Raphael Georg Klopper’s review published on Letterboxd:
From all the actors that played James Bond over the course of its filmmaking existence and each of their film cycles dominance eras, I gotta say…the continuity of Daniel Craig's Bond is kind of messy up to this point. And I know I said it that each film of the franchise should be their own thing, and that Quantum of Solace kind of broke that by being a uneven direct sequel to Casino Royale, and fair enough Skyfall is "restarting" its focus to be its own thing and movie fairly quite well. But if your previous two films settled upon that idea of progressive continuation, you should've kept it going towards new goals, which it does, but in a weird condensation of time for Bond and his time as 007.
Casino was his origin story, of a younger selfless Bond, impulsive by instinct and out of control, who eventually during the challenges, risks and losses of his very first mission as a 00 agent, learns to tame his ego and self-control to become the Bond we all know, the pitch perfect origin ever given to the character! Then came Quantum that was the direct continuation of that origin telling a needless story to add empty layers to an already perfect one and re-re-introduce Bond after a revenge breakdown, so ok Craig's Bond by then was still an young operative with a bright potential future ahead of him. But them no, not anymore it seems, he's now here in Skyfall an old grizzled fool getting back on the game after being abruptly taken out of it.
A Bond putted in place of being a man stuck in the past and having to adapt to modern times and the molds of operative action amid political complexities of his missions and in the results of each one. It is him being treated as if he had been Bond for years, and we have not seen any of this, feeling more like as if he were watching the Bond of Pierce Brosnan and not the Bond of Craig that we had been watching and following in these last few films. A development move so abrupt that it seems that we lost a whole film or two between this one and the last ones we had with Craig up until now to really get his story and lore being developed and felt in progressive manner.
I get that a lot of this comes from a marketing issue and how much Quantum had left a taste that didn't seem palatable or attractive nor with audiences nor to continue interested in the next potential films, so they had to pull the same card from the sleeve, to redefine Bond AGAIN in cinema to arouse interest in the character and his universe one more time. But, if is going in a direction that will work, why fix it or complain about it right?! After all this maybe was ought to be good movie, and so it was, a seriously hyped beloved one and hailed as one of the best of the franchise, some say even the best. Well to me...not quite none of the above, it’s a really good movie nonetheless, but not the overhyped masterpiece as some put it as! Don't get me wrong, Skyfall is good, great even, really great, but I can't help it but to feel like this falls behind the mark that it sets itself to be.
By the time when the film came out, every praise based itself on the same usual remark: How this was taking James Bond back to basics of classical terrain of the franchise, that had that campy feel of the old movies marinated along the serious spy-thriller realism settled by Casino, but keeping all in a more smooth and lighten tone that would slowly get rid of that “darker” shadow covered by this new more brutal avenging and serious focused Bond and let Craig lose it up a bit in the character, taking him back to Connery and Brosnan territory other than Dalton’s more seriousness suave he was improving and getting inspired by while creating his very own brutal but charming Bond.
Which again, is far from being bad as I see how Craig proves to fit on this new more smooth personality of Bond just as much of his previous one, though kind of convincing that it is the same character just a bit change by the time he got here, tired of all the running and killing and keeping his cool most of the time, though knowing the right time where to kick some ass. Kind of using as a narrative tool that his old brutal shaken out of stirred ways would just get him killed again and again, being put in the position of being physically unfit and showing his anti-indestructibility, and that now was time to a change of pace. Fitting, though abruptly putted in his over-hurried progressive development.
But Craig shows to be having a real blast of fun with this, really convincing in this slowly becoming even more charismatic Bond, more suave and sarcastically open for the joke, and even make fun out of the fact that he knows he’s old school and he’s proud of it while everyone around him keep making the same remark on how he’s a dinosaur living on a new era where he may be too tired and old to keep up with it, which his arch on the film basically settles upon that idea where he proves that notion wrong for all and to himself. While this was coming to be the 50th anniversary of 007 on film, it goes to show how they were putting up all efforts, Craig included, in seeking to deliver the best movie and Bond to its audience, and so does director Sam Mendes behind the wheels this time.
