What I’ve Been Watching: Skyfall

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There comes a point in almost every aspect of life when you think “enough is enough”. For me, this moment came when I had to sit through thirty minutes of advertising, the first ten of which seemed to be exclusively reserved for brands I was about to be watching in Bond’s latest film, Skyfall.

It seemed the overwhelming message of these ads were you can drink the same beer, wear the same watch, drive the same car and use the same phone as the secret agent himself. In essence, you can be James Bond!

This is hardly a new phenomenon within the franchise but it is worth reflecting just how prevalent it was. And while the product placement wasn’t as off-putting as Casino Royale’s, it was still there; reminding us we are not watching just a movie but a marketing machine.

The film itself was undoubtedly entertaining. Skyfall takes the franchise in much the same direction as Casino Royale with an aching, creaking Bond all too aware that he’s been doing his job longer than he should have. Gone are the pithy comebacks and hyper-real scenarios, in comes the social commentary and painful childhood memories. It’s escapism certainly, but escapism that feels grounded and worthy.

The presence of very good actors around Daniel Craig certainly helps this. Judi Dench’s credentials are finally fully utilized as she takes centre stage for much of the film. Likewise Raph Fiennes, and Javier Barden all bring a very real weight to their roles which means this feels like a film that should be taken more seriously. This is a Bond film that almost manages to transcend the franchise and have something to say.

Almost.

Unfortunately despite every element, the acting, cinematography, and plot, being spot on in and of itself, it falls short of being a truly great film. Like much of Christopher Nolan’s work this is intelligent cinema but not informative cinema. That is, it is entertaining and does not seek to speak down to its audience but ultimately has little artistic merit. There are no really important themes at work here, no quotable lines that tell us something about the human condition, no characters with truly complex emotional issues.

Ultimately Skyfall is still popcorn cinema. Only if it was a brand of popcorn it would probably one with a title like “Sour Cream & JalapeƱo Chilli“. You know, one that makes you think you’re eating something really nutritional, but ultimately is still in the same metaphorical aisle as Transformers or The Avengers.

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