Written by Films

Skyfall

So four years later, we finally get a new Bond film. And what a cracker to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the series. I think it’s worth saying that I think you’re best off if you don’t know the plot in advance. So I’d recommend not reading a great deal further until you’ve seen it (if you’re planning to), except to know that I really liked it.
Everything about Quantum of Solace is forgotten – especially since it was such a collosal misstep after Casino Royale.
Skyfall, officially the 23rd film in the sequence is right on form and has very quickly jumped into the top tier of Bond films. And by that, I mean the likes of From Russia with Love and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (sadly the more I see of the Moore films, the less I like them. I recently re-watched The Spy Who Loved Me, and it really isn’t the film I loved as a child when I had that Lotus Espirit car – do these really go for £50 upwards now?!).
We get one of those great action sequences to open with in an epic chase through the streets and over the rooftops of Istanbul. But soon we’re back in Britain and we begin to get an idea of where the film is going as a cyber-attacker is doing more than simply DoS attacks on MI6 servers.
Something in M’s past is coming back to haunt her. Soon we’re in Shanghai, and here Sam Mendes and director of photography Roger Deakin absolutely earned their money. The sequence at the top of a skyscraper is simply gorgeous, and I don’t know if that casino in Macau really exists, but I know I want to arrive in a boat the way Bond does if I ever do go there. And the enemy lair is truly extraordinary.
The performances are excellent – led by Daniel Craig who is adopting an even harder version of Connery in the roll. We know that it’s a new world – Judi Dench’s M spells it out at one point in a hearing (I couldn’t help comparing and contrasting with last week’s Thick of It hearing). Javier Bardem is in no way the by-the-numbers criminal we’ve had a few too many of recently. He’s got some issues that need sorting, and while he’s wealthy, he doesn’t have a hollowed out volcano or anything. And you’ve got to love Ben Whishaw in anything you see him in. When he tells Bond that they don’t do exploding pens anymore it’s acknowledging a new found realism in these films. While Bourne might have given Bond a bit of a kicking to get the series up to date, it’s clear that with Skyfall they’ve exceeded the Bourne films, and certainly the thoroughly disappointing recent addition to the series.
What I really liked is that the film had something of a heart, and wasn’t just a way to link up one action sequence after another. Bond films do have a formula, but they’ve felt able to play with that formula a little. And that means that you do actually worry that Bond might not make it out of various situations intact. That’s actually really hard considering that he’s a super-agent who’s made it successfully through 22 other missions, and with John Logan, part of the writing team on this film, now being hard at work on 24 and 25, there’s plenty more to come. There’s always something delicious in the certainty you get at the end of a Bond film: “James Bond Will Return.”
If I had one slight issue with the film, it’s “Skyfall” itself. It’s clear as soon as you see it that it’s not long for this world, and was clearly built by the production. I don’t know why I knew it, but I did as soon as I saw it.
Interestingly, I noticed credits for miniatures, and it’s good to see that they’re still being used. Overall, the effects are superb. You really believe that MI6 has been blown up when you know it must be CGI. It’s just very realistic.
Even the vast array of product placement opportunities aren’t distracting and are worked into the plot on a reasonable basis. Bond might drink a beer at one point, but when he’s in his [Tom Ford] dinner jacket, he of course drinks a Vodka Martini.
So an excellent return to form, and one of the best Bond films ever.
An aside. I went to an early morning screening of this film on a Sunday. And there’s much to be recommended about going to these showings. First of all, just about everyone in the cinema is there to see the film and not check their mobile. Let’s face it, you’re probably not fielding too many texts at 10am on Sunday morning. You also have the lack of “Unlimited” patrons – aka kids that hang around going in and out of different screens all day long. And people eat less too. The average person seemed to drinking a hot beverage rather than a bucket of popcorn. Aside from the bloke who plonked himself right down behind me, and did precisely that, munching noisily through many of the quiet sequences. Honestly – who wants popcorn in the morning? Still a much improved cinema experience than going in the afternoon.
A further aside. I see that my local cinema is getting an “IMAX” screen. I assume that rather than knocking down part of the building and rebuilding it on a monumental scale, they really mean that it’ll be getting some kind of refitted screen with various IMAX approved kit installed. Sadly, the one thing we won’t be getting locally is a large “IMAX” screen. As far as I can see, IMAX is becoming the new THX in that they specify how a theatre needs to be fitted out, and it gets the stamp of approval. What it won’t be capable of is screening The Dark Knight Rises in the manner I saw it at the BFI IMAX Waterloo. What they will be able to do is charge me extra to see films screened there. As IMAX themselves say, Hollywood films (including Skyfall) are typically “remastered” in the IMAX format. To me, that’s a bit like watching a DVD through a Blu-ray player that “upscales” the DVD into HD quality. If it wasn’t shot with an IMAX camera, it’s not really IMAX as far as I’m concerned.