Skyfall? An Ambivalent Review

Warning – there are spoilers in this review.

Here is my slightly belated review of Skyfall. I like my Bond films. I can’t say I’m an expert, but I can say I’ve seen all of them in chronological order of their release and most of them I have watched several times. So it was obvious Darling-Chéri and I were going to watch Skyfall at launch and we booked our tickets three weeks early and stuck to it even though I had an awards ceremony lunch and party to attend for work that same day (we didn’t win anything but lunch was nice and the wine was free).

In the build-up to the release, I tried to stay away from reviews, trailers and adverts for Skyfall. I like to sit there and let the film take me where it wants, even though choosing a film just based on a title, a poster or the cast can be a risky strategy. So going into the cinema that Friday, I knew almost nothing of the story. But inevitably, I had heard in the last couple of days that this was the best of the Craig Bonds, and that Javier Bardem could be one of the best Bond villains ever. Well… Truth is, for me, neither of those statements were true. There. I said it.

What the film didn’t do that well

The pace The film starts reasonably full on, exotic locations, chases, fight scene in a casino. I thought that’s it, we’re back! The exuberant yet smooth James Bond. And then the studio ran out of money. And the film became a much more introverted, slow-moving beast. And right up to the last fight, as if frozen by the cold Scottish air, the pace never really seemed to recover.

The sexiness It’s a fine balance to strike: the macho sex machine side of James Bond, in a modern world where it’s been (finally) recognised that we can’t really objectify women the way we used to. I thought Casino Royale had it with Vesper. While Skyfall starts well, with exotic locations and a pretty James Bond girl, it all dries up rather quickly and we are left with Dame Judi Dench’s complex relationship with her former and her current protégés. The rest of the cast doesn’t really ooze sexiness either, but then it’s not really their role. There is a bit of missed opportunity for more tongue-in-cheek flirt with Miss Moneypenny, hopefully this will build up in time.

The bad guy Granted, Javier Bardem is very credible as this slightly demented villain. But the choice of a bitter ex-employee with a grudge and a loose screw as the baddie feels weak for a Bond film. Even when the man is wild enough to blow up a tube station. He still had nothing on Le Chiffre, Goldfinger or Fransisco Scaramanga.

The women I have read some rather negative opinions about the role of women in this film, one having become overwhelmed by the job and making all the wrong decisions; another turning out to be a good field agent yet choosing a desk job; the last one being mostly insignificant (I’ll let you guess who’s who). I can’t say it shocked me when I watched the film but in hindsight there is a bit of truth in this.

Saying that, and removing my James Bond expectations from the equation, I did enjoy the film.

What the film did well:

The references Dotted throughout the film were a number of nice tributes to the classic Bond films. A few moments where you’d go, “Ah. I see what they’ve done there”.

The camera work There is a lot of love for the characters. It is very well filmed, with some beautiful shots that really show off the locations, the characters and the emotion.

Appealing to a broader audienceWell one cannot deny that James Bond can alienate people. Cheesy, macho, with far-fetched storylines and unrealistic action sequences… Not everybody’s cup of tea. And I guess that’s the flipside of Skyfall not being a typical Bond – it is likely to be enjoyed by more people!

Setting up the next one Bringing on a new M, a new Q, a new Moneypenny and fine-tuning Daniel Craig’s James Bond a bit was probably needed. It’s now done. With all the characters now in place, we’re ready and excited for the next film.

The bottom line

I thought it was a strange Bond film. It didn’t really match my idea of what should be in there. However, and I know it probably doesn’t look it here, but I would watch Skyfall again. It is well put together and it feels like there’s a good chance the film will grow on me. A bit ambivalent then.

How about you? Have you seen it? What did you think?