Skyfall

Last week sucked for the most part but one not so bad moment was Skyfall.  The latest James Bond movie has been getting widespread critical acclaim although even horrible reception wouldn’t have stopped it from making a ton of money.  While Skyfall is an enjoyable movie, it is also incredibly overrated.  Skyfall is a step up from Quantum of Solace but pacing and writing issues really keep it from being in the top tier of 007 flicks.

One of the first issues with the movie can be seen its opening sequence.  Bond and another agent are trying to track down a man who stole a hard drive containing the names of every undercover NATO agent.  This pursuit eventually culminates on the top of a train, where Bond is shot by his fellow agent (accidentally this time) and plummets off the bridge to what should have been a watery grave.  Never mind that in movies there’s no fall damage for falling into water, the issue here is that this only puts Bond out of commission for a few minutes of screen time.  Next thing you know, he’s reporting back to duty despite enjoying retirement the past few minutes.

A better way to handle this would have been to have Bond fail to apprehend the thief.  One of the themes of Skyfall is that of mortality and decay.  It’s implied heavily that several characters aren’t as young as they used to be.  While age may have granted them experience, they’ve lost the physicality of their youth.  Have Bond fail at his job, casting doubt on his own physical ability and have the introduction revolve around him getting over them.  Skyfall tries to do this but with an injury/post-retirement angle instead of Bond’s own failing.  Instead of something emotionally investing, the first half hour of the film is rather clumsy about getting 007 back in action.

The injuries Bond sustained from being shot crop up occasionally but only when the screenplay calls for it.  For instance, he eventually does track down the thief and takes him down.  His physical condition might make hanging on to an elevator more difficult and a gunshot may impair his aim but 007 can still subdue people physically quite easily.  It’s a little hard to sympathize with a protagonist when they’re not actively dealing with adversity.

Also, said thief was trying to assassinate a woman who is actually an undercover agent with the main villain.  This woman is in an apartment surrounded by henchmen employed by her boss (who, once again, is the main villain) .  Yet, this boss hires out someone else to assassinate her from another building than having a henchman drug her wine or something.  It wasn’t noticeable in the scene initially but when she turns up later and the viewer finds out who her boss is…it results in a big plot hole that can pull someone out of the story.

If the movie’s introduction and first acts is awkward, than the middle section drags.  There’s a long lull in which the woman’s character is attempted to be developed (she never really evolves past standard issue Bond girl), Bond meets the main villain and the villain gets captured.  It’s a really long stretch that is nothing but pointlessness (all that development for the woman and she dies…there’s no feeling in that scene at all except for Bond’s one-liner) and stock Bond tropes played straight.  Thankfully, the climax is pretty spectacular although not enough so to forgive the film’s flaws in the first and second act.

Perhaps this is a secondary complaint but it felt like the Quantum plot from Quantum of Solace was dropped.  It might be a testament to how bad of a movie Quantum of Solace was but that whole organization still seemed to be a threat at the end of that movie.  Instead, they’re not even mentioned in this movie and the main villain has no relation to them.  Casino Royale and Quantum appeared to be telling a single, linear story that Skyfall would continue but instead they pick up somewhere new.

Skyfall has issues like that that keep the film from being one of the classic Bond movies.  A shame because the characters themselves and the actors are fantastic.  Bond’s backstory is actually rather interesting.  A viewer might get George Lucas vibes when Bond’s childhood crops up but thankfully, there’s no flashbacks involving a young James Bond.  The character of his home caretaker seemed a little random but he more than made up for it with his screen time near the end.  Judi Dench’s M actually gets the most depth and development.  She, therefore, has the most impressive performance.  Everyone else is quite good although it was a bit jarring seeing Tia Dalma helping out 007.

Overall, Skyfall is OK.  It’s not in the From Russia With Love / Casino Royale tier of great movies.  It’s not quite bad enough to be ranked alongside Moonraker or Die Another Day.  The film would be ranked strictly in the middle of the pack by my reckoning.  Skyfall is a rather good film but remakes of Live and Let Die and Moonraker would have been more preferable than this and the License to Kill remake that was Quantum of Solace.

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