Monday, November 12, 2012

Skyfall, a review

Bond is back, better than ever. Well, not so much. We catch up with him while on the run, chasing through a a city in a mad dash to capture a computer thief. However, when an order from M results in Bond being shot and cast out into death, things get interesting.

Especially when MI6 and M are targeted by an unknown but familiar espionage threat.

*SPOILERS*

TECHNICAL

The previous films have their technical prowess on keen display. Martin Campbell gave us highly kinetic, innovative and fluid action sequences coupled by a well-paced story of espionage and revenge. Marc Forster had to make well with a slap-dash script and gave us a Bourne-like thriller coupled with an odd commentary on water instead of oil. A decent thriller but a mediocre Bond film.

And now comes Sam Mendes bringing along Roger Deakins and the entire cast for another romp. This works beautifully from a technical aspect. The film showcases any odd place where Deakins can work his lighting magic, from beneath the surface of ice to dank hallways to a blazing external inferno which reminded me greatly of the oil fires in Jarhead.

The editing is crisp, moving things (mostly) along at a decent clip until the end, and the music is stellar. Adele's opening theme song is haunting and fits in perfectly with the death/resurrection motif that I may explore in the themes section.

Suffice to say, the set pieces are impressive, the cinematography is gorgeous and the general direction is solid.

NARRATIVE

This is where I tend to get nitpicky. I may excuse a load of technical blunders if the narrative makes up for it. Here, however, I think the intention of going a more 'Shakespearean' route may have sold the Bond iconoclasm short.

The acting is unfiromly solid. Craig brings back the projected bluster that Bond requires, while revealing a far more sensitive side than previously seen. The bits we get about his childhood are tantalizingly brief, but rewarding. Judi Dench is given a bigger role, and she does her usual magic with it.

Javier Bardem is, again, the scene stealer. His one-take entrance exudes not only fearsome mystery, but a gentle child-like vernier of guilt and shame. This is not a megalomaniac in search of the next big global toy. He's far too interesting and complex for that.

My main criticism of the film revolves around the final 15 minutes. Granted, nothing in the Bond canon requires a stripped down climactic battle, but I think Skylfall goes the route of the remake of Straw Dogs than it does for something like The Proposition. There is emotional power to be mined, and I do not think it is properly capitalized upon.

The ending "battle" is almost played for laughs, and I actually did laugh, as Bardem's Silva is dispatched in the most anti-climactic way imaginable. A knife to the back, followed by a lame ass 'Bond quip.' Though there are references throughout to the old school Bond of yesteryear, the odd choice of attempting to throw more references back seems more of desperation than in the interest of good storytelling. Plus, the ability to make it a far more personal/intimate scene between two similar yet distinct spies was not out of the writers/director's grasp.

Yet I feel they missed greatness.

THEMES

The film has a larger emotional impact than it's predescssor Quantum of Solace, though I do not think it exceeds Casino Royale. Let me explain: Bond has another chance to free a sex slave from the clutches of the villain, and when he fails, the scene quickly moves on, not lingering on the potential emotional/psychological aspect that Bond experienced not long ago in Casino, namely losing another woman he grew close to. The aspect of finding redemption through saving another is certainly entertained, but never adequately so. Instead it is played almost for laughs.

Resurrection. Bond, after being cast away, returns in horrific shape for a job that he doesn't seem to really enjoy in a world he is quickly becoming aware to. Silva and Bond are cut from the same cloth, yet Silva ended up deranged. Is this where Bond ends up in a decade? The film doesn't say. It's ambiguity is both a welcome and an annoyance.

but I'm still seeing the next film.

CONCLUSION

Despite my hangups on the narrative aspects which almost ruined the finale for me, Skyfall is an intriguing and thrilling Bond film that captures several shades of Bond that weren't fully explored in past films. Craig and Dench are dynamic, the action sequences are competent and the soundtrack is simply to die for (Adele is a welcome addition).

I am now willing to confidently assert that Daniel Craig is the best Bond yet.

3.5 out of 5.

--Nick

2 comments:

  1. Quantum of Solace was a huge step-down for the franchise, but thankfully, this one takes it back up to where it was with Casino Royale and hopefully it stays there because it’s just so much damn fun. Good review Nick.

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    1. Thanks you! What were your thoughts on the climax?

      --Nick

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