Thursday, 3 January 2013


You only live twice...

A computer drive containing the information of MI6 Agents planted in terrorist organisations has been stolen and Bond is tasked with recovering it. While on the mission, Bond is severely wounded and presumed dead, until months later when he returns after learning that MI6 itself has become the target of a bomb attack. Bond forces himself to return to active duty only to discover that not only are his skills as an agent have been impaired, but that M's life is in danger.

After the surprisingly excellent Casino Royale and it's disappointing sequel Quantum of Solace, it is both understandable though strangely perturbing that Skyfall is a standalone entry into the new era of Bond films. While continuity in the 007 history is all over the place, there is the situation that certain plot points, primarily that of the criminal organisation known as Quantum, should have surely been expanded upon. As it stands, there is little in reference to Bond's lover Vesper or Quantum, two important aspects in the shaping of James Bond (Daniel Craig) as a character, and it comes as a missed opportunity. Nevertheless, we are presented with a new villain, Silva (Javier Bardem), who has a a pretty hefty grudge against M (Judi Dench). Silva is definitely the most interesting Bond villain of recent years and is a highlight of the story, but his introduction comes a little later than expected but this is a minor issue. Skyfall's plot is an interesting one: what starts off as a hunt against a formidable villain turns into a retrospective of Bond. However, this latter point never feels fully developed, and can appear at times to be tacked on to further the length of the narrative.The integral point of interest in humanising Bond is his feeling of betrayal by M for her lack of confidence in him. And then it is over. Just like that. The development of Bond feeling jaded against is quelled as quickly as it arises. The strong emphasis on humanising Bond will either be interesting to you or distracting after how subtly this thematic element is convincingly explored in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.
Nonetheless, it is the film's identity which is most at crisis. Skyfall constantly switches between passé and new-age 007 that it fails to find or even stick to an identity for the sake of consistency. Bond is more believable in the modern adaptation  but the film expects the audience to accept its questionable narrative logic for the sake of plot advancement. In past Bond films this would not be a problem but following Casino Royale, where plot advancement made some semblance of sense, in Skyfall this comes across as overreaching. 

Though there is no denying that the recent 007 films have all employed rather commendable performances from the entire cast, especially that of Daniel Craig who has provided a sense of concrete believability to the somewhat caricature nature of Bond. While Bond in Skyfall is much worse for wear than he has been, there is no denying that Craig does, at times, come off as far too stiff. This is a most noticeable when he has some quick words to spare upon someone, otherwise the forlorn act he presents can make you feel for him, though whether you choose to buy that is another matter. Judi Dench continues her stellar performance as M and its great to see how her role has matured from the Brosnan era to the Craig era, and with her added screen-time for Skyfall she definitely does not miss a beat. Rounding off the trio of important actors is Javier Bardem as Silva. Silva is a different type of villain compared to that seen in the previous two outings. He is one part happy-go-lucky, one part vindictive  and all sociopath, but still you never quite feel as if you should be rooting against him. Bardem portrays a charm that really pushes his character to the forefront of almost every scene he is in, outpacing both Dench and Craig with little effort. It is a pity that his character does not appear more often in the plot. The rest of the cast are all noteworthy in their performances. Naomi Harris as the operative Eve, Ben Whishaw as the new Q and Ralph Fiennes as Gareth Mallory, Head of Intelligence and Security all do a great job.

A welcomed change from Casino Royale, as echoed with Quantum of Solace, is the move towards a more diverse array of action sequences, such as vehicle chases. What makes the action that more effective are the locales themselves. There is a distinctiveness to the likes of Istanbul  Shanghai, Macau, Gunkanjima Island, among others, that provide each action sequence is distinct personality. This is only made better by the fact that there are some great locale shots outside of Bond doing what he does best.

As expected of a 007 film sexuality has its place but within moderation. Language usage is emphasised on the odd occasion while violence, in which there is quite a bit is never explicit.

Skyfall is a fun film to watch. There is nothing that can deny this. Good acting, an interesting plot, an interesting villain; good action sequences and some lovely cinematography have the making for a top notch film. However, as interesting as Skyfall is to follow, its narrative caves within itself at points. The strange turn to humanise Bond about two-thirds through seems at play against what came before, and this itself is heavily played to the point that Bond himself begins to lose much of the intrigue that makes him who he is. Additionally, some plot advancements, like Silva's plan, do not get the attention the audience deserves in terms of understanding how it ultimately works. And lastly there is the dual identities the film attempts to balance, but that never feels like it really comes off. Bond is still doing what he does to be the world`s super spy icon, but sometimes, maybe the world is not enough.