Review: Skyfall (JimmyO's take)
PLOT: While trying to retrieve a computer hard drive with the list of M16 agents on it, Bond is seriously injured and presumed dead. However, when he realizes that his former boss is being targeted by a madman, he returns to service. Soon, he is on a mission to protect the person that was partially responsible for putting him in harm’s way in the first place. Talk about allegiance to one’s country…
REVIEW: The moment that Daniel Craig steps out of the shadows in the twenty-third James Bond film, you can tell that it will be something special. SKYFALL opens – much like many of the others – with a thrilling chase, this time involving a stolen computer drive, with Bond and another agent (Naomie Harris) hot on the culprits trail. During this incredible sequence, Craig exudes all of the qualities that make Bond a fascinating character. He even adjusts his cufflinks after jumping onto a speeding train. After a misfire puts the desperate chase to a halt, the opening of Adele’s superb Bond theme “Skyfall” leads into what is arguably the best opening credit sequence in the franchise’s fifty year history.
After Bond is injured and presumed dead, he disappears into a quiet and peaceful island life. Yet when M16 goes under attack from a mysterious psychopath, he comes out of hiding to return to service. Comparisons have been made to Nolan’s DARK KNIGHT Trilogy due to the fact that Bond has fallen and must rise up from the darkness. However the similarities are very minor and to be fair, the idea of a fallen hero facing these kinds of insurmountable odds isn’t a new one. In Bond’s case, it only makes him a little more human and slightly more vulnerable. It is also a fascinating way to explore his relationship with the other larger than life figure, the Head of Secret Intelligence Service, M (Judi Dench). The two characters continue to develop a surprisingly touching relationship when he must protect her from the film’s baddie Silva (Javier Bardem).
After what many consider a weak entry in the Bond franchise with QUANTUM OF SOLACE, director Sam Mendes presents Bond fans with a spectacular event. For those that are disheartened by the lack of “Bond-ness” from QOS and CASINO ROYALE, you can certainly recognize it here. He is tough and clearly handles the physicality of it all, but Craig has done that from the beginning. It is with SKYFALL that we are starting to see more of the gentleman quality that many of those before him possessed. However, I was personally sold on Craig as Bond in the beginning. His intensity and gruff charm has solidified him as one of the best in the franchise.
While the opening chase sequence here is similar to the opening sequence in CASINO ROYALE, it reaches a little farther into the over-the-top action set piece that you’d expect from 007. Both are very well shot and each one offers some serious pulse pounding excitement. Yet as SKYFALL progresses, the locales are most assuredly reminiscent of an earlier era in the world of James Bond. There is a real blend of past and present that is sure to please many a die hard 007 fan, much of which I’m hesitant to talk about as it is more fun to experience it yourself. I will add that the reemergence of Q – this time played by the very talented Ben Whishaw – is a real treat as well as Ralph Fiennes as Gareth Mallory. The two actors are a welcome addition.
The exotic settings are used to full advantage, especially one fantastic fight scene between our hero and a villainous thug. While tracking the gentleman who stole information regarding the identities of secret servicemen, Bond follows him to the top floor of a skyscraper in Shanghai. Thus one of the most fantastic cinematic fight scenes occurs. In fact, one of the real stars of SKYFALL is cinematographer Roger Deakins who recently wowed audiences with his work in TRUE GRIT. Every single shot is so beautifully photographed that it would be hard to name a better looking film this year. The use of color for each sequence not only is exquisite to look at but it adds a touch of character to every moment. The last hour or so is absolutely breathtaking thanks to Deakins and the way Mendes constructs the surprisingly unique - in Bond terms that is - final showdown.
Of course, what everybody seems to be talking about is the villainous Silva. And this is for good reason because Javier Bardem is absolutely fascinating as an ex-agent with a grudge against M. He is a disturbed monster who will attack with a vengeance. He is smart, manipulative and creepily passionate – especially in one intriguing scene between the possibly bisexual villain and Bond himself. Bardem is one of the best actors working today, and like he did in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, he brings a powerful ferociousness to another dark character.
Now as much as SKYFALL does blend classic Bond with Craig’s modern day spy, it may not work with purists hoping for “exploding pens” and the womanizing secret agent man. The Bond girls here are underutilized, yet I thoroughly enjoyed Naomie Harris as Eve. The tantalizing Bérénice Marlohe is completely wasted aside from a quick romantic shower time fling with our hero. Yet with a few minor complaints, this is a terrific return to form after QOS. With stunning cinematography from Roger Deakins, a stirring music score by Thomas Newman and another charismatic villain from Bardem, SKYFALL ranks as one of the best Bonds yet.
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