Skyfall Review - by Stu Coote
Skyfall is the perfect film to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Bond Franchise. It takes Bond through a gruelling process of self reflection, which is compelling given emotional depth has never really been a hallmark of the character. This makes for fascinating viewing since it’s as if we are looking at the franchise as a whole through the eyes of Bond himself. In this latest instalment, MI6 is under attack and Bond’s loyalty to M is tested when the sins of her past come back to bite her. This is a fantastic film with fully realised characters and some of the richest cinematography the franchise has ever witnessed.
Daniel Craig reprises his role as the iconic spy, continuing his impressive contribution. It’s no secret that Craig reinvigorated the series after Pierce Brosnan’s efforts gradually descended into farce. Daniel Craig’s Bond exudes a fierce intensity which offsets well against his arrogance and petulance. In Casino Royale, Craig was built like a small truck, brimming with energy and ready to change the world. Skyfall finds him gaunt, grizzled and in desperate need of repairs. Bond is coming to terms with the fact that he is getting older and that the world around him may leave him behind.
Bringing in Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition and Revolutionary Road) to direct was an excellent move. For too long the Bond films have been directed by journeymen who have seemed to adopt a point and shoot attitude, resting on the fact that the series is renowned for beautiful bodies and exotic locations and never really challenging the audience. Mendes is a highly accomplished film maker, who knows how to build tension and create very atmospheric scenes. He has also brought in legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins, which makes sense given the gorgeous locations in the film – in particular, a silhouetted fight sequence in Shanghai, a floating casino in Macau and the Scottish Highlands.
Strangely, for a film about a globe-trotting spy, Skyfall is a very personal tale. The story focuses more on M (Dame Judi Dench) than it does on Bond, which I enjoyed given that at this stage in the franchise Bond is very much a known quantity. Judi Dench has often been praised for how spritely and seemingly age-defying she is in her roles. In Skyfall, she is required to let her guard down a bit and show her fragility. I found this to be an earnest performance that echoed the themes of the film – namely ageing, nostalgia and confronting one’s past.
In the past ten years we’ve seen several popular franchises get A-list directors. For instance, Christopher Nolan directing Batman, Kenneth Branagh directing Thor and JJ Abrams helming the Star Trek re-boot. This is what the fan community has been crying out for: film makers who know how to tell the best story possible. Just imagine what a Quentin Tarantino Bond film would be like.
Skyfall is definitely a complete change in tone for the Bond franchise. It positions the character in a grounded reality and sets up future films perfectly. One of the greatest achievements of the Bond franchise is that it remains relevant, no matter which generation interacts with it. I like to think the world will always need Commander James Bond.