by Ollie Velasco
With the anticipation of millions of Bond fans across the globe, all expecting and desperately hoping for something spectacular to mark 50 years of Bond, the pressure on the team behind Skyfall has been immense. However, Sam Mendes, the Oscar-winning director calling the shots on the latest instalment in the superspy series, fans can now rest well assured that he has created a critically acclaimed, record breaking (probably) winner. Skyfall is brilliant.
Four years ago, Quantum of Solace was the series’ midlife crisis; it was silly, too flashy, and more ‘Bourne’ than ‘Bond’. Thankfully the 23rd Bond film simply ignores the events in the last film and focuses on Bond later on in his career. I’m not going to describe the plot because a) you probably already know what it’s about or b) you want it to be a surprise. I’m not going to include any spoilers, but it’s safe to say that the story is modern, original and relevant to today’s society.
First and foremost, Skyfall pays homage to the Bond series. Q makes a return, this time in a younger and geekier form played by Ben Wishaw. He makes a more realistic quartermaster than the edge-of-retirement Qs from the older films and adds a good touch of comedic value to the role. The stunning (I’m unbiased) Aston Martin DB5 that was seen originally in Goldfinger once again features, though this time more prominently than in Casino Royale. The pre-title sequence is thrilling and makes for a smart introduction to the film. The title sequence is slightly surreal but links in with the film, and Adele’s powerful theme song couples with it to make it one of the best openings in the series. Oh, and Bond’s one-liners are as good as ever.
The only criticism I’ve heard that has any worth is in relation to the product placement in Skyfall. There is a lot of it. What many fail to realise, however, is that product placement is as much a part of the Bond franchise as are beautiful women and fast cars. It adds a sense of realism to Bond and this dates back to Ian Fleming’s original books as well. In flicking briefly through Casino Royale, Bentley, Gordon’s, Citroen and Peugeot were just a few of the brands that I found. And sure, Heineken did hand over £28M for the privilege of Bond sipping their drink in the film, and it is a little obviously staged, but I would much rather that than no Bond film at all – especially after MGM’s financial trouble in 2010.
Apart from Daniel Craig, the real stars of the film are Javier Bardem, who plays the villain ‘Silva’, and Dame Judi Dench, who reprises her role as ‘M’. Silva isn’t a conventional Bond villain; he’s far too chilling and fixed on personal revenge. This only adds to the role (which Bardem plays superbly), and, whilst there are echoes of his psychopathic antagonist in 2008’s No Country For Old Men (as well as similarities with Heath Ledger’s portrayal of The Joker in The Dark Knight), there is a good deal of originality. Added to this is the fact that you can see the character’s point of view and why he wants revenge, creating one of the most memorable Bond villains. M plays a significant part in Skyfall, and Dench finally gets a chance to explore her character as the struggling leader of MI6, under attack from her own superiors in England as well as from external forces.
A few weeks ago I wrote an article for Portsmouth Point explaining why I thought that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was the best Bond film. One of the main reasons I gave was that it invoked an emotional response from the audience and at least tried to focus on the more human elements of Bond. Skyfall does all this and more. It connects with the viewer and takes them on a journey, a mission. A perfect Bond film.