Frustrating. Exhilarating. Confused. Mesmerized. The polarizing experience
that was Skyfall is a film that toyed with my emotions and my patience, leading me to a place where I rarely find myself: a non-reviewable film. Don’t worry readers, I will by the end of this review, give it some sort of grade, but it’s hard to really pinpoint my overall impressions of the latest installment of the James Bond series, just like it was hard to pinpoint what the purpose of Skyfall really was.
James Bond is a character that has lived through a few generations to say the least. It’s a figure that men wish they were and women wish they were with, but in general, people adore Bond. From his smooth words to his reactionary skills as a spy, there’s no other individual like 007. That’s why ever since Daniel Craig has taken over the role, the direction of the entire franchise has changed. Casino Royale completely disarrayed the systematic production, going from brunette to blonde, smooth to rigid, graceful to brutal. Ignoring the failure which we call Quantum of Solace, Skyfall is the return of the Bond that used to be, but not really. Starting off with an amazing motorcycle chase scene that showcases our hero maneuvering on roofs and instilling his inner construction pedigree, we witness something we rarely have ever seen in the 50 years of Bond: he gets killed.
But in reality, we know he’s not dead. But what’s more important than the death of Bond is the hard drive MI6 has lost as it contains the identities of all their MI6 agents currently out in the field. The loss of this information raises questions on M (Judi Dench) and her abilities to continue her post effectively. As Bond comes back from making sweet love and playing drinking games with dangerous insects, both are reunited with the pondering question looming, “have they lost a step?” This is an important part of Skyfall, because this is where our characters begin their struggle. If anything, this Bond shows weakness, struggle and inner pain. Betrayal and loss is not something anyone can handle easily, even if it is 007. We are given an opportunity to find the humanity in James Bond, being revealed of his past and his introduction to M and the field he devotes his life for everyday. It’s a fresh take to Skyfall that is very appreciative, because that’s how the protagonist and antagonist are connected.
Comparing Bond films is almost impossible because there are so many variations and variables that you have account for including the culture, the production and especially the kind of Bond we are witnessing. But if there’s one way you can compare Bond films is through its villains. Evil will always be timeless. And a great villain will be remembered, and in Silva, played by the great Javier Bardem, we find one of the best villains in recent Bond memory. Intelligent, exuberant, clearly illustrious with his attraction to James, he is a character we’ve never seen before, and we thank the writers for creating such a staggering individual. His motives are more understandable than your stereotypical evil douchebag in ruling the world, but rather revenge and fulfilling those painful holes. I won’t go into detail of Silva’s focus, but let’s just say he’s had a relationship with M.
And this is where my frustrations with Skyfall start. It doesn’t necessarily know what it’s trying to be. There are two main themes that are constantly fighting to take center stage. First, we have old school vs. new school that’s clearly evident throughout the film. We have both serious and non-serious moments where its clear the film is trying to have conversations with this idea. Can James Bond be timeless? Does it have to stay progressive and forever forward with its methods, ideas and abilities to continue to fight and save the world? Can Bond stay true to who he is but still be effective? There are so many references to past Bonds that many of this new generation’s fans won’t recognize. Me being one of them, it lost its effectiveness when it refused to stop piling on the notion that old school can still be cool. We understand that the context of this discussion does not just refer to Bond, but in life in general. But it seemed like the writers really tried to push this agenda when it didn’t feel natural at all. Not because it didn’t fit the film overall, but because of the other theme it was lined up with.
It’s clear why the film is entitled Skyfall. I won‘t say why because it would be a major spoiler, but you can see the importance of origin and where our biggest pain lies within. It’s what drives an individual into becoming the person he or she eventually will be, and how we deal with that sort of underground torture is the path our lives will take. Bond and Silva both experienced something similar in that M somewhat betrayed them. Both clearly had issues overcoming choices M made while being on the field, but they take completely different paths. Bardem is not our conventional delusional psychopath, he’s a sensitive and emotional savaged psychopath, who also is really good with a computer. But he’s ruthless for a reason. His anger goes straight to M and what she did to him. In the same way, Bond has similar motivation, but it has been channeled in a completely different way. You can tell that this is not your usual Bond.
And so why is it that the film eventually just became one big oxymoron with two themes that contradict one another? Are they trying to state that our past is something we must move on from like Bond did, or should we let it be part of our lives and our true identity as Silva has? Should we let our old school influence our new school or should we completely separate both ideas? That’s why it’s so hard to decide where I lean on Skyfall. I appreciate it’s ideology. The balance of progress with tradition. But it’s so complicated and sputtered that no clear conscious would truly understand the message or the purpose (especially at a midnight screening). All it really does is confuse, and that’s not necessarily why people buy tickets for 007.
There are so many good things in Skyfall. The additions of Q and his interactions with James Bond, the beautiful cinematography from Roger Deakins and just the overall feel and context of the film but in the end, it can’t answer its own question. What’s more important? The old or new? Those who love this film seem to be those who support the older Bond traditions while the newer Bond additions seem to correlate better with Casino Royale. But Skyfall is not Casino Royale. Skyfall’s eventual downfall is that it loses itself by not having an identity to take upon. But hey, at least it’s not Quantum of Solace.
Skyfall gets 2 1/2 stars out of 5 (For now as I couldn’t come to a complete conclusion).