For those who are unfamiliar with Sam Mendes’ work and its quality, ‘Skyfall’ may appear just like another action flick of some average quality, just another James Bond film full of the same old tricks recycled once again. However, this is the film of Sam Mendes, which means that this first impression is false. ‘Skyfall’ is a delightful surprise, which has the potential to exceed everyone’s expectations. The film is intelligent, stylish, funny and very well-acted. It is certainly better than the previous two films in the James Bond series. In this film, James Bond (Daniel Craig), badly wounded on the mission to Turkey and unfit for service, embarks on yet another mission to stop a former ‘00…’ MI6 agent from completing his evil plan.
Getting straight to the point, the action sequences in ‘Skyfall’ provide for a really enjoyable viewing. There are action scenes on a train and involving an elevator, which are particularly good and well-crafted, and whoever is a fan of Hitman may also find appropriate references here. On the other hand, in these action sequences probably lies one of the weaknesses of the ‘Skyfall’ production – some action scenes have rather odd camera angles (maybe, for want of an experiment) and that makes such scenes needlessly chaotic, and somehow more predictable and unrealistic.
On a positive note, what stands out in this film is the elaborate dialogue sequences, the feeling of intimacy of every conversation in the film, a prised quality, which also features in other work of Sam Mendes’, such as in ‘American Beauty’ (1999) and in ‘Revolutionary Road’ (2008). In ‘Revolutionary Road’, for example, every dialogue sequence seems polished to near-perfection, and they have so much meaning, that the film becomes interesting just on that basis alone. Same happens here in ‘Skyfall’, and, therefore, the film somehow appears different, more intelligent, and more ‘developed’ then either ‘Quantum of Solace’ (2008) or ‘Casino Royale’ (2006), which were directed by Marc Forster and Martin Campbell respectively.
The frequent use of humour in ‘Skyfall’, for example, those unforgettable witty one-liners, provide for nice “comic reliefs” throughout the film. Although as a result of its use, ‘Skyfall’ may feel sometimes almost like a parody on some older James Bond films and very cliché, the humour here is definitely welcoming. It relaxed the audience in a way and makes them accept the world of James Bond without questions or serious repercussions, easing them into that state where they can just enjoy watching what is going on on screen.
Javier Bardem’s character, Raoul Silva, as does Bardem’s acting, impresses immensely. Raoul Silva, a former MI6 agent gone bad, is almost a character study in his own right in the film. Silva can even be compared to the Joker in the Batman franchise, because he is so hilariously psychotic and ruthlessly evil. What is interesting here is that Silva is also not one’s conventional ‘bad’ guy, rather, he is a man with his weaknesses and ‘wounds’ paraded openly in front of the audience, making him even ‘sympathetic’ at times. Bardem does an excellent job portraying this complex villain, and some even predict him a 2013 Academy Award nomination for it (well, if William Hurt was nominated for his ten minutes’ performance in Cronenberg’s ‘A History of Violence’ (2005), then, surely…).
Daniel Craig plays Bond well, even given his tendency to produce rather “wooden” performances from time to time, and him being rather inarticulate at other times. The fact that he works alongside the always-superb Judi Dench (M) and Ralph Fiennes (Gareth Mallory) helps. However, in my humble opinion, Daniel Craig is far too sombre-looking and un-engaging for the role of James Bond. Besides, he lacks much needed charm, gaiety and appeal, but, then again, Sean Connery set a high threshold on those fronts in his time. Craig’s supporting female actresses – Bérénice Marlohe as Severine and Naomie Harris as Eve – are equally good, although Harris is probably the weakest link on the set. Speaking of the James Bond girls, maybe it would have been better if, here, in ‘Skyfall‘, Bond had developed a more close, romantic relationship with one of the heroines, and there were some greater emphasis on the emotion, but, then again, that would, probably, not have resonated well with the rest of the plot.
Moving on to the location, ‘Skyfall’ has the distinction of being only one of the very few of the James Bond films that take place in Bond’s home country, the UK. For Londoners, the joy is doubled here, because they can not only pick up some new tactics of beating the “rush” hour on the London underground, but also see, from some very interesting angles, the familiar to them London sights, such as the MI6 building. Setting the film location in the UK is only one of the ways for the film to pay tribute to the James Bond franchise, celebrating its anniversary, and the film also makes use of the old James Bond theme, as well as demonstrates the Aston Martin DB5, a classic James Bond car.
The verdict? Although ‘Skyfall’ has its slight drawbacks, it is still a very enjoyable action film overall, from its gripping beginning to its typical James Bond-style ending. The film has this feeling that a lot of hard work and thought were put into it, and nothing pleases as much as this. The effort paid off here, because the result is very impressive. The film has an intelligent, interesting, “twisty” plot, decent special effects, great acting and a wonderful soundtrack. What more could one want from an action film? 9/10