I’m always unsure about Skyfall. I definitely like it but feel some people claiming it’s the best one always makes me scratch my head. It has some genuinely great moments and set pieces, don’t get me wrong, but every time I watch it I feel like it’s gone on too long by the time the film reaches its climax. Want to know more about my opinion on the film? Well, you’re in the right place then!
When James Bond’s latest assignment goes terribly wrong it leads to a calamitous turn of events: Undercover agents around the world are exposed, and MI6 is attacked, forcing M to relocate the agency. With MI6 now compromised inside and out, M turns to the one man she can trust: Bond, who soon takes to the shadows and follows a trail to Silva, a man from M’s past who wants to settle an old score…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Bond isn’t sure the new Doctor in Doctor Who will work out. He’s willing to give him a try though!
The key thing about Skyfall is that it was a 50th anniversary celebration, even if it’s only the back third of the film to make that makes it obvious, beyond a new Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw), though they’re an active agent and not in a crazy lab with weird gadgets respectively, which does make it feel more grounded, as the Daniel Craig films tend to lean towards. The key plot is based around M (Judi Dench) and a man from her past who goes to extreme lengths to get revenge on her, which does give the film a different feel, especially the aforementioned latter third which is set entirely in the UK rather than some exotic locale.
Before we get there though there is a really exciting and well directed shootout / chase for the first 15 minutes of the film, including some great use of train carriages and construction vehicles, plus Bond actually getting shot, a true rarity! The person Bond is chasing has a list of all uncover agents and their real identities on him (very Mission: Impossible 1!), and before Bond can get the list he is accidentally shot once more, this time by Moneypenny, and falls off a bridge, leading into the opening credits. We then get the slow, and I mean slow, reveal of our main antagonist, Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), after a bombing at MI6, Bond returning from a self-imposed exile, a great fight in a neon-lit Shanghai skyscraper and Bond meeting a girl named Sévérine (Bérénice Marlohe), who eventually takes him to an abandoned island to meet Silva.
James Bond X Bladerunner! The genre mash-up that… actually sounds quite good! Never mind.
So well over half the film later and we meet our villain, thankfully he was worth the wait as he’s that great blend of insane but charismatic. He kills Sévérine but before he does the same to Bond MI6 arrive en masse and he’s arrested, eventually talking to M through a glass screen and telling his story. Basically he’s a former agent that was left behind in order to save a greater number of people and when he tried to use his cyanide capsule it just mildly melted his face instead of killing him. So, you can see why he’s a bit peeved. He soon escapes MI6’s temporary digs and uses the underground and a police disguise to attack M during her inquiry on the whole losing a key list thing but he’s stopped by Bond and higher up official Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), who has been shadowing M since the start of the film. This is where the film starts to lose steam as M and Bond escape in the classic Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger (I guess all Bond films DO take place in one continuity! … Somehow…?) to Bond’s childhood home in the Scottish Highlands and meet an old Scottish caretaker who was clearly meant to be played by Sean Connery but sadly wasn’t, but there you go…
Silva and his men attack the house and are defeated with some Home Alone style traps (just far more violent), shootouts, a frozen lake fight and even a helicopter crash / the house exploding, leaving Silva to find M in a nearby chapel, already mortally wounded from the chaos. He tries to kill himself and M at the same time but he’s killed by Bond before he can do so, dying without getting his direct revenge but still being responsible for her death regardless as M soon passes in Bond’s arms. We then get some good old fashioned Bond stuff, including him talking to Moneypenny (who has decided to stay off active duty) and meeting the new M, the aforementioned Gareth Mallory, in an office very much like the M meeting room from the first bunch of films. Then, and only then, do we get the gun barrel sequence to lead us into the credits…
Silva reminisces about the times he wasn’t insane…. then decides they were boring anyway! Hooray!
As mentioned I find it’s far too long. It’s already nearly the length of Quantum of Solace before we even meet Silva, and by the time all the guns and explosions are going off at Bond’s house I just find myself mentally checked out. It’s an odd one because I’ve watched films of similar or longer runtimes that don’t make me do that, but this one does. I guess I just don’t connect with the plot and characters enough.
I know the idea is that Silva wanted to look at M face-to-face and tell his story before he kills her, but man his whole plan is WAY too convoluted. He explodes MI6 HQ because he knew they’d retreat to the underground bunker then got himself captured by slowly leading Bond to his island and allowing him to call in MI6, then escaped the bunker by crippling their computers and escaping straight into the Underground where he had a police uniform waiting along with some armed men all so he can burst into a courtroom as a police officer and kill M while she’s on trial for losing a list in an incident he also devised. Blimey O’Reilly, there had to be an easier way to do that with less variables that could’ve gone wrong. I mean don’t get me wrong, we’ve seen more convoluted plots in the past, but with the more grounded atmosphere it stands out quite a bit.
Also two movies from his first ever mission and Bond is back to being called too old for the job and a fossil. Damn, how much time passed between Quantum and this?!
M is not impressed with how little she’s appeared in screenshots on this blog. Sorry, I only do four per film, ma’am!
I do enjoy most of Skyfall, it has some great set pieces and a really charismatic villain but some pacing issues hold it back for me. Casino Royale is still the best Craig film in my eyes, though Skyfall is miles ahead of the films before and after it…