Okay, I've been watching a Craig-era film every other Thursday leading up to NTTD's release on 30 September. Next up was Skyfall: Mummy's Boys The Movie
! Again, I hadn't seen SF since October 2013. So I was very hyped to see it.
I was a bit disappointed after QOS, so imagine how happy I was that SF restored my faith. It's really rather terrific.....
This film undeniably qualifies as a 'modern classic.' It feels both like an update on the old formula but also distinctly modern. This is a movie so effortlessly and thoughtfully directed by Sam Mendes. Furthermore, it isn't afraid to delve into the Bond mythology and actually be subversive. In many respects, it isn't really a Bond movie
, it feels more like a bespoke thoughtful blockbuster - akin to the work of Denis Villenueve or Christopher Nolan. If you like action, you'll probably not like this more talky film. In this respect, SF is more rich in terms of character detail and story than action or special effects. Mendes is helped by a never better script - it's probably the best written Bond film.
However, whilst SF breaks the Bond formula it still remains true to its essential beats. Without sacrificing action or overall energy, Mendes puts the actors at the forefront, exploring their complex emotional states in ways the franchise has never before dared. Daniel Craig now absolutely owns Bond. This is a new Bond, ageing, vulnerable and off his game and Craig gets some new notes to play for the character, and does as reliably and excellently as he did in the two previous entries. There are some hints even of Richard Burton's Alec Leamas to the broken Bond reintroduced here. There's a dogged and ugly quality to him. 007 now fits Daniel Craig like a glove.
But make no mistake this is film really belongs to Judi Dench. She has a real character to play this time out, as M now faces the prospect that her own methods may be extinct. There is some very enjoyable Whitehall intrigue as M's competency is questioned. M is a resilient tough matriarch, who makes some pretty horrendous judgement calls - which rightly come back to haunt her. I think it's fascinating that some of the tougher decisions she has to make as the head of MI6 portray her as heartless. Judi Dench, as usual, makes the most of the opportunity, investing her authority role with great dignity undercut with a touch of insecurity and remorse. M will never say it aloud, but Mendes lingers on Dench's face long enough for us to see that she never truly believes her own bluster and that beneath there are pangs of regret lurking. She also has great understated chemistry with Craig.
Which brings us to Javier Bardem's Silva, who is actually half persuasive and half lunatic. It's a fabulously flamboyant role and exactly what the movie needs. He's charismatic and vile. His first scene with Bond is a great flirtation, one-upmanship sequence for the ages. Beyond the more grotesque 'Bond villain' accoutrements, he too gets a real character to play. Someone wounded by M and now intent to embarrass and destroy her and MI6. M someone with a lot of emotional power over her agents. I enjoyed that M can hardly remember Silva, which got me thinking about all the slights we commit to others without knowing. Basically, be careful who you piss off....
What I really like is that this is a film about a Bond who is both physically and psychologically wounded. I never really appreciated the finale at Skyfall till rewatching it yesterday (not least because Albert Finney's appearance is like getting a nice warm hug). It's an unusual, but certainly not unwelcome plot development. I had to pause it to take a beat to think of the resonance of Bond returning to that house - the root of his childhood trauma. The film doesn't hit you over the head with the meaning of it. But the significance has a residual impact. It gives the film an added layer of depth. Especially in his dialogue scenes with M - where the pair never really tell the other how they feel. They are both very British in that respect. If Citizen Kane had his Rosebud, then Bond has his Skyfall....
I kinda have to search for things I didn't really like about the film...I suppose I thought it was a bit of a shame that the whole 'broken 007' angle was seemingly dropped by the time Bond is in action, with almost all his issues disappearing (though I think you could mount an argument that Bond is off game throughout the entire film). The London chase is a bit pants (though, again, I was much more invested in the characters and dialogue than the chases). The kimono dragon scene is a dud and feels like a deleted scene from a bad Roger Moore-era film. Oh...I also think Craig's hair is too short. That's kinda it.
In the technical categories, Roger Deakins renders the imagery so freshly that you’d think you were seeing a Bond film for the first time. There are some images in this film which really made me catch my breath. He also shoots London in a very real and sincere way. Thomas Newman's score is also excellent - I don't care what the naysayers think - he's better than David Arnold (mainly as he's doing something new and not aping John Barry's style).
All in all, I really loved this film. Sam Mendes can take a bow. In fact, I'm somewhat tempted to watch it all over again immediately. SF is a 'modern classic.' Bravo, Mr Mendes