I’m a little behind the curve when it comes to the James Bond franchise, and I wound up not seeing the newest film in the series, Skyfall, until Thanksgiving weekend. Before I headed to the theatre, I asked some of my friends and family to share with me their one word review of Skyfall so that I could get a spoiler-free idea of what I was in for. Interestingly enough, nobody chose the same word to describe the movie – and yet, all of these single words by themselves both easily and accurately describe this 50th anniversary Bond film. I’ve picked out some of my favorite one word reviews and added my own thoughts.
Although I don’t have a long history with James Bond, I can appreciate that Skyfall is most certainly a love-letter to the Bond series. I first started watching Bond movies last May after, having never seen any of them before, my friend Jon challenged me to watch some of them so we could discuss my thoughts about these iconic spy movies.
There are lots of throwbacks to older movies, including cars with ejecting seats, references to exploding pens, and surprise characters that have made appearances in the past. While Skyfall does a great job of creating a new story, these touches are most certainly not only meant to pay homage to classic Bond films, but also tickle long-time fans with a delightful sense of nostalgia.
I won’t go into spoilers about what happened during the film, but surprising definitely fits the bill when it comes to describing Skyfall. Director Sam Mendes created a movie that is more than just Bond; it’s surprisingly artistic for an action film, but not in a bad kind of way. The opening credits are much more dreamy and eclectic than more traditional Bond openings, including a transition where the camera zooms in on a shotgun wound over Bond’s heart to reveal a graveyard as Adele’s haunting voice croons away, and a sequence where Bond shoots at his own reflection in multiple mirrors as though walking through the dreamscape of the open credits in a haze.
As well, the movie isn’t entirely what one would expect from a more traditional spy movie, especially a Bond movie. While overall, there are definitely your classic spy themes with espionage, killing bad guys, and using fancy technology, there’s also a lot of modernism. The new Q has super hacking powers. MI6 is called into question, with accusations of the organization being too antiquated. And the entire third act and climax veer far away from traditional spy tropes and visits a “I’ve had enough of your bullshit and now I’m going to fuck you up” place along the lines of movies such as Taken. There are also some surprise twists and turns in the plot that, along with the action, keep those watching on their toes.
The cinematography in Skyfall is much more sensual than one would expect in a Bond film. Usually, the sexiness of these films comes from the Bond girls – and while there are a few really strong, intelligent female characters, they aren’t really the same kind of Bond girls we’ve seen before. In fact, I think my husband might have been correct when he quipped that “Really, in Skyfall, M is the Bond girl, if you think about it.” M’s past is back to haunt her, and 007 must decide where his loyalties lie. There are definitely some traditionally sexy scenes, with Bond flirting with a fellow MI6 agent named Eve, or stepping into the shower with a beautiful woman (not to mention a scene with overt homosexual insinuations between Bond and Silva that caused the guy behind me in the theatre to laugh extremely uncomfortably), but it’s not the Bond girls that make the movie sexy, it’s the way the visuals are presented – the artistry of the film, the heart-pounding action.
This movie is heart wrenching in so many ways. There is a very sad, tragic history of the main villain, played brilliantly by Javier Bardem, a former secret agent that used to work for M in the eighties and early nineties. Bond villains are usually either just plain evil or extremely weird and crazy; Bardem as Raoul Silva is a brilliant man driven to madness, and you can almost sympathize with him and why he has turned away from “good” to seek revenge on M. There is also the interesting relationship between Bond and M. I read once that Ian Flemming used to call his mother “M,” and you can see the sort of dysfunctional parental relationship that Bond and M share; Bond a resentful “son” figure that feels like nothing he can do is good enough to earn the praise and affection of M, and M the distant “mother” whose high expectations make her seem aloof and uncaring when, in fact, she most definitely has a soft spot for Bond.
This film also goes into the backstory of the characters, showing us Bond’s childhood home, alluding to an accident that left him an orphan at a young age. This tale, along with M’s relationship with Raoul, is nearly the stuff of Shakespearian tragedy.
Of all of the single word reviews that I received (other than maybe “movie” and “re-watchable”), this is definitely the one word I believe sums up the movie perfectly. This is Daniel Craig’s third Bond film, and it is, by far, much better than its predecessor. There is definitely a fine sense of artistry with in this movie, much more than we’ve seen in the past. Another one word review I received was “detail-oriented,” and this is extremely true. Every detail of the movie is meticulously organized; there is nothing haphazard or careless about Skyfall. From the action sequence that opens the film to the last words that Bond speaks before the famous music queues up and the film ends, everything is meticulous.
As I said earlier in the review, there is no doubt that this film is not just meant to be a Bond film – although that’s certainly what it is – but it’s meant to be a love story dedicated to not only the franchise itself, but to the loyal fans that have argued over whether Dalton is better than Connery as Bond (he isn’t) or embraced each and every Bond for their differences. The cars, the girls, the espionage, the action and suspense – as fans of James Bond, we love these things, and it’s clear to see that the makers of Skyfall love that just as much as we do. Alone or as part of the series, Skyfall is both beautiful and highly enjoyable. In a word, iconic. It’s not what every single Bond movie should be, but for a film that both marks and makes homage to 50 years of James Bond in film, it does its job magnificently.
How would you describe Skyfall in one word?