Movie Review: Skyfall
By Matthew Huntley
November 19, 2012
Over the past few years, Hollywood has gradually shifted toward an age of darkness and cynicism, deliberately taking the lighthearted joy out of its stories. It’s gotten to the point where it’s no longer fun to be the hero. Pleasure and amusement have been replaced by depression and melancholy. Just look at the plethora of comic book movies out there, most notably Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight series. What a burden it would be to be Batman.
Is Hollywood reflecting society’s current state of mind or is it the other way around? Or is the one-two punch of painful and realistic simply the “latest thing”? Whatever the sociological explanation, or when it started, who’s to say, but the trend has now infused itself into the James Bond franchise.
Skyfall is the 23rd film in the 50-year-old Bond series and it’s also one of the darkest, if not the darkest. Though we saw it coming over the last two pictures - Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace - Bond has officially traded in his laser pen and other fun gadgets for simpler, more bare-handed weaponry like shot guns and hunting knives. Just as Nolan did with Batman, the makers of Skyfall want to lend James Bond a greater level of plausibility. It no longer sees its characters or action as cartoonish and over-the-top, but grounded, serious and threatening. Whether this approach to the world of James Bond works for you is a matter of personal taste, but no matter how you look at it, Skyfall is a superb action thriller, even if it does relinquish some of the typical “Bond movie” characteristics.
Daniel Craig returns as 007, whose latest adventure kicks off immediately when he and another MI6 operative (Naomie Harris), who will remain nameless so as not to spoil a small surprise, chase a bearded bad guy around Istanbul who’s just stolen an important hard drive. Then again, don’t they always steal an important hard drive?
This particular piece of hardware contains a list of all the active NATO agents currently undercover throughout the world. Should this information fall into the wrong hands…well, you know the drill. In short, it would be catastrophic.
That’s why Bond will stop at nothing - including riding a motorcycle across Istanbul’s narrow rooftops; crashing through windows; and operating a crane on a speeding train - to retrieve it. As he’s doing this, he and his fellow operative are communicating with the head of MI6, the fractious M (Judi Dench), via radio. When the female agent gets an unclean shot to take out the villain, who’s being obscured by Bond, M orders her to “take the bloody shot.” The bullet hits Bond instead, sending him into the river below. He turns up three months later, after MI6 becomes the target of a terrorist attack and a handful of agents end up dead. Just before the tragic incident, MI6’s security chairman, Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), was informing M that he and the Prime Minister expect her resignation since the coveted NATO list is still out there.