Saturday, 13 September 2014
Skyfall: What a Bond Film Should Be
Well, this had to happen eventually. Having discussed both Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, everybody seemed really excited to hear what I had to say about Daniel Craig's most recent James Bond movie Skyfall. So many people recommended this one to me, telling me it was really good and possibly the best of the series. Casino Royale was really good, and after the disappointment of Quantum of Solace this one certainly managed to get Craig's Bond back on his feat and into action.
Unlike Quantum of Solace, Skyfall is more or less a self-contained movie that can be understood without seeing the previous installments. This one also takes a few different approaches, bringing up more of the gadgets and downplaying the beautiful women and romantic sub-plots (although that isn't to say they aren't there). Instead of the sort of relationships we got in Casino Royale between Bond and Vesper or Quantum of Solace between Bond and Camille, the focus becomes primarily on the interaction between Bond and M (played marvelously by Judy Dench).
At first, this change may seem a bit jarring, especially to anyone used to the much younger female leads of other Bond films, but it does work remarkably well once it sinks in. This means we do get to see M taking a bit of action and actually having a role in the plot as opposed just showing up at the beginning to say "X plans to blow up the world using a weird nuclear device that was stolen from a top secret laboratory. Go stop him."
I am going to have to go out and include a spoiler here, but I feel it necessary to comment on this aspect of the movie. One of the supporting characters is a female agent named Eve, and it actually came as a real surprise to find out at the end they were secretly re-introducing an element of classic Bond. Right at the end it is revealed her last name is Moneypenny, which of course was a recurring character in the classic Bond films. However, while I'm still not sure about the name (it always seemed a bit weird to me) I was pleasantly surprised by the way they treated her character.
First off, it is interesting they decided to cast a black actress for the role, but up to that point she had played a role in the action. We did get to see her handling a few weapons and at one point saving Bond's life, something the Moneypenny of the Connery era would never have had the chance to do. From what I've gathered in this film, Miss Moneypenny for once actually gets to have a role beyond showing up at the beginning so Bond can flirt with her for a few minutes only to be forgotten until the beginning of the next film.
Unlike Quantum of Solace, Skyfall turned out to actually have a coherent script, seeing as I was actually able to follow it this time. There is of course plenty of action at every turn and a few clever chase scenes and various little twists. Javier Bardem makes a pretty strange but interesting antagonist (probably channeling a bit of his experience from No Country For Old Men) and Albert Finney has a scene stealing role in the final act of the film.
Ultimately, if I were to rank Craig's Bond films so far, I'm actually finding myself leaning towards Casino Royale as the best of the three and Quantum of Solace was definitely the weakest. That leaves Skyfall currently as the second best in the series, which to be fair is not bad. It is a well-executed movie with some good action and a compelling story. Some of the "alpha male" personality of Bond does begin to re-surface at times in this one, but fortunately those moments are brief and spaced out in an installment that otherwise manages to avoid the problems of the Connery films.
At the moment, Daniel Craig is currently signed on to do at least two more films (labelled as "Bond 24" and "Bond 25" on IMDB), and if that all works out I would be willing to see them and where they would go with the character. I still refuse to watch any Bond movies before Craig at least as long as I can help it (I'll have to watch From Russia With Love for one of my courses), but I would be open to any future Bonds.
I remember there was talk about Idris Elba taking up the role, which could work. Alternatively there have been rumors of a female James Bond which would be even more interesting. Perhaps they could even go one step further by making her a lesbian and in the process take care of some of the homophobia associated with the Connery era. Whatever happens, even when Craig is through I think I might be willing to give future Bonds a shot.