Sunday, November 18, 2012

Skyfall review; an instant Bond classic

Instant classic?  A term that is used all too often, when it shouldn't be.  But specifically speaking to the 50 year history of the James Bond franchise, Skyfall is truly an instant classic.  It's Sam Mendes' turn to direct the legendary British spy franchise.  It stars Daniel Craig as 007 for the third time (Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace).  Judi Dench also returns as M.  There are also newcomers to the franchise.  Ralph Fiennes (who was rumored to play 007 before Craig), joins the franchise in a great supporting role.  Naomie Harris and Bérénice Marlohe are lucky enough to call themselves the new "Bond girls".  Ben Whishaw plays the great character of Q, producer of all of Bond's gadgets.  Last but not least, Javier Bardem plays one of the most memorable Bond villains in cinema history.  Let's go!

What I liked about the film:
The Actors/Characters
If you've read any reviews for the film, before this one, you've probably noticed all the attention Bardem is receiving for the character of Silva.  Rightfully so!  He is incredible in the film.  He is a sick and sinister man, hell-bent on getting revenge on M; for something that happened decades earlier.  He is magnetic in this movie.  And I've noticed the success of certain Bond films are directly attributed to the villain; Skyfall is no different.

Daniel Craig gives ANOTHER great performance.  After Casino Royale, there was talk of an Oscar nomination for Craig.  That same argument could be made for this film.  We get to see him down and out and where he came from.  The writers dive very deep into the Bond back story, and it's a treat to watch.  Craig and Bardem are magic onscreen together.  Everything from their dialogue to their sexual tension.  Yes!  I said sexual tension.  No spoilers, watch the film.

Dench IS the character, M.  It's hard for my generation to imagine anyone else playing the character.  Fiennes and Harris are nice additions, and do a lot, with a little.  They create memorable characters for the little screen time they have.  And I wanted to point out Whishaw, as Q.  He is another example of great casting in this Bond reboot.  The character is young, sarcastic, charming, challenging and brilliant in just a few scenes in the film.

Mendes constructs some great action sequences that pay homage to the character, and to the spy genre as a whole.  There are trains, cars, motorcycles  helicopters, OH MY!  And believe it or not, it is all to the benefit of the story.  The action set pieces are unique, clever and memorable.  The end of the first scene is so exhilarating, that the woman sitting next to me at the theater, actually exhaled at the end of the scene.  That is pretty awesome.

It's still early, but I believe Roger Deakins will be nominated for an Academy Award for his work on this film.  It is one of the most beautiful looking films of the year; and easily among the best looking Bond films in the franchise.  There are a lot of memorable scenes, but the one that sticks in mind involves Bond fighting another man atop a skyscraper.  All we see are the men's silhouettes, while an amazing light show plays behind them.  It's stunning to look at and forces you to focus on the story being told on screen.

Thomas Newman recorded such a great score for this film.  It plays perfectly with the action on the screen.  A chase scene through a subway station gets the blood pumping all way to the finish.  Then there are scenes involving Bond and his ladies that swiftly tells a love story.  Just awesome!  I can't wait to buy this soundtrack.

The Dark Knight Effect
There are a lot of similarities between the Christopher Nolan classic, The Dark Knight, and Skyfall.  I wont talk about it in too much detail.  But I will tell you that the two films contain the following similarities: the score, the villain, the tone and specific plot points.  It's almost impossible to ignore.  For a spoiler-filled comparison, click here to read Lewis Wallace of Wired, explain in great detail.

What I didn't like about the film:
The Climax
The first two acts, and part of the third, are an action packed thrill ride.  And then the climax happened.  I am not going to spoil anything here; but the climax is very calculated, and very much on purpose.  I just didn't like it.  It is very small in comparison to the rest of the film.  It mostly takes place in a house where Bond, M and an old friend take on Silva and his goons.  While it was amazing to look at, it was a let down.  After you see the movie, let me know if you agree to disagree.

The Verdict:
An Instant Bond Classic
Most action films are just one action set piece after another, tied together by awful dialogue and character development.  Skyfall is NOT that film.  It takes a character so many people love, surrounds him with interesting characters and takes him to various locations throughout the world, to tell a great story.  We learn a lot about Bond in this film.  We learn how he overcomes adversity, what his childhood may have been like, what drove him to become an agent; great details that make the character who he is today.  With Mendes behind the wheel, we've been given a Bond film for the ages.  Let's hope Mendes is willing to return for another round of Martinis... shaken, not stirred.

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