The buzz surrounding Skyfall before I went to watch it was that it’s “the best Bond film ever.” I’ve never been a huge fan of the franchise, even though from memory Casino Royale, the first of the Daniel Craig era, was pretty darn good. Naturally, with 23 Bond films in the overall series, saying that it is the best ever is setting it up for unreasonably high expectations.
And I think it was my expectations for Skyfall that had me coming out of the cinema doubting the “best ever” claims. In fact, I don’t even know if it was better than Casino Royale.
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy Skyfall because I absolutely did. It had an amazing opening sequence — by far the best of any Bond film I’ve seen and probably the best of any film I’ve seen this year. The title sequence which followed was also sensational (I usually tune out during those opening credits but this one had me riveted) and the Adele-performed theme song might just be the best Bond song I’ve heard.
But after that blistering start, Skyfall slowed down and fell back down to earth a little for me. The plot is actually simple but feels overly and unnecessarily elaborate. A bad guy steals the list of the true identities of MI6 undercover operatives around the world. And he wants to make Bond’s handler, M (Judi Dench), suffer. Or kill her. Or whatever. Bond wants to stop him. People get shot and stuff gets blown up.
In other words, I didn’t think Skyfall had a very strong storyline or script. It was held together by the strong performances of Craig, Dench and Javier Bardem, the rugged realism of the action sequences and the confident direction of Sam Mendes (American Beauty), who infuses the film with many beautiful and memorable images (none of which I can or should spoil here). But to be honest I didn’t find the action or the drama to be particularly outstanding. Very good, occasionally exhilarating, but not outstanding.
The Bond girls this time around were underutilized in my opinion. Naomie Harris has little chemistry with Craig as a fellow agent and fades in and out of the storyline, never really finds her place. The sultry Berenice Marlohe excels during the splendid Macau casino sequence but her part of the story is never properly wrapped up.
One part of the film I did enjoy was its take on technology and Bond’s interactions with Q (Ben Whishaw). It asks the question of whether field agents like Bond are necessary anymore given the power of modern computers and the skills of hackers, and it also makes fun of those cool gadgets the Bond franchise is so well known for. It’s a sign that Bond is moving on with the times and may continue to evolve in the 24th and 25th films, which Craig is apparently signed on for.
Perhaps those who are more emotionally invested in the Bond franchise or character will have a different take, but unlike the critics who are heaping unqualified praise on the film, I personally foundSkyfall to simply be a very-well made film that impressed me more with its dazzling style than its substance.
3.75 stars out of 5
PS: It used to be blasphemous to even suggest this, but apparently many now think Craig is the definitive Bond? I’m not sure, but I reckon he kills Pierce Brosnan.
PPS: I watched this film in IMAX. I don’t really get it. Bigger screen and louder sounds. Is that it?