Review Roundup - You Know the Name...

SKYFALL (2012)

James Bond is back, what a shocker. I enjoyed nearly everything they did with Casino Royale which still holds up as a really edge of your seat action adventure, with just enough hints of characterisation to keep me involved. The set pieces and the score also helped a lot. What keeps me watching in this sort of thing however is the pacing of events and the staging of the action. The badly thought out sequel in the other hand took things in totally the wrong direction with all the shaky cam rubbish. Someone was desperate to remain relevant and ape the likes of Jason Bourne. But they're back again to give it another shot. The reactionary nature of this series is well documented, is this a return to form or at least an improvement?

Skyfall does get a lot right and moves away from the failings of Quantum of Solace, but while there's a lot of this I like there are certain elements that are all over the place. They seem to want all the serious drama, all the heavy moral issues, and then at the same time mix that up with the older school stuff like a Goldfinger DB5 out of nowhere. They're going to throw in these pop references now after ignoring them for so long? Why?

Is this still a reboot before or are we pretending it's a continuation now? Were the last couple of Craig outings a starting point for the other twenty plus adventures and this is now a successor? If they wanted to get back to the roots why is the gun barrel at the end, like it's an embarrassing relic? This conflicted approach spoils things a bit, and I wish they'd just pick a side and stick the landing. There are great dramatic moments mixed with strange almost inappropriate  feeling quips, it's a little odd. It still manages to celebrate fifty years of Bond with more finesse that what they did at forty at least, so let's not think about that one... the idea of CGI wave surfing alone makes me want to gag.

However despite the idea of melding old and new there is no new David Arnold soundtrack during the film's duration. After he served them so well all this time, what's up with the music in this? I appreciate director Sam Mendes wanting it to be scored by his old time collaborator, but at times it feels like those older ones where you realise John Barry wasn't available and a disco Bond theme starts playing. Some of it doesn't even fit what is happening on screen, and to make things worse they borrow cues from Casino Royale and throw them in at odd places.

Like the tone, the mix of orchestra and electronica doesn't gel. I have to admit the Adele theme itself works better than I originally thought at least after hearing it initially, and the film sound mix gives it a boost that tinny radio broadcasts lack. The intro is pretty slick alongside it, but I guess stylish CG credits sequences are a given at this point. It gets points for the striking imagery though, more death and less kitsch is nice to see.

I guess the big positive is that I really liked Javier Bardem - it's hardly a revelation but good characters and performances are something that are a total must here. He's intense when required along with being suitably charismatic and campy at regular intervals. Besides, it's nice to see a memorable villain, and he does get all the best scenes. What we saw of the Quantum rogues gallery was so totally forgettable, particularly that guy and his big water stealing plan. What a dastardly villain.

Here we have a thriller that manages to sit at that mid level of the series for me - despite being so well made it doesn't sit properly as a consistent thriller and never reaches the heights of the better entries to franchise. Despite the applauded cinematography looking very nice and the refreshing plot being at its heart a simple vendetta for once, it's an exceptional spy adventure overall. Maybe it's all that unrealistic techno babble or the lack of impact events seem to have taken during the closing scenes. Maybe it's the jumps they take between tongue in cheek action and sudden sleaze. There's a lot to enjoy, but it's very shaky in places.