Monday, 19 November 2012
FILM REVIEW: SKYFALL
"What were you expecting, an exploding pen? We don't go in for that sort of thing any more." So says MI6's new quartermaster, Q (franchise new recruit, Ben Whishaw) upon meeting 007 (Daniel Craig).
And although you're well aware that the Bond franchise -- now in its 50th year -- dispensed with the gadgetry (and a lot of the fun) when they rebooted with Craig and Casino Royale in 2006, you kind of wish they hadn't the longer Skyfall, the 23rd and latest Bond film, runs. For at 143 minutes Skyfall, helmed by Oscar winner Sam Mendes (American Beauty), could do with a lot more light to go with its shadow play: it's too long a film for not nearly enough reward.
The (admittedly spectacular) action sequences occur far too infrequently between long stretches of not very much at all, and as impressive as Istanbul, Shanghai and Macau look (lensed by Roger Deakins, Skyfall is easily the handsomest Bond film yet mounted), we mostly find ourselves in London, cloistered beneath the city and a makeshift MI6 Headquarters.
For British intelligence has come under fire: from bureaucrats who question the clandestine old ways, and the leadership of M (Judi Dench); and from someone from M's past whose identity isn't revealed until about the one hour mark. Silva, a former British operative abandoned by M during the British handover of Hong Kong to China in the late 1990s, is a figuratively and literally tortured soul, who conducts his evil operations online and wants revenge on 'Mother'.
Bond films are no stranger to camp villains but Silva (played by a blonde Javier Bardem) is possibly the campest of them all. His first scene, entering his lair where a handcuffed Bond awaits, is a mixture or menace and mirth as Silva simultaneously goads and flirts with 007; rubbing his prisoner's thighs and offering him new experiences. "What makes you think it's my first time?" Bond responds, in one of the rare moments the film - and Craig - loosens up.
But the laughs are few as there's much more soul searching to be done, which includes a third act where Bond and M decamp to Scotland and we uncover the roots of our favourite British agent. Yet this segment of Skyfall felt to me like another film entirely, by way of Christopher Nolan's Batman, and even latter Harry Potter.
There are touchstones with Bonds passed throughout Skyfall -- the car, the Bassey-like theme song by Adele which is a stand-out -- and a farewell to others, too. Skyfall is both the end of a trilogy and a reboot-of-sorts. There's certainly no mention of the secret organisation behind the nefarious goings on in Quantum of Solace as if - surprise, surprise - the producers would rather we forget about that film completely.
They needn't have worried. As you read this, Skyfall has already passed $600 million at the international box office and Daniel Craig (along with screenwriter, John Logan) has signed on for two more missions. Perhaps then we will get a James Bond we all love: tough and cynical for the brave new world that is the 21st century but one not immune to letting the character's humour shine through.
We may not need gadgets but we do need Bond girls (Naomie Harris and Berenice Marlohe performing the honours here), colourful villains and a world in danger from their nefarious schemes. Action and humour, and as much light as shade, leaving us shaken and stirred but above all entertained.