In tenth grade, i had to write a book report on any fiction book from the library. I somehow settled on an Ian Fleming novel about the world’s most conspicuous spy, James Bond. I don’t remember which one it was—I didn’t finish reading it. I had seen plenty of James Bond films and the book didn’t match. It was mostly descriptions of foreign cities and the types of food Bond ate in the hotels there. I got about half way through the report, got bored, and created my own ending. I believe I took the boat chase scene from beginning of “The World is Not Enough” and transplanted it into the report. My teacher didn’t notice.
The point here is that all James Bond films are essentially interchangeable. Some are higher quality than others, but after 23 films and 50 years, the audience knows what to expect. That said, “Skyfall” is more than moderately entertaining—it’s likely the best Bond film made in my lifetime. However, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a Bond film.
“Skyfall” follows in the footsteps of the most recent “Casino Royale,” meaning that it attempts to inject more realism into a world generally fraught with absurd gadgets and one liners. The film makes references to the more campy days of MI6, with clever nods to exploding pens and Aston Martins, but is far more character driven than previous incarnations.
This isn’t saying much; most Bond characters serve the purpose of sex symbol, cannon fodder, or authority figures for Bond to wryly insult. In “Skyfall,” Bond seems like slightly more of a person —the film makes an effort to reveal minor details about his past, his vices (finally acknowledging alcoholism), and his limited future with the agency. Bond is getting older, no longer at his peak.
This also seems to be the first time a Bond film has highlighted 007’s more human qualities. The plot is recycled—a former MI6 agent has a vendetta against M and her agency. No world domination or shark tanks are necessary. But as I mentioned before, after so many movies, it would be pretty easy to mix and match plot points from the previous incarnations of Bond and create something that seems new.
“Skyfall” boasts a fairly impressive cast for a Bond movie. Judi Dench returns as M and Ralph Fiennes co-stars as an interested party. Javier Bardem plays an effective villain, one who appears to have a genuinely understandable motivation and irrational access to military hardware, as most Bond villains do. However, he is quite a bit more threatening a film like “No Country For Old Men.” He speaks a little too much in “SkyFall”—the silence of Anton Chigurh is far more frightening than the constant speech making of Silva, although neither character has a competent barber.
The other actors appear to take their roles seriously, which is important when trying to make a serious Bond film. The humor is downplayed for the action, which will likely please most fans. I felt it went on a little long. Filmmakers seem to have been especially long-winded this year. I’ve seen quite a few that are over two hours, sometimes pushing three. I don’t have that much time on the weekends, especially when so much can be cut out without losing any of the story. This is certainly true with “Skyfall.” If they’d cut out a bit more, it might have been more fun to watch.
There isn’t a lot to say about a Bond film that hasn’t been said of each predecessor. I enjoyed it for what it was—there were several inventive scenes, beautiful locations, and exciting car chases. It was more consistent than “Quantum of Solace” to be sure. I like Daniel Craig in the character. If you’re a Bond fan, you won’t have any complaints. If not, you’ll at least be watching a well-made film that does the series justice and lovingly treats an icon with the respect he deserves. So, in that sense, it’s certainly worth seeing.