Russell Baillie writes about movies for the Herald

Movie review: Skyfall


Maybe it's the time it spends in train stations or MI6's new premises in old underground London. Maybe it's the venerable British thespians in support. Or that our our hero - orphaned as a child, we discover - must face his tech-wizard nemesis in a crumbling country pile. Maybe it's the bit with the dragons (yes, really).

And maybe, well certainly, I'm flailing about trying to find something vaguely original to say about 007, part XXIII.

It's had so much said about it already and got itself branded the dark, psychological Bond, the reinvented-for-the-21st century-but-origin-story Bond, and, the best Bond since Daniel Radcliffe - whoops, Craig - first got those very nice suits tailored.

But the admittedly lateral thought that this Bond curiously resembles a gun-happy, jet-setting Harry Potter movie took hold while it was still on. And in a Bond movie, you really shouldn't be given time or inspiration for random thoughts about other Brit blockbuster franchises.

Because it just might indicate that Skyfall, with the energy generated by real-world seriousness rubbing up against the formulaic preposterousness, can actually get a bit boring. Especially as it heads into the last half-hour of a film which matches Craig's debut, Casino Royale, for duration as the longest Bondflicks.

That 2006 one humanised the old trooper by having him fall in love in between high stakes card games and getting tortured.

This one attempts to do the same by showing his rehab efforts after coming back from the dead - his downtime having been spent somewhere sunny, mostly contemplating the bottom of bottles from the product placement dept - so he can then chase this episode's Euro-baddie (Bardem's Raoul Silva), a cyber-terrorist threatening to expose an international spy who's who on the web.

That involves stop-offs in Shanghai and Macau via two Bond gals - curiously, Berenice Lim Marlohe's Severine spends more time on the poster than she does in the movie - before dragging Silva back to London where, after a Silence of the Lambs bit, it's all on.

And that's where Skyfall starts to drag. While trying to be the aforementioned dark, psychological reboot of 007, it also wants to be the bob-each-way Bond.

Its story wants to say something about being a spy in a precarious post-WikiLeaks/Anonymous world while still being the high-action aftershave advert of old.

Just not sure it does either particularly well.

But if director Sam Mendes and his writers over-reach, it still offers plenty of set-piece thrills and their leading man, Craig, is still really good.

Opposite him, Bardem's Silva might be a gay cover version of his creepier killer, Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men, but he sure has his moments, whether he's inspecting 007's inside leg measurement or showing a remarkable inability to delegate in his fiendish plans. Which is very Voldemort of him, really.

Stars: 3.5/5
Cast: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem
Director: Sam Mendes
Rating: M (violence)
Running time: 143 mins
Verdict: Best Bond yet? Hmmm ...


- NZ Herald

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