Sunday, 28 October 2012

Review: Skyfall - A Doctor Who fan on James Bond

If you sit down and think about it, there’s a fair bit of similarity between Doctor Who and James Bond. Both are big popular franchises (I dislike calling Who a franchise but I'll let it pass here) that have been around for circa fifty years. Both involve an invincible hero who has changed his face several times. Both are usually accompanied on their adventures by young women etcetera etcetera. Perhaps because of this - though I wouldn’t class myself as an out-an-out Bond fan - I view the other iconic British adventure series alongside Who with respect and have enjoyed many of the films, for instance Roger Moore’s fun thriller Live and Let Die (helped no doubt by Paul McCartney’s fabulous theme song) and Pierce Brosnan’s rollicking GoldenEye.  

However, my favourite Bond must be Daniel Craig.  His first film, Casino Royale, was the first Bond film I saw and I was immediately impressed with his utterly convincing rendition of the character as a rougher around the edges but still likeable rogue. The film itself won me over by its inclusion of a deeper relationship between Craig’s Bond and the brilliant Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd, which I felt added much needed emotional side to the character, who in my little knowledge of him, didn’t often let it out. On the other hand, the follow-up, Quantum of Solace, left me cold, having struck me as not much more than a blurry action-fest. I felt it lacked the fun and humour which I knew Bond could offer. And I’m always more inclined to like something if it’s fun and humorous; thank you, Doctor Who.  
However, I have now seen the latest, you’ve-probably-heard-of-it-everywhere film in the series, Skyfall, and found it hugely entertaining. Warning for anyone who hasn’t yet seen the film and doesn’t want to know anything at all, I may mention minor spoilers. Everyone else (which I hope is most of you out there on the other side of the screen), do continue.

Firstly, it’s just so much fun. Whereas Craig’s previous outings as Bond have stripped down the humour and traditional Bond quips, Skyfall reinstates them in all their punning glory. A lot big blockbusters shy away from employing humour (although this may have been rectified by Avenger’s Assemble earlier in the year) but Skyfall understands that it’s an important slice of the enjoyment pie. For instance, in the cinema in which I saw the film, the audience were regularly chuckling out loud at some of the great lines delivered. A few times it slips into generic ‘film’ dialogue but largely it’s a fine script, at best in the snappy conversations between Bond and Judi Dench’s Q.
Also, there’s some strong storytelling on show. The pre-credits scene ends on an entirely shocking note which even if the film doesn’t subsequently mine as well as it possibly should have done its still a great moment nonetheless that leads to a brilliantly psychedelic title sequence involving skulls made of blood. This is just one example of many times in which the film surprised me by doing things I didn’t expect the usually-formulaic Bond films to include. There’s an excellent scene set in the London Underground which of course sees the usual Bond tropes of chases and explosions but is more interesting because it puts the superspy and his extravagant world into a more mundane, relatable place than the usual exotic locations. Also, it starts to feel really quite different when the action swaps to even more unlikely setting for a Bond film where we encounter some unexpected revelations…And if that sentence didn't whet your appetite I don't know what will. 
Furthermore, I think what really lifts the film is its cast full of entertaining characters all capably played. Ralph Fiennes and Naomi Harris are both enjoyable in their respective roles (you’re getting nothing from me here) while Ben Whishaw, an ever-reliable actor, is great as the new Q, Bond’s gadget man, who he plays as a sardonic computer genius. However, the best performances of the film are definitely awarded to Daniel Craig, Judi Dench and, the villain of the piece, Javier Bardem. Craig is at his best, and most Bond-y, as a more experienced agent than in his previous films while Dench, effectively one of the film’s leads, gets to sink her acting teeth into a bit more than usual. Bardem, on the other hand, is terrifically creepy yet camp as Silva, a villain with a much more personal aim than most megalomaniacs in Bond’s world.

Overall, Skyfall includes all the things than Bond films should; spectacular action sequences, yes, but what most impressed me was its emphasis on humour and warmth. With strong performances all round and a good story going for it with many a moment I wasn’t expecting, Skyfall is a fun cinematic rollercoaster which one the admiration of this Doctor Who fan.
I'll leave you, in proper Bond-y (is there a proper term? Bondian?) mood, with Adele's theme for Skyfall called, well, 'Skyfall'. Good day.


  1. Great review! You've made some interesting points here; I guess the opening could have been mined a little more, and there's an interesting mix between the formulaic Bond of old, and the surprisingly new directions that Skyfall takes. Overall, I'm glad that we can agree that it's one hell of a film :)

  2. Glad you liked it. I just thought that, although it all worked fine the way it was, they could have made more of him coming back from the dead. But then this is coming from a Doctor Who/ Sherlock fan! And, yes it certainly is! :)


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