You know his name, you know his number but now you finally get to know more about the classic British spy hero than ever before. James Bond looks pretty fucking fabulous for a character who is clearly about 90 years old, fifty years after defeating Dr. No. Though he is an international man of mystery, Skyfall keeps Bond on our stormy isles for a great chunk of this tale, as a terrorist threat points its sights at MI6 itself.
It’s difficult to review this film as, for the first time in any Bond I can remember, most of the narrative is chock-full of spoilers. This is an odd things for a Bond film – normally the films are a self-contained narrative, a moulded landscape to throw the lady-loving killer into for the entertainment of us popcorn-munchers. But Mendes and crew subvert expectations by reflecting the story right into the heart of MI6 – back to James Bond, M and the government. It’s curious to have a deeper look at the man known as 007. Normally he’s cold, pithy and heroic, here we see a Bond who’s wounded, both physically and emotionally. We also get to look with curious scrutiny at M who’s character is possibly even stonier and impenetrable that Bond himself. It is so rare for the stakes to be so personal in a Bond movie and Mendes, a director well known for his focus on the minutiae of characters and relationships, uses his considerable strengths to make you care for these icy characters.
The plot? Needless to say, the terrorism wreaked on the MI6 headquarters (just a stones throw from where we have our
heroin and hooker parties business meetings) bring’s M’s reign and the spy organisation under the scrutiny of Her Majesty’s Government. The enquiry set up in its wake bears echoes of Leveson, if you substitute pie-splats for ‘machine guns’, and reminds you of the purpose and responsibilities of MI6 which, in most of the films, has been a fantastical, ungrounded entity. Not any more.
I must say, Javier Bardem plays a terrific villain. Silva is creepy and quiet, the kind of guy who loves the taste of his own words and they escape across his tongue. I was reminded of Ledger’s Joker character a number of times, with the cunning of Silva’s plans and the confidence of his monologues, and the man is just as terrifying as his Batman counterpart. There is a particularly interesting moment between Bond and Silva, soaked in homoerotic powerplay, in which Bond gives as good as he gets.
If I have one gripe, it’s that the film is very long and feels it. With most films you can tell, without a watch and a note of the running time, how far along you are in the narrative. Not so, here. This film is broken into a series of short plot arcs, like a serial drama, meaning that I was completely thrown when the film entered it’s final act just as I was expecting it to end. I was annoyed, having prepared myself for the approaching climax, only to find the film had a long way to go. Having said that, the actual finale is worth the wait, but a little work in the editing bay would have gone a long way.
At the close of this film, you get the impression that the three Craig-era films so far have now manoeuvred all the pieces of this ‘reboot’ into place and we’re now ready to kick it off for real. Which… is weird.
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