Skyfall (2012) - Sam Mendes


Plot - During a mission in Turkey to retrieve a mysterious hard drive with classified data on it, Bond is shot and presumed dead. Considering this happens in the first 15 minutes and the film does not in fact end, he is actually very much alive but damaged. Meanwhile, M receives threatening e-mails from a mysterious source and her undercover operatives are one-by-one unmasked and killed. After MI6 is blown up Bond returns to stop this new threat but it's doubtful this new, fragile Bond is up to it....

Thoughts - I know people who love the Bond films, from the iconic Sean Connery performances to the campiness of the Moore films to the slightly dull seriousness of the Dalton ones (which strangely enough I think I liked more than most of that catalogue), they really, really love these films. Myself I remember watching them when I was a child during the various holidays and they made no real impression on me, despite having seen all the films in one way or another. They were watched since the family had it on the television and I was there and then promptly forgotten. Apart from recalling childhood memories it'll just give you an idea of where I'm coming from in regards to the films. The reboot with Craig as Bond in 2006's Casino Royale was a welcome attempt to make it more relevant, and move away from the silliness of previous instalments, to audiences that had seen the Bourne franchise. I quite liked it though Quantum of Solace was a misstep.

Here having Bond as a broken figure both physically and mentally would be a good direction for the franchise to take. There's an interesting story to tell there of a 'super-spy' who has lost his edge and has to rely on other assets to survive, but this isn't the film to do that. The bond character is too iconic and the audience expectation of what a Bond film is such that, well, I can see that it just wouldn't make sense for them to do it financially. Instead what we have are short-cuts that are supposed to show Bond as physically broken; we have the rowdy village bar scene where he's drowning shots as the locals bray him on, some hard-man troubled stubble on his face, some wayward shooting on the practice range and being out of breath after some push-ups. However it's very noticeable as the film progresses and Bond has to be, well, Bond that these physical defects magically never come up again. He's running, punching and shooting like a f**k Olympian. Craig as Bond is a tough one; he doesn't have the charisma of Connery, the playfulness of Moore instead he's just kind of serious. He convinces physically, yet for me there's something missing. Or it may be I'm just not particularly convinced by Daniel Craig as an actor.

Apart from Bond, Havier Bardem joins the cast as the new adversary for both Bond and M. Also he has crazy blonde hair. What is it with him and having crazy hair? He chews up the scenery well enough, though as a character he is quite one note. Dame Judy Dench as M, does get a lot of screen time, yet I can't buy into her story arc if there is even one there. Her face is stuck in permanent scowl-mode so I have no idea if she's feeling anything apart from pissed off. There's Ralph Fiennes, being English and the usual forgettable 'Eastern-European-though-not-really-sure-what-accent-she's-doing' Bond girl. I know this is a Bond film but these people do not feel real or even act real. When the agent who shot Bond sees him again for the first time, the natural reaction is surely anger or frustration that he let her believe she had killed one of their own as well as being demoted to a desk job. Instead she flirts with him as if nothing serious had happened and he's the neighbourhood bad boy. WHAT??!! Really, Mendes? What made you think this made any sense.

The length of the film is an issue. It is over 143 minutes long and you do feel it at times. There are certain segments, the Shanghai one for instance that I would have no problem with being excised from the film and a more stream-lined way to get Bond from A to B could have been used. The first 30 minutes are quite tense and exciting as is the final segment, aka Straw Dogs-lite; it was actually one of the better action sections where Bond has to use the natural environment and his own cunning to his advantage. It hints at what could have been. The bit in the middle is flabby and some of it speaks to appeasing the fan-base rather than servicing the story in the best available manner.

Fans of the franchise will no doubt love the film. It's well shot by Mendes, and there's nothing glaringly wrong with the film. It just feels like a slightly missed opportunity to make a great Bond film, rather than merely a decent one.