Not the Strongest Bond, but Skyfall is Satisfying
- Thursday, November 08, 2012
DVD Release Date: February 12, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: November 8, 2012
Rating: PG-13 (for intense violent sequences throughout, some sexuality, language, and smoking)
Run Time: 143 min
Director: Sam Mendes
Cast: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, Albert Finney
In the latest James Bond thriller Skyfall, 007 is fighting age and relevancy – two things the now-50 year old series resoundingly conquered in 2006 with the gritty Casino Royale. That character-rich reboot – which started things over with Daniel Craig (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) in the legendary role – is exactly what the franchise needed, especially in a post-Bourne cinematic world that made the increasing camp of the Pierce Brosnon era passe’.
The Bond character had to be taken seriously, maybe like never before. This smooth and indestructable icon had to be broken down into a mortal and troubled man – and he was, inversely elevating him to the best and most fascinating rendition of the famed secret agent that we’ve seen in five decades.
But if the past two films were about deconstructing the icon, then Skyfall is clearly about rebuilding it. The end result feels like a compromise between the best and worst tendencies of the series. Thankfully the best outweighs the worst, and the movie is often an exhilarating jolt of popcorn fun. Yet while many will welcome this lighter, more straightforward approach, the oversimplified slickness seen here ultimately feels like a step back in the wrong direction.
The requisite pre-Title Song action scene doesn’t initially suggest that anything’s changed. It's a stylistic continuation of the previous two films, although it does trade the shaky hand-held trend for a more classic polished approach. Wildly inventive and superbly mounted, the lengthy string of stunts successfully top each other and derive much of their thrills from being largely practical rather than digital. By the time Adele begins to sing, you’re already satiated with the fact that you’ve just seen exactly what you paid for.
From there, however, the tone slowly but surely begins to double back from the series’ recent reinvention toward a clear and deliberate return-to-form. Craig, in his third go-round as 007, keeps Bond rough around the edges but the brooding has been exorcised. The script makes sure of that as his challenges this time – the effects of aging – are more practical than personal, and the villian Silva (Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men) comes close to the maniachial caricature that the Austin Powers parodies so adeptly satirized. Silva’s arc, actually, is much like the movie's: starts off strong before devolving into familiar tropes.
Bond’s relation to beautiful women has also been reduced once more to merely surface levels. Gone are any deep connections, leaving only winking flirtations and all-too-clever repartee. There’s good chemistry between James and agent-in-training Eve, and Naomie Harris (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest) is up to the role’s demands, but she’s there primarily to serve a function in this traditional Bond machine. The other Bond girl Severine is given some dimension by newcomer Berenice Marlohe, despite existing for the sole purpose of becoming another one of 007’s conquests before being disposed of.
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