Monday, November 12, 2012

Skyfall movie review.

Sometimes, a movie title can bear an ironic metaphor. Indeed, longtime James Bond fans could find little solace amidst the disappointment of Quantum of Solace, the lackluster follow up to Martin Campbell’s Casino Royale, the thrilling 2006 reboot to the 007 franchise. Amends had to be made, and with Sam Mendes (Of American Beauty and Road to Perdition fame) in the director’s chair, the hype behind Bond’s 23rd venture in 50 years was justified. The result, Skyfall, an exhilarating, intense, and even emotional movie that should please longtime devotees, and even win the franchise some new fans.

After a failed mission to retrieve a hard drive containing the identities and placements of MI6 agents in criminal organizations around the world (complete with a motorcycle chase that would justify Gary Powell and his stunt team claiming the SAG stunt ensemble award on its own), Bond (Daniel Craig), believed to be dead for months, reemerges to uncover the identity of whoever stole the hard drive. The years have finally caught up with Bond, as he proves to be less invincible and more psychologically damaged than in previous incarnations.

Standout alert!: Javier Bardem.
Nonetheless, he’s still cleared for duty by his superior M (Judi Dench). This makes for one of the movie’s fascinating emotional elements. Despite the questionable methods between the two, we get to see a warm, almost maternal bond between them. The trail eventually leads Bond to Silva (Javier Bardem), a troubled ex-agent who seeks revenge for M’s past sins. Bardem is fan-freakin’-tastic in the role, and everything a great Bond villain should be: Intimidating, intelligent, vengeful, conniving, and at times, even hilarious. You can tell that Bardem is having a blast in the role, and he makes for one of the best Bond villains, especially since it’s more intimate than an evil corporation, less on a global scale, and more on a personal scale.

Moving on from that, Skyfall makes for both a great update, and a pleasant throwback to the old Bond staples. It ties evenly into the thematic context of Bond’s character, often humorously referred to with “old dog, new tricks.” For both new and old fans, you get the best of both worlds. It makes a great effort at looking into Bond’s psychological state, and you also get the exhilarating action he’s known for. The pacing is usually very kind to this development, although the third act does get a little tiresome.

What a view. What lovely photography.
From a technical standpoint, the movie is flawless. Mendes brings together a veteran team of craftspeople that all do everything the job requires of them, and then some. Roger Deakins, who provides beautifully composed and stunning digital photography, is worthy of another Oscar he’s not going to receive. The sound design, and the overall mix, is certainly top notch stuff. Dennis Gassner nails the tone of each scene with his detailed production design. Chris Corbould’s practical effects are great, and the stuntwork, again, is great. Early on, we also get a listen to Adele’s beautifully melancholy title track, which deserves consideration as one of the year’s best original songs, set to Daniel Kleinman’s fabulous opening titles.

Overall, Skyfall is a smashing good action thriller that should entertain both the initiated and uninitiated viewers of 007. A much needed facelift that takes the series into new stylistic directions, but still stays true to the essence of what made James Bond a household name over the years. “Old dog, new tricks”? That sounds about right.

***** / *****

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