Bottom Line: Skyfall – Hope for 007 has fallen from the sky…shaken, not stirred.
Directed by: Sam Mendes
James Bond: Daniel Craig
MI6: Ben Whishaw, Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Rory Kinnear
Bond girl: Bérénice Lim Marlohe
Villain: Javier Bardem
Also Starring: Albert Finney, Helen McCrory, Naomie Harris, Ola Rapace
“Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are—
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
–”Ulysses” by Alfred Lord Tennyson
Even after having watched every 007 film to date, I hold 2006′s Casino Royale in the high regard as my favorite James Bond adventure. Why? Quite simply, it works to become an anomaly to the rest of the series, only to result in skyrocketing amazement. Whereas the usual Bond film is a festival of guns, girls, gambling, grit, and grins, Casino Royale bravely reinvented the series to explain the series’ staples–every one of them, from the vodka martini (shaken, not stirred) to the timeless gun barrel sequence–while still maintaining an increasingly high level of interest in the audience. Furthermore, the film set a plot that left off with the unavoidable sequel at hand. And sure enough, two years later came Quantum of Solace, a sheer, sorry flop. How disappointing to see Bond depicted as a shallow action hero, one who severely lacks spark and charisma. I set my expectations very low for “Bond 23″, the inevitable followup that became Skyfall. I feared that despite the phenomenal twist under which the series had been taken, everything would collapse from here on out. It goes without saying: the saga is much more than back up on its feet again. I scratch my head as I try to come up with a better way to cheer “Celebrating 50 Years of 007!”, than Skyfall.
Skyfall is a smart, stylish deviation from the James Bond whom Ian Fleming had created. The lighthearted, heavy-headed thriller is continuation on the rather up-to-date espionage milieu, but also a venture toward Bond’s psyche. There’s a focus less on “Bond girls” and gradually more on our hero’s abandoned life. These are equally emotional and tense zones through which Fleming would have thought of traveling, and the results are greatly appreciated. Our story is a fine mix of the old and the new. James Bond (Daniel Craig) makes an advantageous attempt to retire from his work as an MI6 agent, once he is thought to have been murdered. But fate is always there to bite him in the back. There is a hacker (Javier Bardem) on the loose, using his adept skills with complex technology to sporadically stand in the way of MI6.
The most recent Bond film is a paragon for what results from a particularly great script. Successful British writing duo Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who have been the series’ scribes since 1999′s The World Is Not Enough, pair up with John Logan (Hugo, The Aviator); out comes the optimal blend of humor and gravity. Who knew Ben Whishaw could deliver Q in a far more amusing light than Monty Python alum John Cleese (Q from 1999-2002)? Most memorable is the leading antagonist, played fabulously by Javier Bardem. Yes, he’s strange, but how many memorable Bond villains have been straightforward? None. Bardem, in his role as Raoul Silva, channels such notable villains as Jaws (1977-1979) and Ernst Stavro Blofeld (1963-1971), only building further on Bond’s overwhelming lack of fear.
One final note with regards to Skyfall. The technical artistry is some of the best I’ve seen in any action movie, let alone a film featuring James Bond. After opening up with a startling (multiple times, in fact) bang, the title sequence appears as one of the most curious yet glorious I’ve ever seen. There’s an iridescent atmosphere surrounding it as it moves along with Adele’s “Skyfall”, a piece just as beautiful as the computer-generated shots it complements. After this introductory snippet ends, the tale resumes with scrupulously captured, prodigiously edited cinematography. Roger Deakins (the man who photographed The Shawshank Redemption so wonderfully) takes advantage of the thematically charged drama, angling the camera to build up on suspense before the climactic action. Certainly, Skyfall is a gargantuan thrill and a half. If you’re a James Bond fan, you won’t regret seeing it as soon as possible. If you aren’t much a James Bond fan, go see it anyway, and I guarantee you’ll find an instant change in heart. I tap my foot rapidly as I wait impatiently, with exorbitantly high expectations, for “Bond 24″.
Postscript: I did see this the night it opened in the USA. The delay is getting huge!