Skyfall

Skyfall ★★★★½

I want to start by saying that I was surprised how much I felt this held up despite me multiple times throughout this retrospective referencing it as a film that’s not deserving of some of the less than stellar condemnations I’ve seen towards it in recent years. I genuinely believed I would have come down at least slightly more on this rather then actually end up feeling more favorably towards it. Sam Mendes is actually a filmmaker I’m not too fond of on a certain level, there’s neither anything truly impressive about his work or anything particularly irksome about it. He’s as middle brow as middle brow cinema gets, and frankly I see nothing wrong with that even if I’d like to see him grow into something more compelling. Skyfall is often compared to The Dark Knight and it’s easy to understand why. What it is to that is what that film is to Michael Mann’s Heat. In terms of chronological release, you could easily argue it’s a declining scale of quality, but that’s not to say each film doesn’t have its own unique values. I wouldn’t have started this review claiming it held up so well and actually improved for me if I didn’t believe so. Mendes takes the tone and sensibilities of Nolan’s second entry in his Batman trilogy as a blueprint for how to approach cinematic material 50 years after its initial creation. This is actually nothing new for the franchise as a previously mentioned point I’ve discussed is it’s similar relative function within the series comparatively to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Again as I’ve said, both films view the series from a somewhat detached distance, examine it under a microscope almost cynically and with an air of self importance, all while showing a deep reverence for it with frequent moments of celebratory indulgence.

Majesty did this at the time with less than a decade long history to work with, so it shouldn’t be a surprise nor a valid critique of the film that after half a century they would attempt something similar. It was the appropriate move. Now this move of course is predictable and not the most interesting direction to have taken things as the unintentional or not experimental qualities of Quantum had shown. There was a potential to expand on some of what that was doing which based on the general reaction to it won’t be something we will be seeing again anytime soon. Regardless the Bond film we got was possibly what could be described as the necessary one and the one I believed should have been the final conclusion to the series as a whole. Mendes is able to use his formal talents backed up with the prestigious visual eye of Roger Deakins to create a picture that speaks through its sense of gravity. Now something which has plagued Mendes career is that this air of gravity never has the kind of intellectual weight it usually needs to match it. This isn’t smart, there’s almost nothing here, but there doesn’t need to be. That sense of gravity remains and while the weight is never complimented by anything that stimulates my mind or peaks my curiosity, it still holds me down emotionally and pierces my heart. A decade of similar films with an unhealthy addiction to lacing themselves with shallow intertextuality would crush any goodwill this sort of exercise had when it was released. This ought to have been the grand finale that got out unscathed.

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