Adele was always a curious choice for the Bond theme. But then for all the best of all breakup songs Adele can conjure up, the voice and range totally made sense. Then when the song was out, it sounded catchy and very James Bond but did it evoke Bond? It evoked Adele more than anything. Still lovely. If there was ever a Bond song that blatantly referenced the conceit of the film, it’s from Skyfall. Because the song is not about Adele, it’s not about one of the Bond girls, Bond’s wife or Bond’s first love. It’s M. Picture it. Or you wouldn’t dare?
Skyfall dares. It dares to do a lot of things and tastes mixed success. Therefore the mixed feelings I had after being informed that Bond will return. There is a conscious attempt to Nolanize (Yes, I just did) the whole Bond universe that may not entirely be a bad idea. Bond even says, “There is a storm coming” in one scene. So if Casino Royale was about Bond newly given double 0 status and coming to terms with it and the loss of his lady love, Skyfall is more about a battered Bond finding himself too old and unfit for secret service. It’s not necessarily to humanize Bond but more about trying to subvert the universe and shake things up a bit. Some of it are shaken well, some halfheartedly stirred.
What’s done well is mostly within the Bond universe but with some minor variations. The new Quartermaster, charmingly played by Ben Whishaw who surprises Bond first and then us. He remarks – and the film itself seems to say this – “Were you expecting an exploding pen? We don’t do that anymore.”, laying out the full intention to us. The opening sequence, that primordial aspect of any Bond film, is definitely the greatest since Goldeneye, it has everything you’ve come to expect from a Bond film and it’s so so good stand alone that it won’t be astonishing if that by itself lowered the action content in the rest of the film. The one liners may not be arresting but the exchanges surely are. The reassessment that Bond goes through earlier in the film, the interrogation, the muted hate triangle between him, Fiennes’s Gareth Mallory and M. The reappearance of the Aston Martin DB5, the exact instant it does and the role it plays in the larger picture. The way these things are used may not be traditional but these are some of the best sequences in the film.
What’s stirred to an unsatisfactory extent is the villain. There is in fact no real Bond villain here. Javier Bardem has an ugly wig, dentures and doesn’t do much apart from hilariously referring to M as mummy. The first Bond-Silva encounter sets the bar really high. The undercurrent humor is all Bond and Daniel Craig is marvelous here but Bardem is mostly underwhelming. The least they could have done is given him an Anton Chugurh wig! The stretching of the Bond and his psychological warfare is another. Casino Royale was already a reboot and now we seem to have got another. Where are they going with this? No answer. I hope they are going somewhere, correct the missteps and not let these strands just slip away. Or just plainly give up and return full time to hard core Goldfinger-Goldeneye-esque Bond.
The old school here is important. There are a lot of references to being old school or old fashioned here, some blatant and some in very subtle ways. There is Q’s declaration in the earlier sequence. There is M pontificating on new kind of enemies and old ways of secret service and double 0 agents. Now this scene actually works (and what follows is even more wonderful) but it’s another of those references to old school fascination that this movie actually attempts to abandon. That’s the confusing aspect of this film. What’s the real idea? Or is it just a preparatory course for the fans?
The ending was bloody good except for some corny portions that had no business being in a Bond film however daring you might be. It even reminded me of Revenge of the Sith in the way it was staged, only the first parts of Star Wars ended in hopelessness and in doom, this ends in normalcy.
For a fair bit of run time, this is a very good film. But is it an as good James Bond film? Then what is a James Bond film? Those are the questions.