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.


  1. So glad you enjoyed this one. It's my personal favorite in the entire series. The long winded version of that statement:

  2. Well, at least you likes it and enjoyed it and it is #2 in your favourite since you dislike all the rest:) You may have a passing nod to the Timothy Dalton films since he was criticised for making Bond have a heart and Timothy Dalton didn't like all the girls googling after him. Since I love James Bond I would hate...I mean hate if they made him a woman since it goes against everything Ian Flemming was writing about and I would hate it if she was lesbian. If they wish to make a felmale spy and make her lesbian then make her a unique and separate entity from Bond. She would need to stand on her own otherwise she would lose her own strength. Oh and there was a girl I used to know and her name was Penny Banks

  3. I had a feeling "Skyfall" would work for you. I agree with your rankings, I think "Casino Royale" worked a little bit better, but of the three "Skyfall" has some of the best cinematography and scene execution. In fact, this may be one of the most beautiful and artistic looking Bond films yet made. There are some wonderful noire shots, and the way Mendes and Deakins used angles and color is really top notch.

    My only real issue is that the overall plot and some of the ideas are essentially rehashes from very recent films like "Dark Knight" and "The Avengers". All the Craig movies in general have moved toward a more Jason Bourne style, which is fine. But the villain who's scheme requires him to be captured, then escape and then face the hero again is getting a bit old.

    Anyway, I agree with Birgit that you may want to give the Dalton movies a try. I feel that Dalton is closest match to the novel version of James Bond, and his films (while never quite hitting the top rung) are some of the most interesting of the original 20 films. I just wish he had a chance to do one more, I think they would have nailed the combination of his serious and dangerous take on the character with a script that really suit him.

    As for another full reboot of James Bond, I'm not sure how I feel about that. Do we need another origin story? If they change his race or gender, we'll have to go there again. And frankly origin stories have been done to death. It will be interesting when they decide to switch actors, if they reboot the series again, or if they attempt to build off what they have with a new actor.

    James Bond as a woman... come on. That just sounds like a bad comedy sketch or a blatant attempt to shock the audience. it would be tremendously hard to simply throw off that much of pop culture history just for a concept that seems destined for one or two movies at the most. James Bond is intrinsically male, nearly all the elements that have built up over time with the franchise are targeted toward a male fantasy of some kind. I can't imagine the series continuing its success with such a drastic change.

    Not saying that a female secret agent series can't work. In fact that is a great idea, and one that we've seen attempted number of times (most recently with "Salt"). But to take the James Bond franchise history and toss it away - and yet still try to keep it. Recipe for disaster my friend.

    What is funny is that this talk of a female James Bond has come up before. I remember before "Goldeneye" came out in the early 90s there was talk of casting James Bond as a woman. I remember Sharon Stone being mentioned at some point after "Basic Instinct" came out. When Pierce left the part, this concept popped up again, and a whole bunch of names were thrown around (the black James Bond also surfaced again). Seems like someone like to keep stirring the pot with this.

    What is funny is that Halle Berry was supposed to introduced as a James Bond spin off character in "Die Another Day". But I think the way they executed the idea in that film (along with just about everything else in that movie) was a complete misfire. This character of Jinx was an interesting concept, its a shame they just couldn't pull it off.

    Anyway, enough babbling. Glad you liked "Skyfall" it is certainly one of the best films in the franchise.

    1. To be fair, I couldn't help noticing that as well. The whole "villain gets caught only to reveal that was actually part of his plan" thing is becoming a bit old. It was handled alright here but I'm not sure how many more movies it will work for.

      As for the possible changes, I don't want to jump to any conclusions on the simple ground that this I'm going on little more than speculation based on rumors. A female James Bond would be difficult to write effectively for several reasons (among other things "James" is not generally considered a girl's name). It could be a very pleasant surprise or it could be a complete and utter disaster that makes Quantum of Solace look more coherent depending on who ends up behind it. Until such a time when and if someone tries it I can't really comment one way or the other. I'm just open to the idea. However, in this day and age I don't think casting a black actor as James Bond is that big of a stretch. As long as he's British and they can find a good story it should be able to work.

  4. I haven't seen Casino Royale yet, but Skyfall really was superior compared to Quantum - that was just one big mess. So far I really like how Craig is portraying Bond; he has the charisma and charm to carry the character.

    As for the new Bond after Craig, I do hope they do give Idris Elba a chance. I think he could make a fantastic Bond.