Thursday, November 8, 2012

Movie Review: "Skyfall"

It's James Bond's 50th anniversary, and the 23rd Bond film, Skyfall, proves that there's still some bullets left in his Walter PPK.

The plot of Skyfall is simplistic, a hard drive containing the identities of every secret agent embedded in terrorist organizations around the world is stolen, but it's how director Sam Mendes turns the film more so into a chess match than a whodunit, that marks this entry.  The flamboyant villain, Silva, is an agressive mastermind, manipulating the actions of MI6 through cyberterrorism, forcing M, MI6, and Bond to play defense the entire film, trying to keep out of checkmate, and in the end Bond and M retreat to Bond's boyhood home, Skyfall, to try to get Silva to drop his defenses.

The thing about Skyfall, is that it is different than any other Bond film before it.  It's a somber experience, almost melancholy.  It's not cranked up to 11, it's not a simple bad guy wanting to take over the world story, in so many ways it's a character piece.  The biggest action sequence is the Istanbul opening where 007 chases a bad guy across cars, motorcycles, and trains, and the rest of the film gets gradually smaller and smaller in scale, until all that is left are Bond, M, and Silva.  It's the way their pasts come back to haunt them that is the spine of Skyfall.

Bond still clings to the death of his parents, M is questioning her past decisions to sacrifice agents when the ends justified the means, and Silva is bitter over M having sacrificed him on a mission long ago, like she does with Bond in the opening.  Unlike any other Bond film, it's about the relationships that these characters have with one another that shapes the narrative and the action.  Bond's trust in M is tested, leading him down a certain path of action, but then it's reinforced, and then he stops at nothing to protect her from Silva.  That is the true brilliance of Skyfall, it doesn't shy away from showing the humanity of these characters, or how their actions have repercussions, but rather it shows how they use those repercussions to carry on and finish the mission.

Daniel Craig proves he is once more a more than capable 007, utilizing a dry sense of humor to deliver lines that Roger Moore would have hammed up.  Like he did in Casino Royale, Craig finds a way to make Bond relatable and human to the audience.  In the film, James Bond is portrayed as slightly older, having lost his edge, and not necessarily hip with the times where espionage is mostly done by computers and not field work.  As a matter of fact, Bond is injured throughout most of the film, not at his physical peak, due to gunshot wounds sustained in the opening.  Therefore, he's not really a superhero, but rather a human being who is constantly outmatched throughout the entire film, but as he proves by the end, it's not age or old school methods that define the job, but his commitment to see it through.

As well, Judi Dench delivers her best turn since Goldeneye, Bond girl Naomie Harris really adds some much needed levity at times to keep things from getting too dark, and Ben Whishaw fills Desmond Llewelyn's shoes as Q.  The true standout performance though is Javier Bardem as Silva.  He's not just creepy or flamboyant, though he is a man whose sexuality is in question, but it's the way that he fully commits to the role that makes every line and action that he performs creepy and flamboyant. His performance has been likened to Heath Ledger's Joker, but I really think Silva is his own messed up breed that Bardem plays so brilliantly, perhaps besting his performance as Anton Chigurgh in No Country For Old Men.  Not to mention, the fact that the script really builds up his character, where everyone talks about him in fear, with him manipulating in the shadows for the first half of the film, so that when we finally meet him, we're terrified of him.

All in all, Skyfall is a marvel.  Featuring superb action scenes, a traditional Bond theme song supplied by Adele, one of the better scripts ever written for a Bond film, where every character has an arc and a purpose in the story, and some of the most stunning cinematography ever shot for an action flick, Skyfall is a home run.  Not only that though, it's a great, personal film that is smart, tense, exciting, and surprisingly emotional.  It uses the 50 year history of these characters to stir the emotions in the viewer, and in so many ways, if this isn't your first Bond film, you will be even more rewarded for it.  But quite simply, the Bond family has outdone themselves here.  Skyfall is a true blue James Bond adventure that surpasses nearly every other film in the storied franchise.

I give Skyfall an A+!

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