Billy Summers: ‘Skyfall’ not the strongest Bond film ever made
So, now it’s the third installment of Daniel Craig as Bond, this time, with director Sam Mendes (”American Beauty,” “Jarhead,” “Revolutionary Road”) at the helm. So I guess my criticism is with him — and mainly his editing.
This movie was a tad too long, and bogged down in places. There were obvious places where the parts of some scenes could have been left on the cutting room floor.
Also, Sam, you borrowed a little too much from other films. Some examples being the subway crash that mimicked “Speed” and the chase across the rooftops of Istanbul, where I think I saw Maggie Grace from “Taken 2” duck out of the camera range while she was filming the “let’s find Daddy Spy” scene on a parallel rooftop.
The scenes at the old Bond homestead were so reminiscent of the 1971 Peckinpah film “Straw Dogs” that they might as well have named this movie “Trencher’s Farm” and been done with it.
Also, the scene in the original “Straw Dogs,” with Susan George walking down the road in that tight sweater was far sexier than any and all “Bond Girl” scenes in this movie. Truth be told, “Skyfall” was pretty darn tame.
That being said, this was a good adventure movie, a good spy movie, but it just didn’t have enough “Bond” in it. This could have been a Robert Ludlum, a John LaCarre or a Tom Clancy movie, but not an Ian Fleming product. When the creator died, so did the character. It’s like someone other than Dr. Seuss writing about “The Cat in the Hat.”
Daniel Craig (”The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” “Defiance,” “Cowboys & Aliens”) did have a much better script to work with, here, than in his first two Bond appearances. But he still doesn’t have enough of the Connery dry sense of humor, although he does have the smirk down pat.
The Grand Dame, Judi Dench (”As Time Goes By,” “Henry V,” several “Bond” movies) returns as “M,” the Boss Lady, who is on the hot seat, although her attitude is the quintessential Hollywood Rebel stand, basically looking her bosses in the eye after getting severely reprimanded and bursting forth with a version of, “Are we DONE here?” (one of the things on MY Bucket List, to do before I die).
The movie seemed almost to be two separate ones, the second (and best) part being the appearance of Javier Bardem (”No Country for Old Men,” “Eat Pray Love,” “Love in the Time of Cholera”) as “the Bond Villain,” Silva.
Genuinely creepy, he stole virtually every scene he was in. Yes, his character gave off a lot of the psycho from a previous hit, almost to the point that we could have called the second half of this movie, “No Country for Old Spies.” But his character still maintains a Hannibal Lecter feel to it, without being totally inhuman.
Second-tier character Ralph Fiennes (“Schindler’s List,” “Harry Potter” movies, “The English Patient”) stars as Gareth Mallory. Fiennes makes a nice senior bureaucrat whose cold stare denotes a secret past tucked well into the shadows.
Veteran actor Albert Finney (”Big Fish,” “Erin Brockovich,” “Tom Jones”) shows up as Kincade, the exact opposite of any gamekeeper/lover that Lady Chatterly ever bumped into (although, in his “Tom Jones” days, he may have fit the part). Only in Hollywood does an employee you haven’t had contact with in 30 years, readily lay down his life for his old boss.
The action scenes were good, but not great, lacking the gimmicks and gadgetry of the original Fleming books. This was even joked about within the movie, as when Bond seems disappointed with the two items that the new “Q” has given him.
Says Q, “What did you expect, an exploding pen? We don’t go in for that sort of thing, anymore.”
Perhaps they should have…
And, last, but far from least, we have the Bond Girls. This perhaps best delineates the difference between the Connery era and all the rest.
Naomi Harris (”28 Days Later,” “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, “Miami Vice”) is the good one, who is as witty and personable as anything in the early days of the franchise. She is good looking and has a killer smile. But, she has the sex appeal, in this movie, of a novice nun.
The bad girl, Severine, played by French actress Berenice Marlohe, could have been any of a thousand casting couch brunettes with an accent. I know it wasn’t her fault that her character was so uninteresting or that their love scene (in silhouette, no less) had all the spark of a firecracker that fizzled instead of exploded, but still she radiated almost no sex appeal at all.
So, although “Skyfall” is a very nice action movie about spies, it lacks a lot for the James Bond fans. They could have put Mark Wahlberg in here and made it into “Shooter 2” or made this “The Bourne Continuance” or some such nonsense.
It’s more traditionally “Bond” than in many, many years, but it’s not near enough…
Billy Summers is a freelance photographer who also reviews films for the Putnam Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.