Casino Royale wasn’t a Bond film. I’m talking about the more recent Casino Royale, the fantastic film that introduced us to Daniel Craig’s brilliant version of Bond. The film that managed to pull Bond into the 21st century after the franchise had become a joke and a cliché.
That’s why Casino Royale wasn’t a “proper” Bond film. To reinvent Bond for the (I hate to say it) Bourne generation, you had to remove the raised eyebrow, the drink, the gadgets, the same tried and tested formula and even, in the most extreme cut of all, the Bond theme itself. It was a genius move. Call it the beginning of Bond and use it to wash out the taste of Die Another Day.
Unfortunately, trying to sustain that a Bond franchise which would rather be shaky cam and quick-cuts than Vodka-Martinis and Walter PPK’s means you end up with the messy Quantum of Solace. You also have the issue of trying to keep a 50-year-old character relevant and modern while celebrating that impressive 50 year landmark. So what do you do?
You hand the franchise over to Sam Mendes apparently. You take the formula and cliché that have been long associated with Bond, and to some extent probably began to kill the series, and you use them more as “subtle nods” and “in-jokes.” Skyfall is a fantastic example of how you reinvent a franchise by simply refreshing or twisting what made the franchise last 50 years in the first place.
A younger Q, a more sparse but effective use of the Bond theme, a great use of that car are all fantastic ways of showing the audience, particularly the Bond faithful audience, that reinventing does not mean forgetting. Skyfall feels like the first “proper” Bond film since The World is Not Enough (which is 13 years ago!)
Of course, the second part of that success is maintaining what made Casino Royale such a brilliant reboot for the character. The film still has the dark edge and tone that began to fade. It has some fantastic set-pieces interwoven into a brilliant and logical story. It also has Daniel Craig, who couldn’t look more comfortable as Bond and is now managing to pull of some of the “one-liners” and quips that were sorely missing from his earlier films. I won’t say Craig is the best Bond but he actually feels like a true Bond now.
The familiar set-pieces, the theme and that infamous line won’t get you very far if you don’t give Bond a suitable villain and Javier Bardem’s Silva is a great choice. Bardem plays terrifying better than most anyway, so give him a vendetta and a deadly ability with computers and you have a match for a 21st century James Bond. Silva even has a nice, subtle, facial “deformity,” placing him amongst other visually striking villains and yet again giving the audience a slight nod to what has gone before.
A great Bond, a fantastic villain, the return of some of the more traditional elements and Judi Dench on classic, reliable form as M doesn’t quite make for a perfect film though. Skyfall was designed to celebrate the history of Bond, this is apparent to even the most casual fan, but in doing that, the story suffers slightly. Bond films should get bigger and bigger as the movie progresses, reaching a huge, explosive finale and while there are definitely explosions, the end doesn’t really justify the build-up. The final act seems to stall, trying to hard to recognise where Bond has come from and give the character some unneccessary depth.
In trying to make the final part of the movie, the moment when Bond would usually confront the villain during some amazing set-piece, a more personal, intimate affair, the film loses its momentum and consequently, Silva loses the threatening edge that is present through the rest of the film.
It’s a small complaint though and doesn’t change the fact that Skyfall proves that Bond can exist in a post-Bourne movie-world and not have to sacrifice the drink, the famous line and the amazing theme to do it.
Overall, Skyfall is Daniel Craig’s first “proper” Bond film and the first “proper” Bond film since 1999. It has the action, the tuxedo, the drink, the line and the theme song, all things sorely missing from the last two entries into the franchise. Although it has its fault, you couldn’t get a much better film to celebrate a franchise that has existed for 50 years.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)