Skyfall starts with tension, intrigue and action. Let’s admit it, this is the way we expect a James Bond film to start – followed, of course, by the title sequence and the film’s theme song. I wasn’t keen on the idea of Adele doing a Bond theme, but she delivers by avoiding a self-indulgent interpretation and pulling the song back to the traditional feel of the Bond tunes. She also re-introduces the use of the film’s name as the title for the first time since Madonna’s Die Another Day, ten years ago.
After a great opening sequence, the beginning is a bit patchy – the first scenes roughly hewn and tacked together, causing a slight incoherency in plot and a stilted flow. But, as only Bond can, it soon steadies itself and picks up the pace. Its strength, and distinction, lies in the way it manages to exist both in the past and the present. Bond has often had the ability to pander to the old through the familiar, while keeping it current and reaching a new audience – and nowhere is this more evident than in Skyfall. The “canon fodder” is all there, from sexual innuendos and dry banter to tuxedos and martinis. It is somewhat scant on the cars; but with Bond’s 1965 Aston Martin DB5 and a wicked jibe at VW, quality presides over quantity. The action set-pieces deliver in style and grandeur and one of the highlights is certainly the scene set in Shanghai – redolent of Enter the Dragon’s mirror scene but using glass, colour and lights in a wholly modern way.
Sitting in the director’s chair is Sam Mendes. An unexpected, yet inspired, choice he is the key to creating a sense of nostalgia that is sincere yet stoic rather than sentimental and cloying. While staying true to form, each character receives great attention and depth. It is surprising then that the film’s biggest flaw lies in its villain. A great opportunity is lost with a character that is excellently written, but poorly conceptualised on screen. At this juncture, it is important to remember that Ian Fleming did not write comic books and the fact that the villain appears to have walked off the set of Iron Man is thoroughly bemusing. If it is meant as another nod to the past, it does not work in this instance and the character feels out of place.
Daniel Craig returns as James Bond and Judi Dench as M and both continue to do excellent justice to much loved and revered characters. They are supported by an excellent cast and between Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw and Albert Finney it is difficult to decide who steals the show the most. Perhaps it is a difficult decision, because none of them try to. Instead they all work together as a brilliant ensemble, integrating organically into the story and revealing lots of surprises that assure that James Bond will return.
Originally published on Dinner and a Movie.