Saturday, November 10, 2012

Review: Skyfall

It seemed for a while that the only thing that could stop James Bond was bankruptcy but after four years of financial turmoil and one well publicized deal between MGM and Heineken, Bond has made his way back to the big screen to once again remind one and all that Daniel Craig is indeed the best version of the iconic super spy.  As for those suggestions emanating from across the pond that Skyfall is the best installment of the series to date, I would say that title still belongs to Craig’s first endeavor, Casino Royale.  Still, it is a very good movie that also serves to set up the franchise going forward.

The plot finds Bond on the hunt for a cyber terrorist who possesses a list of undercover operatives and is hell bent on exacting revenge on M for past transgressions.  Broken physically and emotionally, Bond must overcome his professional baggage to put a stop to this plot before Mi6 and its integrity is completely obliterated.

If you are familiar with Sam Mendes’ work, it should come as no surprise that Skyfall is completely character driven with multiple layers woven together into one complete narrative.  Perhaps the most striking of these layers is the interplay between old versus new that runs throughout the film.  Age versus youth, digital versus analog, technology versus old school methods, the conflict between these opposing poles adds significant juice to the plot.  Cinematically, Mendes gives the film an old school Bond visual flair while at the same time capturing some amazing modern urban visuals (most notably in Shanghai) that punctuate this ongoing contrast. 

However, the credit for the merits of Skyfall begin and end with Daniel Craig.  His Bond is flawed, scarred, brutal, and singularly focused with just enough sentimentality to snare the audiences’ empathy.   Craig’s acting chops are the perfecting tool for Mendes to flesh out the character and the result is a deeper look into the man behind the loaded gun.

It is said that a hero is only as good as his villain, thus Javier Bardem, as Silva, delivers a complex performance of a highly intelligent character whose experiences have pushed him beyond the emotional and psychological breaking point.  Calculating and ruthless, Bardem’s Silva is elusive and hard to define; the perfect opposite to Bond’s obsessive sense of duty.

As for the rest of the cast, Judi Dench is solid as M, slipping effortlessly into the role of mother figure to Bond and this time out she is given far more screen time to flesh out the character and leave a greater mark on the film.   Naomie Harris is refreshing as Eve, sharing a great chemistry with Craig and bringing a lighter touch to the film to offset the waves of brutal physicality.  Ralph Fiennes as buearucrat Mallory is only satisfactory, but much of this can be attributed to limited screen time, and Ben Whishaw as Quartermaster is a welcome addition to the narrative.

While Skyfall is a very good movie, it certainly is not perfect.  The third act runs far too long and there are a couple of moments when Bardem’s Silva borders on camp.  But the good so far outweighs the bad – from stunning visuals to riveting chase scenes to well choreographed hand-to-hand combat, and it all comes together to form a cutting edge film that acts as an homage to its cinematic past.  I would absolutely recommend this to one and all and suggest a theatrical viewing to truly appreciate the masterful cinematography that Mendes and team bring to the project.  The best compliment I can pay to the film is the moment the end credits started to roll, I found myself looking forward to 2014 when Daniel Craig reprises this role. 

Standout Performance: Daniel Craig.  It seems that Bond is the role he was born to play.