The definitive review of Bond’s return: Skyfall

Bond is back. After financial issues with MGM, the twenty-third Bond film is released, and it really is something special after all the hype. Skyfall is the real deal, a fast-paced thriller that grabs you by the neck from its opening chase scene and barely loosens its grip until the ingeniously crafted ending. Never before has a Bond film felt so new, and yet so old. It ticks every Bond cliché in the book in honour of the 50th anniversary since Sean Connery’s debut Bond was released, Dr No, and how better to celebrate such a brilliant event by giving us one of the finest films of this generation, hell, any generation. Casino Royale was magnificent, but could have been mistaken for Bourne, Quantum of Solace was unconvincing as a Bond film in any manner, all Skyfall does is perfect the formula of Ian Fleming’s flawed hero for the modern era. It makes it look so simple.

Thank the lord for Sam Mendes. He has single-handedly saved the series, breathing new life into the perhaps tired formula by mixing the brutality of Casino Royale with the fun antics of Roger Moore; a mixture which could have gone badly wrong had it not been for this director’s magic touch. Every scene is shot perfectly, every line is a joy and every cliché is a moment of triumph. I would not have Sam Mendes change a single angle, every location is beautiful (even foggy Scotland) and every addition, new and old, is expertly woven into the unfamiliar world for Bond, a world which Ian Fleming would not have understood or indeed have liked. Yet Sam Mendes has completed the transformation; he has brought Bond back from the brink of the last film to truly stand him tall in the 21st century. And because it is the 50th anniversary of the Bond films, Sam Mendes allows himself to have a little fun. The film is packed to the brim full of clichés, not a reference unscathed as we celebrate all things Bond (and not in the tacky way that Quantum of Solace attempted with the reference to Goldfinger). Q is back for the first time since Die Another Day, and in typical modern world style he is a genius barely out of his teens (inspired casting in Ben Whishaw), a modern day Moneypenny (a glaring criticism of mine I’m afraid, she neither sounds or reacts with Bond convincingly) and even the old Aston Martin returns for a brief spin.  Bond has never been so refreshingly old.

However, the film would not work without its two leads, and for all of Craig’s wondrous effort, Javier Bardem steals the show as the bond villain, Raoul Silva, who can stand tall as the greatest Bond villain of all time. He winces, he pouts, and he monologues, stealing the show from his first scene to his last, proving the perfect match for Daniel Craig’s updated protagonist. His on-screen presence is bold and intimidating, a dangerous but also humorously camp villain, a breathing insight into how far the series has come from its early adventures. You can argue whether this is the best Bond film for decades to come, but surely no one can deny Raoul Silva stands as the greatest Bond villain ever.

And perhaps we are reunited with the best Bond girl too. is finally used in the plot, a time for Judi Dench to shine at last. And boy does she do just that. She is cold, ruthlessly professional, and as Bond says when given her name in a word association test, “a bitch”. Yet she is not only the Bond girl, but the Bond mum (never thought I would write that), his mentor and guider, a relationship which is cold but has the undeniable essence of protection for one another.  As her past is explored, so is Bond’s, and maybe this is a risk which was not worth taking. I refuse to divulge any spoilers, but Bond’s past is explored in to, which I could have predicted, and the results are mixed. Sam Mendes and the script just manage to pull it off by the skin of their teeth, but just because its the 50th anniversary of the series doesn’t mean we need to see the man behind the gun, the vulnerable figure is apparent to everyone without snooping around his family home. Maybe a bridge of originality too far for Mendes, but an admirable go at exploring the background of one of cinema’s most uncomplicated figures. Nothing else is wrong with this film, even the normally questionable opening credits being a thing of beauty, Adele’s specifically written theme song being perhaps the best Bond tune ever by interweaving the classic theme tune in between the haunting lyrics. Simply put, everything fits in this jigsaw of a film to present one of the movies of the year, and new hope has sprung up from the ashes. The news that Sam Mendes wants to direct another film, and that Daniel Craig has ‘at least one more in him’ means that a repeat case of brilliance is almost guaranteed. There has never been more reason to be excited about the future of this series.

Overall

Bond is truly back. The Daniel Craig era has been hampered by the evolution and changes that the modern day requires, yet Skyfall is a classic Bond film for the 21st century. Best Bond film ever? Seeing as my previous title holder was Casino Royale, I would have to say yes. It’s big, it’s beautiful and it’s Bond shaken, but not stirred. A masterpiece.

5/5

Taken 2: The worst film of the year?

‘I have no words for that’ my friend said as the credits rolled on the screen, Alex Clare’s music playing when really a track of that quality did not deserve to be on the end of such a terrible film. Me and my friend did not expect anything good when we went into the cinema, and somehow Taken 2 still let us down. He may have had no words to describe how bad Taken 2 was, but I’m afraid I do.

Where to start? Well firstly, I must admit I am a huge fan of the original Taken. It reignited Liam Neeson’s career and delivered one of the finest revenge films of the decade. It wasn’t particularly clever, well directed or original; what it did deliver however was incredibly brutal and satisfying action, and somehow this undeniable brutality and awesome casting in Liam Neeson carried the film all on its own. It was not a film that begged a sequel, nor was it a film that should have had one. But here I am, having just wasted £6.30 on seeing a two hour waste of space, where the best parts of the film were in fact flashbacks from the original Taken. And they lasted around two seconds. But what makes it so unspeakably bad?

There are too many reasons. The plot is somehow worse then the original Taken, the premise being that the many Uncles and Fathers of the men Neeson slaughtered in the first film seeking revenge, this time taking his ex wife, and in a ‘twist’ him as well! This time the daughter has to save him! Oh, how smart! Sadly, this ‘clever’ twist cannot save the film. Seeing his daughter attempt to find him while he talks to her through the world’s smallest phone, which he managed to stuff down his trousers, is dull and flat, proving why they put that actress into the ‘screaming girl’ role in the first film. Another huge let down is the lack of any sort of brutality in this film, leaving behind the winning factor for many from the first. It was what made the first film great, the brutal and graphic deaths making it memorable and satisfying. Take it all out, and what have you got? It’s like taking the dreams out of Inception, making Memento chronological, or having a Simon Pegg film without Nick Frost in it. It just makes no sense, and in their desperation to increase their possible audience with a 12A rating (also known as the most pointless rating in the history of cinema, allowing a 4 year old to see Bond get his balls bashed in with a rope) they have taken everything good out of the series. Any opportunity for grittiness and brutality is avoided, any blood splatters wiped clean, and the 12A rating just epitomizing how low this film has fallen from the lofty original.

I still don’t think I’ve done this film justice on how bad it really is. The baddies of this film are easily spotted, by the simple fact they are immigrants. A scene in the hotel clearly indicates the baddies rich and foreign language has a precise word for ‘flip flops’. Many of the lines had me and my friend laughing out loud, mainly out of despair. The memorable speech of Liam Neeson in the first film isn’t repeated, or even remotely matched, the script incredibly bland and lifeless. The plot has more holes then a Swiss cheese, which coincidentally seems to be the inspiration of every actor in the film. There is even a scene where Liam Neeson is searching for his ex wife to what sounds like the intro of Men Without Hats’s ‘Safety Dance’. The most fun I had in the film was playing an imaginary keyboard to this scene, then laughing, then nearly crying in mourning of the film industry.

Overall

Undoubtedly the worst film I’ve seen this year. A non-existent plot, a horrendous script and laughable attempts at tension and brutality completely destroys the loving memory of the original Taken. Not only is this a backwards step in Liam Neeson’s career, it may well be the death of it. Avoid at all costs. 1/5.