Skyfall isn’t a bad film. The plot isn’t as ridiculous as Quantum of Solace and in many ways an absence of the exaggerated sums up Sam Mendes’ take on Bond pretty well. But to me that’s what made Casino Royale brilliant; the more ludicrous elements were gone but it was still spectacular.
When you get to the end of Skyfall, you’re still waiting for that spectacular sequence that they’ve saved the budget for. But it doesn’t come, instead the credits roll and you’re left feeling a little bit underwhelmed.
There’s nothing like the opening car chase or parkour sequence in Casino Royale, and nothing like the opening chase when Mr White is rescued in Quantum of Solace. And certainly nothing as well orchestrated as the opera scene in QoS either. The opening car/bike/train/JCB chase is about as good as it gets and it is technically impressive, but it’s strangely uninvolving.
It’s pretty much due to Mendes. The direction is mediocre, as if Mendes is comfortable with action. Whether due to budget constraints or whatever, there are some strange decisions- there’s a tube crash sequence that resolutely refuses to put Bond in shot with the CGI whizzery- and at times it is difficult to feel the immediacy of the action.
The biggest flaw though is the standard Hollywood tropes dished out surrounding the main plot device. Yes, it’s hacking, so every single tired computer hacking cliché is dragged out and re-trodden. There are big, colourful screens of whizzy text scrolling at a ludicrous (and meaningless) speed, there’s comedy use of Youtube, islands stolen via hacking and worse. Bond does Mission Impossible? Something like that and it’s none the better for it.
I will tell you this, without giving anything away, one of these days I’m going to be shocked when I watch a film when the bad guy is caught because the good guys catch him and for no other reason.
Even ignoring the at times gaping logic holes in the film, it is nice to see Craig back as Bond after all the problems at MGM. The pacing is good, something which plagued Quantum of Solace, but Mendes is clearly not an action film, or more worryingly, a Bond film, director.
There are some nods to the Bond canon throughout and a sense of humour that hasn’t really been obvious in the franchise since Roger Moore was camping it up rears it’s head. Some of it works, some of it doesn’t.
For years Bond had the spy genre all to itself. Arnie’s True Lies sent a major shock wave through to the Bond producers and more recently The Bourne films have had a noticeable influence on the fighting in Bond. Lets hope going forward Bond recognises what makes Bond so great.