An interesting choice to direct a Bond film, though nothing o unusual picking multi-variable directors to helm a film of the franchise and he seemed a fitting name for a more dramatic approach to the character and tone of the film, that went prove to be so much more in fact. Showing real skill with action galore and with a tone that knew how to be lighten and nuanced in the right moments, only inclined more towards the adventurous escapism than Casino was for example. And THANK goodness because all that Jason Bourne wannabe boring seriousness was so badly handled and wasted in Quantum that they desperately need a change of pace, and so that’s exactly what Mendes gives.
Well, this and also getting rid of that shaky-cam mess of Marc Foster brought on the previous movie, and with the help of Roger God Deakins not only creates a much clearer, focused and appealing visual sense to it all, as creates some formidable texture that rarely the franchise had seen up until this point ever since On Her Majesty's Secret Service. The visuals here are as smooth as its characters, clean and attractive, so is needless to say that Deakins cinematography is astonishing, though mostly when lets it work above the average action department, and the exotic city locations that range from Macau to Shanghai and Istanbul get almost introduced as travelling-tourism card teases, and not really exploring the locales beyond its letter-signs and the camera flying over buildings.
But, for good most part, Mendes surprises to show to know how to direct those visuals on top of the small drama portions in original manner in the Bond films, though not as subtly effective like Campbell in Casino, but decent enough to make it look and feels more than just an average blockbuster. As does delivers some pretty neat action with perfect timing, relishing the practical effects creation, its longer takes and clean cutting, therefore creating simple though memorable set-pieces throughout the entire film. Not a masterful work of action like Casino or the John Glen directed Bond films, but makes their job done to deliver a pure entertainment value pretty spot on result.
Right of the bat in the intro with the great car chase turned motorcycle chase through rooftops and bazaars then turning into train chase fight, all pretty old-school Bond action galore and easily the best action scene of the entire movie hands down. To the later ferocious fist fight on the edge of the building’s window, the great subway chase and the straight up Home Alone meets Straw Dogs final climatic confrontation with Bond swapping machine-guns with his feet, shooting his Walther PPK like a revolver, the Ashton Martin having again machine guns for fan-service reasons; is all up to deliver the nice and the dandy of the fully entertainment crowd pleasing Bond film audiences definitely and always deserve.
And as the old times showcase, it could have easily suited just with that to deliver a mindless entertainment Bond film, but as the new times of Bond filmmaking dictate, Skyfall also doesn’t lack any texture also in the plot department and tell a new chapter of Bond as a human character…though not its strongest suit here. Quite simply because, beyond the abrupt “the past old getting acquaintance with the present” themes it sets to explore, there isn’t anything of real special compelling note to get emotionally invested in the story as much the films seems to want that you do.
They were now clearly wanting to make Bond as a character and his films to appeal to a larger audience in this more action adventure thriller vibe filled with humor and constant excitement, as it does tries to convey a plot packed with “complexities” in the middle of all this as does trying to humanize, AGAIN, Bond to a realistic spectrum as bring him back to classical basics. Is a tuff tangle, but in its majority Skyfall does succeeds, I only wished I'd seen the movie get deepened in its proposed intentions than to just structure the entire film as your epic summer blockbuster, with just some character emotions thrown here and there, but settle with just some real average stuff.
This had the potential of being another real thoughtful character film like Casino Royale was but it really isn't, at the same times that it wishes to be bigger than it really is on its political-thriller aspect, and it really isn’t. And the plot, although it really seeks to be relevant and taken seriously about what is commented and in the dramas it seeks to create, just doesn’t seem to have a real driving force that connects what it wants to talk about Bond being too old for this shit while having an apparent existential crisis while recovering what he was once risking on a new mission after so long.
That along with the plot of leaking names of infiltrated agents that ends up basically being just as a big dramatic mcguffin used only to introduce the great threat of the big main villain of Silva (Javier Bardem) who wants revenge against MI6 and M for having felt betrayed by the government that he was so loyal. Trying to create (again) this parallel that the main villain and Bond are almost the same person except that in the moment of despair and fall one became a calculating psychopath driven by revenge and Bond raised from the ashes that brought him down. And also into a personal characteristical degree, where while Bond is the quiet sarcastic grunt bastard that is the epythome of testosteronic brute male power, Silva is a touchy refined outrageous sissy, embracing that caricature to a funly creepy persona. It’s actually all good stuff, but never to the point of fully resonating as much as it seeks to do I'm afraid.
