Skyfall - Movie Review
Who's saying what
Skyfall isn't what many are calling it - a reboot - but it is a seamless blend of old and new. Bond canon is as vast as it is inconsistent; between the dizzying heights of Connery in Goldfinger, and the nauseating lows of Connery in Never Say Never Again, Bond has been ricocheting between the goalposts of cinematic verve and quality since 1962.
And Skyfall truly is the cinematic suturing that now binds much of this quilt together. Fleming wrote Bond novels hard, fast and with an almost robotic commitment to the steely-faced, ruthlessly efficient agent of the crown. After Connery made such an impact (both upon audiences and Fleming himself), Fleming retconned Bond's heritage to incorporate an upbringing in Scotland. But since then, Hollywood has been burning up Fleming's works, squandering seven of them on Roger Moore, meaning that once Dalton finished on the rock solid The Living Daylights, he had to step out into oncoming traffic in the Flemingless and utterly charmless Licence to Kill.
Brosnan's run had some gems, but the Daniel Craig Bond movies were kicked off by Fleming's first and best Bond novel, Casino Royale. Critics and fans (though not this critic and fan) balked at Quantum of Solace, the Bourne-esque action-packed epilogue to Casino. Four years later, Skyfall has struck, and it's the first post-Fleming Bond to feel truly authentic. It might be peppered with modernity, but the core of Skyfall is pure, unfiltered, exhilarating 007.
The plot of Skyfall shouldn't be discussed in any real detail, because here more than ever the real pleasure is in the ocean of reveals. It kicks off, however, with MI6 sending Bond after a stolen hard drive containing the identities of NATO agents in deep cover. From there, things proceed in fluid, languid strokes thanks to Sam Mendes' masterful direction; Mendes has always employed big, clean, painting-like shots to stamp moments alongside one another, a technique that is a perfect match for Bond, who is seen more than once in Skyfall perched motionless like a gargoyle, surveying all that lies before him.
Craig is a terrific Bond, and has been since the moment he was cast, though in Skyfall
he gets to slough off some of Bond's 50-year-old layers and explore new territory. Judi Dench gets a far weightier turn here as M, the role she inhabited first in Goldeneye back in 1995. But the real show-stopper here is Javier Bardem, who brings Raoul Silva, the unbelievably complex villain of the piece, to life.The jury is still out on whether the Craig films are a reboot - think Nolan's Batman trilogy, or Battlestar Galactica - or a prequel series, charting how Bond became the man he ends up becoming. Skyfall will get you thinking about those things a great deal, but Bond has always been an almost amorphous entity, allowing us to conveniently ignore time, race, technology and geography; his stories are more like folklore about one character told by different people down the years. Skyfall is the first Bond film in decades to try and contextualise things.
It's also a damn fine Bond outing. Hard, fast, and full of heart.
(I've deliberately put up the teaser, in an effort to minimize spoilers: the trailer proper gives away a baffling amount)