Skyfall - Movie review
As Bond franchise celebrates it’s 50th year, it shows how to make a long-lived franchise, with it’s captivating blend of action, humor, romance in a way which defined what became defined as the spy thriller genre.
There have been many imitators, and in particular, the Bourne Identity series was proof that imitation is the best flattery. In fact in recent Bond outings before Daniel Craig burst onto the scene, there have been some talk of how irrelevant Bond has become in the modern world, and the XXX series actually mocks the suave British super agent.
But make no mistake, the 23rd installment makes us sit up, watch, listen and go away convinced that we want more Bond, and we like the unique way that Bond dispatches the evil opponents of MI6 and the British Empire whilst having his martini, shaken, not stirred.
I think that it would not be inappropriate, to say, this is the best Bond ever, and their choice of director, Sam Mendes helped in no small way, and his casting director, and director of photography (DP) helped to secure what was a totally engrossing and wonderfully made movie.
Skyfall is a wonderful example of how to make a successful action thriller, which manages to distance itself from another mindless Michael Bay actioner, with some key elements, which make this a movie to watch over and over again.
Firstly, Sam Mendes is a solid director, who manages to keep the action flowing, and yet allow air time that permits character development, and this makes Bond, M and other key characters real, funny and interesting, rather than just props for the inevitable action sequences.
Having big names or award winning actors isn’t always a guarantee that the show will succeed, especially in an action spy thriller. But Sam chose the actors well, and in this case, made time for actress Judi Dench to show off her acting chops to wonderful effect, and she and Bond play off each other very well. Daniel Craig is no Oscar-worthy potential, but he feeds off Judi Denches’ M very well and Sam Mendes allows time to delve into Bond’s past and uses it well to create the right mood and scenes. Bond also shows that he bleeds, feels and gets injured, and compared to the camp of Roger Moore, this is a welcome vulnerability. The addition of another Oscar winning actor Ralph Fiennes was a really good move and he works well with his limited screen time. And the icing on the cake was using Javier Bardem as the bad guy.
Now those expecting another vignette of No Country for Old Man in Javier will be disappointed, but he plays his role superbly, with angst, depth and true menace, whilst retaining a little bit of camp in his role. There is a rather poignant scene in the movie when he reveals how he became so bitter. We will also meet new versions of Q and even a modern Moneypenny, and look out for that plus a wonderful ending.
In case you think we are no longer shooting Bond, but Shakespeare, make no mistake, there are big action scenes as Bond goes from India to China and more, possibly to appeal to a massive audience in the two most populous nations in the world, perhaps with the aim of garnering new fans.
Putting all the acting together requires more than just a string of action sequences, it requires a competent DP and in Roger Deakins, you have one of the best. Roger Deakins, the nine-time-Oscar-nominated cinematographer had to be persuaded to film this by Sam Mendes, since he didn’t think too much of the traditional Bond style, but he brought awesome lighting, different angles and his interpretation of fight scenes was superb and thankfully free of shaky camera shoots.
Instead, Roger uses silhouettes fight scenes, shadow play, coupled with some well chosen locations to enhance the mood and develop the character and tension. He adds grain to an old abandoned island, a Blade-Runner-esque style Shanghai scene, and dulls the tone of color in certain scenes to add to the depressing mood as MI6 comes under attack. The row of coffins draped in the Union Jack has rich colors, a poignant point of view of the camera and when it pans to M’s face, no words are needed to express the sorrow mixed with anger.
So how does the plot score? Well Sam hasn’t forgotten how to spin a good yarn and this is another movie that didn’t come from the original Ian Fleming series. MI6 is under attack and Bond gets injured and is presumed dead. Can he return to defend M, fend off the bad guy and save MI6 and also recover the undercover agent list?
The action is non-stop and in a solid theatre with Dolby 7.1, there is excellent bass with real thump in the chest, and well used surrounds, making this a great surround experience and I am sure the Blu Ray disc will be a great one.
There is even time to pay tribute to older Bond movies, and some of the institutions of Bond are showcases here too. Look out for the original Aston Martin, and some funny scenes with a new Q.
What about the babe factor?
Well in the limited time of just over 2 hours, we expect that something will give way, and the Bond girls don’t get as much air time. In fact there is precious little bedroom action, but I don’t think we missed much.
Having more time for a wonderful actor like Judi Dench makes up for the lack of babes, bods and bedroom action. The dialogue is crisp, devoid of the usual sexual innuendos famous in the Sean Connery and Roger Moore era, and instead subtle body language and tight screenplay allows for a good banter nevertheless.
Is this a movie to watch?
That’s a resounding YES, and in fact, you may watch it many times, and still buy the Blu Ray disc and there will be plenty to talk about when the curtains raise up.
Finally, forget the two babes pretending to be Bond girls in this movie, M is the real Bond girl here! You will agree that the Judi Dench really makes this the best Bond movie so far.
Highly recommended, and long live James Bond...