Casino Royale was a corker, while Quantum of Solace was lacking any real direction, so all hopes were high for the 50th Anniversary movie, Skyfall.
And my hopes were proved right up until the opening credits as we were given one of the most outstanding opening sequences, involving cars being pushed off a train, James Bond (Daniel Craig) climbing along a crane to “change carriages”, as he informs the office, and eventually getting shot off the top of a train in a scene that’s been played many times on TV in the hype-filled run-up to this movie’s release.
And while there was a lot of fun to be had in this opening, the fact we’d seen so much of it beforehand was also one of its downfalls because it reminded me a lot of 1993’s The Fugitive where the trailer featured four major action sequences, causing me to think, “Wow! If that’s just what’s in the trailer, how much more is in the film?!”, and when I saw the film, I realised it was just those scenes plus two hours of guff. This is an important lesson to be learned.
So, onto the plot, and, well, there wasn’t much of one. Bond’s task here isn’t to take down a major baddie intent on world domination, there’s just the rather limp threat of a hard drive having gone missing, containing a lot of double-0 agents’ names. The baddie involved with this is Patrice (Ola Rapace) – and I’ve described that the opening is a great one – but, on the plus side about what follows, there follows a rather wonderful fight scene in a high-up building in Shanghai. Oh, and it also has a great opening sequence, the best one we’ve had in over ten years, in fact, probably since 1995’s Goldeneye.
So, the problems…
Well, the main one is that it took way too long for Javier Bardem to turn up as the main baddie, Silva. I realised he was clearly missing because by that point Skyfall felt like it was treading water for longer than it should. Checking the time, I noticed the film was precisely halfway done by the point he arrived, which was exactly the problem I had with 1999’s The World Is Not Enough, when Robert Carlyle took a full hour before he deemed fit to show up as Renard.
However, at least he was very ‘mental, mental, chicken oriental’, while Bardem was as subdued as a shy child by comparison. I thought he was going to be far more maniacal, given the hype. Local rag Metro even boasted about how Silva had a nod to Jaws but it was nothing at all to write home about. And, in similar ‘Fugitive’ style, his two big scenes had been played out many times as the hype machine went into overdrive.
Another problem came when director Sam Mendes and the production crew tried too much to evoke the older films with the slowed down moments, especially in the bedroom when Bond bonks Bérénice Marlohe, aka Sévérine, a woman who’s relevance was quickly forgotten. And not only did these nostalgic moments cause the film to drag, but they also came at the expense of giving the film nothing else to do.
Cast-wise, much is made of M’s (Judi Dench) past coming back to haunt her, but as the film limped along, I was past caring. It wasn’t any kind of exciting revelation. I’ve never fancied Naomie Harris, so her turn as agent Eve did nothing for me, neither did ol’ Bernie as I prefer women to be around 5’4 or under, whereas she is 5’9. Ben Whishaw put in a decent turn as new Q, and who seemed to get more of an engaging role than most, while one of the oldest stars pops up briefly, a silver-birch Aston Martin DB5 with the original registration BMT 216A.
Keeping this at a child-friendly 12A certificate means it loses some potential cool violent moments, such as someone suffering a gunshot to the head, while another person gets a boot full in the face, but these feel somewhat muted in this presentation. I didn’t realise at the time that Casino Royale had a 15-rated version available for it, but we’ve only been given the 12-cert version until recently. What a shame. The BBFC site states that the 12A version of the latest Bond film has had no cuts made. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the studio hasn’t pre-cut it, however, and can just as easily release a stronger version further down the line, no doubt just in time for Bond 24.
Overall, then, especially following all the hype, Skyfall was very much a disappointment that long outstays its welcome and makes me wish I hadn’t berated Quantum of Solace for being only 106 minutes, when this one could easily have had a good 20-30 minutes chopped out.
Running time: 143 minutes
Released: October 26th 2012
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (ARRIRAW (2.8K))
Viewed at: Odeon Cinema, Trafford Centre
Director: Sam Mendes
Producers: Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson
Screenplay: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan
Music: Thomas Newman
James Bond: Daniel Craig
M: Judi Dench
Silva: Javier Bardem
Gareth Mallory: Ralph Fiennes
Eve: Naomie Harris
Sévérine: Bérénice Marlohe
Kincade: Albert Finney
Q: Ben Whishaw
Tanner: Rory Kinnear
Patrice: Ola Rapace
Clair Dowar MP: Helen McCrory
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.