Third in a series of Skyfall reviews written for a never-published issue of Her Majesty’s Secret Servant
By Ed Werner
Be careful in what you wish for.
Back in the dark ages of Bond in the seventies, HMSS co-founder Paul Baack and I hoped for and wondered what a truly character driven Bond film would be like. We really wanted the producers to get into Bond’s history, background, feelings and what made him tick. It only took 23 films for that to happen.
Now that it’s been done, I hope they don’t do it again anytime soon. Don’t get me wrong, I loved delving into more of his personal life, but I think maybe there was just a little too much emotional trauma going on here for a Bond movie. I felt spent after watching it, something in this series that has never happened to me before.
I think many people go to a Bond film for the escapism, to get lost for two hours and come away entertained. I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting from Skyfall, I tried to stay off the grid and under the radar for this one. I wanted to go into it with no preconceived notions — but I wasn’t ready for this.
This film is a grand experiment on the part of producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli and I applaud the risks they took in bringing this very personal side of the character to us. However, this is also a Bond film that’s very different from all that has come before and will be debated by Bond aficionados for many years to come. Is this film the official end of the “reboot” and now will 007 go back to saving the world from Armageddon on a regular basis? One can only wait and see.
Some random thoughts:
The film itself is beautifully photographed, I haven’t seen this kind of consistently beautiful camera work in a Bond film since You Only Live Twice. The Shanghai scenes were breathtaking, from the interior shots in the building under construction where we see Bond take out a sniper, to the casino, the camera angles and the color palette are incredible. In the later part of the film, Scotland has rarely looked more grand and foreboding. The interiors elsewhere in the film were all beautifully polished wood as opposed to the Ken Adam type brushed stainless steel that has gotten a little long in the tooth. Just take a look at M’s office near the end of the movie and compare it to the metal and glass that had been the norm since Brosnan took over the helm back in ’95.
The acting was mostly first-rate this time around. Judi Dench shows once again why she is a treasure in British cinema. This time around, M’s and Bond’s relationship is much deeper than has ever been explored before and a lesser actor would have made the climax much less memorable.
The new young Q works well with this Bond, although Desmond Llewelyn’s shoes are almost impossible to fill. Still, when you think how important technology is in almost all facets of life these days, business as well as intelligence, and who is the most well versed in this field, it makes sense that Q is the age he is.
The introduction of Eve, and who she actually is, totally broadsided me. I never saw that coming. At first, Naomie Harris reminded me of maybe a more capable Rosie Carver from Live and Let Die. However, after her first few moments of screen time, I realized that this actress and character were a force to be reckoned and much more important than Rosie. At last, we have finally been shown the genesis of one of Bond’s most memorable relationships!
Javier Bardem, who plays the baddun, Silva, reminds one of the best villains of the earlier Bond films. No superhuman strength, no webs growing between the fingers, not wimpy. Just very evil, a little off his rocker and hell-bent for revenge — but not against Bond. He never goes off on a raging rant, just keeps his cool and intelligently reeks havoc. He has no desire to go all Blofeld on us with visions of world domination and the character works marvelously because of it as well as Bardem’s sublime acting.
Daniel Craig has given us a new critical standard for the character of Bond, going to places none of the other Bond actors has had the opportunity to explore. He may not exactly look, speak, dress or move like the James Bond some of us have in the back of our minds. But he gives a very credible read to the character and is probably the most important choice of actor to play the part since the 1960s.
The only character that I thought was mis-cast and poorly written, was that of Severine, the “sacrificial lamb” of the movie. Although the more I think about it, there is one much more important character that could be put into that category. But you will need see the movie to make that determination yourself. Berenice Marlohe who plays Severine, doesn’t really lend herself to sympathy because you don’t really care for or about her.
The action sequences were well thought out, well photographed and easy to follow. You could actually keep track of what was happening and who was doing what to whom. Totally unlike the action fiasco in Quantum of Solace with its hyper editing and shaky cam. You’d have thought that the powers that be would have learned from the CGI debacle in the second half of Die Another Day that the flavor of the month in cinematography doesn’t necessarily lend itself well to the world of Bond. Thankfully, the producers have gone on record saying that a 3-D Bond is definitely not in our future.
The story itself is something I think Fleming could have dreamed up had he lived longer and written a few more Bond novels. It’s really a timeless story that could have felt just at home in the ’60s as it does some 50 years later. The four-year hiatus definitely benefited the story. It’s well thought out. The pacing is right on. Let’s hope that EON can continue to pull off this kind of film..
This may not be the absolute best Bond film released to date, but it is one of the most important.
(C) 2013 Ed Werner
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