by Eric Paolini
Skyfall is the first James Bond movie that I have truly been excited about. I have seen three Bond movies in my life: Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, and Skyfall (I don't consider seeing half of Dr. No as really seeing it). I find Bond as a semi-interesting character in a series that can be predictable. I didn't grow up watching old Bonds films with my dad or playing the Goldeneye video game. I have never read a James Bond book or seen one for that matter. I have only recently learned Ian Fleming is the author of the series. But for whatever reason I've watched the Daniel Craig Bond movies. Although I have no desire to go back and see any of the earlier ones, I am "in" on any future ones.
With my Bond history aside, I was truly excited for Skyfall. Approximately six months ago I saw Sam Mendes directorial debut American Beauty. It immediately become one of my favorite films. Adding a director that's capable of creating a movie with a unique "feel" to a series that is formulaic was the reason for my excitement. And that's exactly what Mendes did. Skyfall is easily the best Bond film I've seen. I know I have only seen three but it is still the best. But by no means is it perfect. There are a few aspects that could have, maybe should have, been left out.
Characters ending a scene with a clever quip is overused. Bond is not supposed to be a humorous character and having him end every scene with, essentially, a wink to the camera doesn't work. An ironic detachment doesn't work for Bond. Sociopathic detachment would have worked but the one liners fell incredibly flat. Every moment that made me laugh involved Javier Bardem (more on his performance later) and nobody else. The rock bottom of quips came from Albert Finney near the end of the movie. A "funny" comment after shooting someone was then followed by two closeups of Finney's character, Kincade, in terror. What sense does that make? Is Kincade scared or not? The change in tone is what took me out of the movie every time.
As mentioned earlier, every funny moment for me was due to Bardem's subtle and amazing performance as Silva. He brought a uniqueness to his character most other actors could not. Silva's goals are not uncommon for spy/action/thriller type movies but yet it felt new. As Silva, Bardem carried most of the movie. Daniel Craig's performance was a little lacking. I've liked Craig in the previous movies but his performance, or maybe just his character, didn't do that much for me. It could very possibly be Craig was overshadowed by Bardem. In Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace the villains were utterly forgettable.
Despite be saddled with having to include the standards of every Bond film, Mendes was able to create a unique film on top of that. I cannot stress the originality and uniqueness I took away from Skyfallenough. So easily this movie could have been stitched together with every applicable formula in order to make money. In a Christopher Nolan-esque way, Mendes was able to handle making a movie intended for mass audiences with making a movie that has a point of view. A few scenes will always stick with me (Bond girl with shot glass on her head scene and the opening title sequence). The title sequence is right up there with any David Fincher sequence.
Skyfall is not just another Bond film. While it was extremely self-referential (much of which I did not appreciate) it does more than just that. Although it includes more nostalgia than previous films it spaces it out making it tolerable. Despite my minor grievances, and they are minor, I will remember the originality that Mendes and Bardem were able to bring. I will always regard Skyfall as a Mendes/Bardem film first and a Bond film second. Diehard and casual Bond fans will be able to enjoy Skyfall.
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