Sunday, November 25, 2012



Directed by Sam Mendes
Written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade & John Logan

    In a film franchise that has been around for fifty years, new films can at times be redundant, boring or just complete misfires, but that is not the case with the new installment into the Bond lexicon, Skyfall. The James Bond franchise is legendary in its mass appeal, but not always significant in the quality of its product. Sure, film now, with the massive onslaught of corporate propaganda and product placement has aided in growing this franchise and others, like Batman, Superman, etc. into huge markets and conglomerates of there own, but these films have a history that goes beyond that and Skyfall has achieved an successful status in not just big budget filmmaking, but being a film that is made with quality, perseverance and respect for the history of the James Bond name. Sean Connery first four films as Bond and the one film, from the under appreciated George Lazenby On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), are the best films with the suave, sophisticated spy from the United Kingdom and with Skyfall, we can finally add another film to that list.
    Skyfall, directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty and Road to Perdition) revolves around the believed to be killed-in-action Bond (Daniel Craig) and an attack on the British MI-6. Once Bond returns to headquarters in London, he is rushed through reintegration and cleared for duty after being on the lamb, mainly drinking. M (Dame Judi Dench) believes the attack on MI-6 is directed at her by a former agent. Then we go on a typical Bond-like journey of world travel, ladies, lies, and one sinister evil ex-MI-6 spy agent Silva (Javier Bardem), an agent that comes back to track and kill M after a previous mission had gone awry leaving him close to his death but with a desire for revenge. Skyfall is a film that accepts the new, with cyber warfare being targeted towards M and England, as well as appreciating the old, with glimpses of classics Bond cars, the exquisite Aston Martin and acknowledging that Bond has aged and the world is growing at a fast pace around him.
     The qualities of this Bond film that set it apart from the previous ones is simple, quaility in the filmmaking and acting that is not full god awful oneliners and joe popcorn obsessed CGI action setpieces. Pierce Brosnan was a debonair, smooth Bond put never in his four films had a good script at all. Goldeneye (1995) was decent reintroduction for Bond after the weak efforts in Timothy Dalton's two film run. Daniel Craig's two previous films, the decent if at times overacted and too staged Casino Royale (2006) and the truly awful and muddled Quantum of Solace (2008) were overall not exciting and rehashes. Even though personally, as a lover of the Bond franchise, I've seen all twenty-three films and even the great ones, such as Dr. No (1962) and From Russia With Love (1963) and the terrible misfires like most, if not all of Roger Moore's films, although they still are guilty pleasure to watch, it was so pleasing to watch Skyfall turn out so well and feel like a classic Bond film.
    Director Sam Mendes avoided the corny lines of dialogue, the ridiculous stunts, not to say that the opening scene was not completely over the top, but the whole film was grounded in a good story and not one stupid stunt after another like the last two films of Pierce Brosnan The World Is Not Enough (1999) and Die Another Day (2002). He brought some balance and quality to this legendary screen icon and filmography. And most importantly he brought his cinematographer Roger Deakins. Deakins, who also works repeatedly with the Coen Brothers, brought forth a chilly, silky smooth palette to his visuals and him and Mendes continued this series of cold, action thrillers, in the vein of Christopher Nolan's Batman films, that resemble a culture and world that has seen the effects of mindless sadness through economic downfall and misguided wars. Also, the lensing is just breathtaking. It is so graceful and smooth that the movie was a joy to watch just for Deakins unbelievable talent.
     Skyfall also brought back some classic characters that were not introduced in the Daniel Craig reboot /continuation of the franchise. Ben Whishaw plays Q and brings forth is off beat quirkiness to the role of a tech wizard who knows the value and knowledge of an ever changing cyber world. Judi Dench is great as the steely strong head of MI-6 M and Ralph Fiennes is introduced as Gareth Mallory, a politician in the British government. As with all Bond films there must be beautiful woman. Skyfall leaves us no exemption in that category with agent, and assumed killer of Bond Eve (Naomie Harris) and the ex-sex slave Severine (Berenice Lim Marlohe), who leads Bond to his target, the blonde haired, effeminate and presumably homosexual Silva, played with fun and that classic want to take over the world kind of villain Silva (Javier Bardem). He may not be as evil as in the Coen's No Country for Old Men but he is just as demented and sinister, but with a bit more playfulness. It was a pleasure to see a villain being played by someone with the talent of Javier Bardem, but that seemed to be having so much fun with bringing to life a cruel and vengeful character. That casting was perfect. The aesthetics were there as well with a dark, bloody opening sequence alluding to death and chaos, and a wonderful, classic Bond theme song performed and written by Adele. Classic in the sense it was smooth and sweeping with a hint of demise and pleasure that correlate with any Bond film.
     The true joy is seeing the growth and maturity, not just in the character but in the actor Daniel Craig. He shows how Bond is growing older and how the past is not to be forgotten. The final scene is pure cinematic satisfaction, in that Bond leads Silva to his childhood home in Scotland where he means to kill his enemy and protect M. It is also where we meet the groundskeeper of his families estate Kincade (Albert Finney). We get a battle, but Bond shows his intelligence with not the use of technology, but of brute strength and history. Silva comes with a helicopter, machine guns and numerous men, but Bond sets booby traps in the house, uses propane tanks as bombs, and sawed off shot guns to fight off the enemy. This new Bond shows the growth and acceptance of Daniel Craig coming into his own as the character and taking complete control over being Bond. He has presented Bond with full force and grace, as well as an appreciation of the classic Bond mythos and action No more philandering and grandiose playfulness.
     The Bond franchise and name appears to be in good hands, especially if Sam Mendes returns to direct Bond 24 and the continuation and growth of a scruffy and physical Daniel Craig. Skyfall exemplifies that there is life in James Bond and as I've said before, it accepts the new and appreciates the old. That key fact is what will aid in extending this franchise, one that actually is fun to watch, and sees that the current Bond, Mr. Craig, is an actor with talent and finesse. Sure, Craig's Bond is not as suave as all of his predecessors but we live in an age of economic uncertainty and a cyber world that has taken over everything we think and do. In my opinion, Bond is finally back and I hope he will continue to express it in the upcoming films.

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