally offered the role to his old American Beauty comrade Kevin Spacey. Spacey apparently had to decline due to scheduling conflicts. /// For the first time in the history of the Bond series, during the iconic gun-barrel sequence which opens the film Bond is seen wearing a grey suit rather than his customary black one. /// Following the film's release, online retailers apparently reported sales increases of cut-throat razors of between 50 and 400%. /// Skyfall was the first Bond movie to earn an Oscar nomination in over 30 years. The last occasion was 1981's For Your Eyes Only which was nominated for Best Song. And it was the first time that a Bond film had actually won an Oscar since Thunderball all the way back in 1965! /// Considering the amount of classic songs that the series has inspired, and the number of legends who have performed them, it may come as quite the surprise to learn that Adele's win for Skyfall is the first time a Bond song has ever won the Best Song Oscar.
The plot itself is actually really basic and familiar; there's a list with the identity of agents and we need to get it back. And in fact it's so old a story that we have seen it played out through pretty much every form of technology over the decades, from having the list on a USB stick, to a CD disc, to a floppy disc, to microfiche, to a cassette tape and all the way back to simple pen and paper. It certainly doesn't break the mould in terms of originality. I also felt that the casino scene and the character of Severine were complete flops. One of the things I did enjoy however were some of the little nods to classic Bond movies, very fitting given it marked the 50th anniversary of Dr. No's release. Alongside some smaller and vaguer references some of my favourite homages included the return of the Aston Martin from Goldfinger (complete with a hint to the ejector seat), Bond stepping on a reptile's head to aid his escape a la Live and Let Die, Silva's prosthetic jaw mimicking Jaws from The Spy Who Loved Me and Q informing Bond that they don't make silly gadgets like exploding pens anymore; such a gadget featured in Goldeneye.

I'm a bit torn on the film's third act. On the one hand it finally brings some energy and action to the film which proved rather dialogue-heavy for much of its running time. On the other hand however the conclusion itself felt drawn out and fairly unsatisfying. To begin with, the whole logic of Silva's plan seems rather convoluted. It just doesn't seem to make any sense. The man is apparently quite the genius; you think he could come up with a simpler plan to get to M than what he put into production. It also doesn't help that it features a twist that seems to feature in just about every other action/thriller/superhero film that appears in cinemas these days; that the villain gets caught about halfway through the film but it turns out that he just allowed himself to get caught deliberately as part of his larger plan. The ensuing escape, train crash, chase and assault at M's public inquiry is a decently thrilling stretch of the film (if really far-fetched) but it almost feels like the film should end there at that inquiry. Instead the film resets, stops for a 5-10 minute breather before unleashing its true finale, and it then went on too long in my eyes. And it didn't even seem to really make much sense. M and Bond have been targeted by a dangerous psycho; so what do they do? They head off to a deserted location with no help nearby and no guarantee of weapons, and then they purposely lead Silva right to them. WHAT?!!! In what realm does that sound like a good plan? Bond then goes all Kevin McAlliser on us by setting up a series of booby traps to take out Silva's faceless goons. But it doesn't end here, or even in the water where Bond nearly drowns battling another goon. It ends at a chapel where after putting so much effort into killing her, Silva then passes on the chance to kill M, allowing Bond to slink in and take him out with a knife to the back. And that's it. How underwhelming! Where's the brutal smackdown we expect to take place between Bond and Silva? Very disappointing.

The one saving grace of that finale, and indeed probably the best thing about the whole film, was its cinematography courtesy of Roger Deakins. First of all you've got his lovely photography capturing the gorgeous Scottish scenery. And then after Bond's family home is blown to smithereens the rest of the sequence plays out with a wonderful orange glow to proceedings, giving it a really quite eerie tinge. The scenes set in Shanghai are likewise superb, a fantastically exotic location of neon lights, otherwordly technology and striking architecture; immersing us in a completely different culture. Outside of that though, this was still a struggle for me and not my Bond.

I've kind of ran out of steam here so I'm just going to abandon any semblance of a review and throw out some additional comments. Even if its constant radio airplay drove me to near insanity at the time, Adele's theme song is pretty damn good. It's the best in a good long while and harkens back to the grand anthems of the 70s and 80s. I wasn't quite as sold on the credit sequence that it accompanied; it had a couple of cool images but overall I felt it was a little bit of a mess, and an example of trying way too hard. The film's lack of fun was heightened I felt by its cold, grey colour palette during the London scenes and a lack of score for much of the time. It left it feeling lifeless too often, and aesthetically it was tough to tell it apart from any number of BBC dramas; Sherlock, Spooks etc. Though again it was decently captured by Deakins. And Silva's deserted island held a bit of interest in terms of appearance with its debris stricken streets and crumbling buildings.

Conclusion - The film is certainly a considerable improvement on Quantum of Solace, but then that's not really any great a feat. In fact there's a good chance I'd probably nominate QoS as the dullest of all the Bonds. So all in all, while it's an improvement on its predecessor it still hasn't won me round to this new era of Bond. In fact these days, following the rather superlative Ghost Protocol I think the Mission: Impossible series has become the go-to source if you're looking for fun, old-fashioned Bond-style adventures. Sadly for myself and others who feel similarly to me however, it doesn't seem like Daniel Craig or this current template will be going anywhere anytime soon; not going by the monstrous box-office numbers it put up.