Review: Skyfall

Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem
Directed By: Sam Mendes

SPOILER FREE

James Bond thunders back to our screens in what feels like a reboot of the 50 year old franchise with the same actor. This is not the 007 who calmly waits for a man to bleed to death before stealing his Harrington; the brutal cold bastard of Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace has mellowed considerably and can even manage a quip or two. Whether this development will delight or disappoint is a matter of personal taste. One thing is certain however; Bond has never scrubbed up better. Tom Ford now exists to make Daniel Craig suits.

Bringing new costumer Jany Temime on board was a smart idea. She has infused Skyfall with a stylish, European vibe of fashionable designer dresses, dramatic Swarovski decorated evening gowns and geek chic via Dries Van Noten. For the man himself a modern cut of single breasted, two and three button Britishness. In context these costumes feel real. Silva’s (Javier Bardem) long leather coat might be a villain’s indulgence, but Bond looks immaculate and attainable; far from Savile Row though instilled with the swagger of 1960s cool. Even if Craig – here at his broadest – is in danger of bursting from the fabric on occasions, the vents always hang straight and providing he remembers to breathe in, the top button just about closes comfortably.

Daniel Craig’s suits for Skyfall are deliberately slim fitting (spying those telltale creases some might argue too tight) with a narrow lapel and low trouser rise. He wears four suits in total: light grey sharkskin, dark grey check, grey pinstripe, dark blue silk, plus midnight blue tuxedo with black shawl collar.

Quite where Skyfall fits in James Bond’s own narrative is not altogether clear. Really we could discount both Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace and call this Craig’s first outing. The character we knew from those two films is barely there. Of course the suggestion is that several years have passed so formerly inexperienced Bond is now a seasoned agent. His relationship with M (Judi Dench) is paramount to Skyfall, though for all the on-screen interaction he has shared with her so far it feels a little forced. The only way Bond could conceivably care that much for M’s fate is if we compile all the previous films into his mission dossier, which makes no sense for many reasons. Perhaps it is best not over think this detail, as has always been the case whenever the series gets rebooted (with a different actor). However it is a shame we do not get to see this Bond grow as an agent; it almost feels like Casino Royale was a waste a time.

If this feels like nitpicking it is only because Skyfall is such a polished ride. Questions about backstory and timeline are going to mean zip to most people. Skyfall swipes the best and most established Bond elements from every actor’s tenure and combines them into a film so satisfying as a stand alone story it’s nearly impossible to envisage how it could be improved. Bond can crack heads with the best of them (like Lazenby), faces a larger than life villain (Moore), embarks on a personal mission (Dalton), conquers at least one colossal set-piece (Brosnan) and relies on minimal gadgets (Connery). He has finally established his look too. After two terms Tom Ford is Craig’s tailor just as Anthony Sinclair was Connery’s. Wisely Jany Temime has kept his costumes to a minimum. Skyfall is not a fashion show; Bond changes clothes when he changes location. His suits do not shout symbolism although do relate subtly to his surroundings. The dark grey pinstripe in London for example; Bond as the city gent back among establishment bean-counters.

In some instances up to 60 copies of the same suit were made for Craig and his stunt doubles by Tom Ford’s selected tailors in Italy. It is no spoiler to say that the light grey sharkskin probably falls into the category of ‘most trashed’ in the film.

Costume tells Bond’s tale just as much as the stubble that appears then disappears from his chin. Pre-credits he wears a grey sharkskin suit (actually ill-advised for Craig’s pale complexion), then hits the bottle in baggy leather flight jacket and untucked island shirt. For Bond this is as bad as Superman losing his cape – he is almost unrecognisable. Back in London, an unseen trip to Selfridges then stop off at Crockett & Jones and everything is okay again. Attire is so important to Bond that this is when he seems most ‘back’ to us; never mind that he still cannot shoot straight, just look at that midnight blue tuxedo. Incidentally this is the only time Bond wears a blue tuxedo that is actually shot to look blue rather than deep black under artificial lights (as evidenced on the UK poster). James Bond is no dandy, but the sixties London vibe paradoxically keeps his wardrobe fresh to a contemporary audience.

If ever a Bond film was a grower for hardcore fans it is Skyfall. It ticks all the boxes casual fans expect yet may be too unpredictable and, somewhat ironically, not daring enough for those who felt the groundwork laid by Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace was taking the series somewhere really special. As with all 007’s best adventures, years of reflection and umpteen TV repeats will be the real tester. If we can all stomach Moonraker for the tenth time on Boxing Day, Skyfall could well turn out to the most enjoyable Bond film yet.

Skyfall is released on 26th October in UK and 9th November in U.S.

© 2012 – 2014, Lord Christopher Laverty.