Saturday, November 10, 2012
Skyfall (Theatrical Review)
Action, Adventure, Crime, 143 minutes
Directed by Sam Mendes
Starring Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench and Ralph Fiennes
The first thing I noticed about Skyfall was the vast amount of talent involved. With apologies to Sean Connery, Daniel Craig gives the best acting performances of any Bond. It's not that he's a better actor than Connery, but he's asked to play the role with a lot more realism, and that works well for me.
Other actors of note are even better than Craig: Judi Dench is wonderful as M, Javier Bardem is over the top and hilarious as Silva, and Ralph Fiennes appears as Gareth Mallory. It's rare that Oscar winners and nominees have so many key roles in an action movie.
In addition to the acting talent, Sam Mendes (American Beauty) directs, Thomas Newman (10 Oscar nominations) is responsible for the score, and Roger Deakins (9 Oscar nominations) does his usual excellent job with the cinematography.
While I enjoyed Quantum of Solace, it was definitely flawed. It was too short, so everything felt rushed. It was also rather unbalanced, with five major chase scenes in the first 30 minutes, and an abundance of quick cuts and shaky-cam. Skyfall has a couple of major chase scenes, but the action never eclipses the overall story.
The plot is pretty simple. A computer hard drive has been stolen, and it contains the identities and missions of MI6 agents. M's computer is hacked and she is informed that the identities of five agents will be released each week. It becomes clear that the knowledge originated from MI6, or from someone with intimate knowledge of the organization.
Bond is injured and believed to be dead after an accident early in the movie, but he turns up alive when he feels that his services are needed. However, he's clearly not completely healthy. Is he fit for duty? Is age catching up with him? Would it be dangerous to allow him to resume duty while he is recovering? I like that Bond is portrayed as vulnerable. He can be hurt, and he can make mistakes.
Craig's Bond is a different beast from any that have come before. He's colder and tougher, and the campy humor is gone. That's not to say that the humor is completely absent, it's just smarter and funnier. Many of the best lines are possible because of the relationship between Bond and M. Check out the word association scene for an example.
Most of the expected elements are present. The movie visits China, Turkey, England and Scotland. There's obviously a new Bond girl, but she's in fewer scenes than you might expect. The music, action sequences and humor all add to the familiar feel. There's even a few references to previous Bond movies, and fans will love the inspired inclusion of an old piece of machinery.
The movie also continues to establish characters that we have come to know and love from previous entries in the franchise, but I'll let you make those discoveries for yourself.
After 23 movies and 50 years, the Bond franchise is alive and well. Many critics are suggesting that Skyfall is the best Bond movie to date. They may be right, but I can't decide between Skyfall and Casino Royale. Skyfall wouldn't work as well without the relationships and story arc established in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. The three Craig movies don't quite have the depth of the Bourne movies, but the gap is miniscule.
Skyfall will appeal to fans of Bond, spy movies, and action movies. I only hope that Craig's next two appearances as Bond are up to this standard.
Overall score 4.5/5
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