A lot because it is based on elements so small and intimate that don't match much sense in the scale that the story takes itself. All departing from this assumption of the figure of Judi Dench’s M and what she represents, reduced to a severe Mother complex that she lures around the persons of Bond and Silva, two orphan operatives turned killing machines from the government, while one turned into a madman and the other a vigilante fallen hero. It’s a interesting idea for a more intimate story in a Bond lore, but all just come off as a The Dark Knight Returns storyline in the way Bond gets down miserable in its legacy, having to come back to deal with his past and rise from the ashes, than a actual real proper Bond film.
Hell, they had basically turned Bond into Batman in this movie, by giving his somewhat unecessary backstory where he has his own old abandoned mansion of his deceased parents, even has a house-keeper in Albert Finney's Kincade that’s pretty much a chubby Scottish Alfred. That sure it actually fits with the Scottish background that Bond has in Ian Fleming’s Novels, but it all just sounds too coincidental for not to be just a plain out pure copy or having an absurd amount of similarity. At least Mendes himself came to admit that he was very inspired by Nolan's Dark Knight in the creation of this film, and it shows! But also in this humanization of a famous character world now inside our common reality, and putting him down to earth as much as the treats he faces.
Some people even gets to say that this was the first and only film of the franchise that humanizes the character of Bond and I’m like: ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?! Had no one watched On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Licence to Kill or Casino FREAKING Royale before this?! Apparently not. This Dark Knight influence comes just as this attempt of “heroic realism”, and most of people just get blindsided for how blend it really is and the way is handled in the movie, is so freaking obvious that it hurts. Not only in specific pieces of plot, with the villain having planned to be captured all along, being interrogated in a glass-room while speaking some harsh truths in the heroes faces then escaping on an elaborating way yada yada; the FREAKING SAME copy and paste conception thrown all over it.
But also in the way they try to approach these “serious” modern themes to face reality through the mirror of fiction that Nolan often did in his Batman films and others, and it’s something that Mendes and the writers seem to want to do the same here with the classic tropes and characteristics of Bond and his franchise, but instead of doing it in an intelligent and original way as in Casino (yes the comparisons will be endless, who told Craig to not make the best of the franchise right at his debut as the character?!) it prefers to copy from a longtime hit and apparently it worked so well that audiences simply ignore any absurd resemblance to Nolan’s films here.
From the factors of technological innovation overlapping human intelligence in the world of espionage and international defense, with the international military intelligence putting themselves at risk by enemies increasingly hidden behind shadows, nations being hit at a distance without having a target to aim back and with several lives sacrificing themselves to keep the world order just and firm against a increasingly invisible threat, all moving towards expanding the scope of the MI6 universe and the reality in which Bond now dwells with artificial intelligence and dangerous men winning wars with the push of a button, where he must learn to survive the new rules combat against the enemies of the crown.
All also reflected in the components of their world, where fair leaders like M are questioned when getting hit; young computer hackers are the new Qs like Ben Wishaw’s good youth version as the character, sharing some quirky similarities with Desmond Llewelyn’s forever unique and classic portrayal; and where beautiful (and wasted) Bond-girls like Bérénice Marlohe's Severine can be victims of sex trafficking. And even in the villains of disfigured caricatures living on desert and mysterious islands ala Dr. No and The Man with the Golden Gun, now being seen in realistic contexts like Silva.
Though, despite Bardem being really great as usual, I can’t help but to consider him just a little too overhyped and called as “ONE OF THE BEST, NO, THE BEST BOND VILLAIN EVER!”, just putting it on a level that he barely exceeds its half way to it. He is indeed a well-developed villain and does his job of being a scary threatening figure with clear motivations and intentions. But then they put him to play all that with this refined over the top theatrical personality, full out annoyingly sociopathic, psychopath, the whole package. Shooting a machine-guns of inconvenient dialogue that basically say the same thing: “look how disgusting, sadistic and brilliant I am”. Well you ain’t wrong folks, he’s basically a blonde latino Joker.
