Movie Review: Skyfall
By Matthew Huntley
November 19, 2012
But M will be damned if she’s going to retire before finding out who struck them, so she immediately puts Bond back on active service, even if his fitness is questionable and he’s still angry that she gave the go-ahead to essentially kill him. But it just goes to show Bond is willing to put his country and duty before all else. Perhaps his austere disposition stems from his still unresolved traumatic childhood, which we finally learn more about after all these years.
And while Bond may not be able to hold a grudge, the diabolical Raoul Silva (a blond Javier Barden) sure can. He’s a former MI6 agent who wants revenge after M left him to die in the field, even if she does have a worthy excuse. We come to learn Silva is the man behind the attack, which only marks the beginning of his intricate, masterminded plan to impose harm on M and the entire British Secret Service.
Bardem never finds the wrong note as Silva, playing him with a devilish charm and latent femininity, traits that are sure to make him go down as one of the great Bond villains. Bardem’s facial reactions and expressions are so distinct and memorable, they could earn him another well-deserved Best Supporting Actor nomination. I mean, why not?
As is par for the course, not only for Bond movies, but all action pictures, Skyfall throws in its fair share of elaborate chase scenes, explosions, stand-offs, and moments of sensuality, courtesy of Bond’s short-lived romance with one of Silva’s employees, Sévérine (Bérénice Lim Marlohe). But these aren’t of the usual Bond variety; they’re more gritty and realistic (or as realistic as a movie like this can get). That seems to be the intent of director Sam Mendes: to suggest James Bond could actually exist in our world, and while his approach works, aren’t Bond’s classic idiosyncrasies - the use of toys to free himself from life and death situations; the playful sexuality; the zippy one-liners - the things that makes him who he is? Does the series have to take a raw turn? Granted, the story is well told and we see the characters as people who are capable of poignancy, but all this could have been applied to another action movie just the same. I think I’d rather see Bond stick with his own traditions simply because they are exclusive to him; they’re what make him special.
With that said, Skyfall is still a very good movie. It’s not the most original - one could argue the climax alone, which manages to utilize Albert Finney in a small role, borrows from Home Alone - but the presentation as a whole is fast, exciting, coherent and made, unsurprisingly, with the utmost production values. It’s a great-looking picture, too - sharp, colorful and picturesque with all its stunning shots of cityscapes. Action movie fans will have little cause for complaint and even though Bond aficionados will appreciate the harsher shift the series has taken from its usual polished one, I think by the time the 24th film comes along, they’ll want the classic Bond back, if only for tradition’s sake.
I do have one complaint: the opening chase scene shows Bond and the other agent are willing to do whatever it takes to recover the stolen NATO list, even if that means running over or shooting innocent bystanders and/or smashing into other cars and knocking over fruit stands (how many times have we seen that before?!). I know this is just a movie, but what kind of message does it send that so long as the good guys get what they need, any amount of collateral damage is okay? It’s ironic that what the heroes are doing is all in the name of saving lives since they seem to have no trouble taking or disrupting them in order to carry out their mission. It’s worth thinking about is all, because I’d hate to think is an accurate reflection of our real-life attitude toward matters of national security.