Chasing Spectres: Revisiting Skyfall

Richard prepares for Bond’s next adventure with a reprieve of the last. Does Sam Mendes’ first crack at 007 – and his villain – still cut it?

So, I watched Skyfall again and have been organising my thoughts on it. Overall, I liked the story, it was interesting to see the filmmakers going a bit deeper into Bond’s psyche and really getting into the meat of what 007 is about, and Daniel Craig as always had the acting chops to pull it off. There will always be critics of Craig, but I will stay firmly in the camp who thinks he is doing a great job as the character.

Judi Dench gave what was her last and probably best performance as M. Sure, her presence in these films doesn’t really make much sense from a continuity standpoint, since she was M during the Pierce Brosnan era, and this probably just adds more fire to the silly “Code Name Theory,” but it was still Dench as M. Never afraid to show her authority and, even when MI6’s position as a functional and reliable agency is called into doubt, she never backs down, making it clear that as long as she’s head of the double-0 department, she will do whatever it takes to get the job done.

Another thing that the film really excels at is the action scenes. They are all different and staged exceptionally well. I especially like the opening chase in Turkey; its intense, doesn’t feel as though it goes on for too long, and it’s easily one of the best openings to a Bond movie ever.

Overall, Skyfall has great characters, a great story, and solid action scenes, and in my opinion, made Bond more popular than ever before. Sam Mendes does a great job behind the camera, directing his actors with confidence and filming his set-pieces with flair and, dare I say it, a bit of creativity. Which is much better compared to the messy and incomprehensible action that Marc Forster filmed for Quantum of Solace, but the less said about that film the better.

Skyfall slips up for me, though, in one crucial department. It’s not a complete dealbreaker, but it’s a significant problem which I feel needs to be addressed: Javier Bardem’s villain. I remember when Skyfall first came out and people were talking about how threatening and dark Silva was, but honestly, after rewatching the film this time around, I was wondering just what Silva’s deal was. In my opinion, the best villain of the new era of Bond films so far is Le Chiffre. He had a foreboding presence and displayed that he would go to any lengths to get what he wanted, including torturing Bond by quite literally whacking him in the crown jewels with a rope. I also think Alec in GoldenEye was a brilliant aggressor since he was a former friend and comrade of Bond’s, which meant he knew everything about 007, including his strengths and weaknesses. This meant he was capable of really pushing Bond’s buttons and even proved to be his physical equal in a fistfight. Silva comes off to me as over-the-top and (purposely) campy, which was something I thought the producers of the series were trying hard to steer us away from after the increasingly-bombastic and ridiculous Brosnan films began to have villains who were throwbacks to the Roger Moore era; when the antagonists were cartoony and didn’t seem formidable at all.

I know that Skyfall is a movie which basically celebrated fifty years of Bond with all kinds of small nods and winks to the previous films, some of them subtle and clever (oh, it’s the classic Aston Martin!), and some of them not so subtle and clever (“Well, what did you expect, an exploding pen?”). But if Silva was meant to be an homage to previous OTT villains, I have to say he’s one I don’t particularly like very much. A baddie of a Bond movie can either make or break the experience for me, and Silva does make my eyes roll at times. Like, why the hell did he feel up Bond’s chest and legs? Plus, he doesn’t really do anything to 007 other than kidnap him once, tie him up, then untie him and challenge him to some bizarre shooting duel. As far as I can work out, Silva’s entire motivation is to get revenge on M for some… reason… but it’s never explained that well. How he managed to survive swallowing his cyanide pill after M sold him out, too, I have no idea. To be fair, some of his motivation is explained well, but what we are told isn’t that interesting and I never find myself that invested in Silva’s machinations. I always know in the back of my mind that there’s no way this guy would ever be able to beat James Bond.

Here’s hoping that Spectre can give us a more compelling and threatening foe, and I am mostly certain that Christoph Waltz will be playing Ernst Stavros Blofeld, whom we have not seen since 1981’s For Your Eyes Only when he was unceremoniously dropped down a chimney stack by Mr. Moore.

Richard Bal

My name is Richard, I like beer, heavy metal and movies, but maybe not necessarily in that order.

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