He’s always ahead of everything and everyone, laughs like a maniac, slimy to a teeth, the full etc. I’m afraid is all part of the big Dark Knight fever, AGAIN. Where it isn’t Nolan enough to have the typical montage with the villain’s plan going absurdly right, interspersed with the failure of the heroes, we also get M going full out James Gordon giving a big motivational speech talking about the fierce power of England metaphorically symbolizing the fierceness of Bond’s resilience running to the rescue, both intersected during a scene montage leading up to a big set piece momentum where Silva is getting his victory.
Which ironically, like the Joker, he achieves his victory at the end of the story with the death of M, even if getting the moral loss, all that clichéd bullshit. Although it is kind of frustrating that Bond never even gets to have a real head on confrontation with Silva here, where they spent most of the entire film either chasing each other or throwing grenades or knives at each other. Hell, even with that Quantum of Solace weasel of Dominic Greene, Bond exchanged some punches with him in near exciting manner, while here…literally nothing besides throwing stuff at each other. Oh well, they do touch each other in that great promising intro scene with the rats dialogue followed by unbuttoning clothes…oh god forget it, he’s gay too huh, nice. One of the best big baddies they said? Sorry guys I just don’t feel it whatsoever!
But anyway, despite all that, when the film really focuses on the classic material that it tries to recover back into the franchise, the film kicks ass rather nicely! Skyfall really is a film that tries to honor tradition while seeking to be constantly innovating itself, even if it does both on rather simplistic terms, never going full out classic nor never fully modern interesting, rather keeping all on a middle term, which is a safe and succeeding approach. But you see? Never leaving it to be something above what it aims to be. Though the classic charm that the film awakens is all pretty irresistible when it kicks off on the screen and its “fan-service” personality pleases more than it disturbs any of the overall’s tone and pacing of the film.
The humor is handled quite nicely along its more serious tones and making all quite fitting together. By this point seeing Craig’s Bond throwing puns was mind-blowing to say the least, but it actually works, and shows to fit his roughness along with this lightness better than it should or could, goes to show how great of an actor he always is. Other stuff like the Ashton Martin being charmed as Craig himself, back with high tech gadgets keeping on simpler basics, travelling to exotic locations; all the good stuff. And Adele’s Skyfall is just perfection, you know it, I know it, everybody knows it, the best intro title song ever? MAYBE!
As it is maybe kind of easy to say that Naomie Harris’s Moneypenny is the best Moneypenny in the franchise because her competition were all basically old aunties or sassy secretaries that thrown some charm over Bond, while here she shows rather an actual character with an interesting charismatic personality and having a charming banter with Craig's Bond. UOL like a strong female character without raising flags of woke representativeness and humiliating the white guys she interacts with, but actually being treated equally alongside them?! How boldly original... And for the first time ever in the franchise Moneypenny is one of the main sexy badass Bond-girls, and that's really cool stuff.
And I actually like how they introduce Ralph Fiennes's Mallory character with a hint of mystery almost suggesting of him to be the main villain behind it all, but that later reveal to be a formidable ally and the new senior M to lead the franchise forward. As does making a nice send-off for Judi Dench’s time as the character, that despite the shallow drama evolved around her here, they do try to give her a greater character arch that aims to go for the emotional punch along with Bond’s story being told here, by being the actual main Bond-girl of the film. Who accompanies and helps Bond to carry out his mission, and leave her mark with him forever, not a romantic one but one of a mentor, of the family he never had and of caring affection. I just wished it could’ve been more emotionally effective than it really is, but I’m just nitpicking too much by now.
Because in the end, Skyfall as a movie actually pleases and entertains me more than it annoys for its thin plot attempts of trying so hard to be The Dark Knight of the franchise while it didn't need none of that to be a great movie, which in the end it really is. It brought back some of the charm of old without harming (too much) its own innovations and creatively suites the old roles into new importance light and a full new context to work with. Showing, again, how ready the franchise was for much more in the future, and with Craig fitting with the character perfectly as he always showned, now filled with more potential that has ever been! Is not a delicious perfect tasteful vodka martini like Goldfinger, From Russia with Love or CASINO ROYALE, but it’s a nice memorable appetizing brandy.