Thursday, November 8, 2012

Skyfall Review

Sam Mendes' Skyfall is not only one of the best films of the year, but it is also the best James Bond film of the franchise's 50 long years.  The film is a masterwork of action, drama, and emotion that simmers over the nearly two-and-a-half-hour run time, to a crescendo that is simply stunning.  Skyfall manages to pay homage to the franchise's long history with winks and nods while moving it forward, all while bringing Daniel Craig's Bond more into line with the Bonds of old.

That may come across as a bit confusing, but it is wholly true.  Skyfall is as much a commentary on the actions of M and MI6 as it is the Bond franchise as a whole:  does today's world need mega-intelligence organizations with actual boots on the ground when everything is easily tracked digitally?  The roots of the franchise are embedded deep into the Cold War and the espionage that was so prevalent at the time.  Does today's world still want/need films that revolve around spies?  The answer to both questions is yes.  The new Q (Ben Whishaw) and Bond have a similar conversation during their first meeting.  Q posits that he can do more in his pajamas in a week than Bond can do in a year.  Its this theme of irrelevance and outdated-ness that permeates Skyfall to its core.

The films villain, Silva (played masterfully by Javier Bardem) is out to show MI6 and M herself that her methods and means are outdated - rather than work for a government or agency, Silva would rather choose his own targets and missions.  His ultimate goal is to shake MI6, M, and Bond to their core.  He is essentially the perfect antagonist;  Silva attacks our heroes both physically and mentally and is quite successful.  His overall plan is to slowly chip away at the symbols and ideas of MI6 and Bond; as Q puts it, it's "less a random killing machine and more of a personal statement."  That comment pertains to Bond's new Walther PPK but it applies brilliantly to Silva as well.

It is with regards to Silva's methods and goals that I compare Skyfall to The Dark Knight.  It was no secret that the screenwriters looked to Christopher Nolan's masterpiece for inspiration - in many ways Silva is an adaptation of The Joker.  He's going after the legacy, the ideas behind MI6 and the way it operates in today's world.  There are many themes at play that are reminiscent of TDK and even Batman Begins.  Hey, if you're going to borrow from someone, borrow from the best?  Amiright?  I just cannot convey how amazing of a villain Silva really is.  He is incredibly intelligent, resourceful, diabolical, and very deliberate.  He has a plan and he executes it brilliantly.

The film, on the whole, just works on so many levels.  As a result I have only one gripe - nothing in the story really surprised me all that much.  I suppose this is my fault alone; by watching the multiple trailers and digging for details online I didn't necessarily spoil the film, but I was definitely able to see where things were going and what set-pieces were coming up.  That said, there were still plenty of moments where I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen; with the stakes so high, and with an antagonist as villainous as Silva, nothing was certain.

Without spoiling anything, Skyfall harkens back to the Bond films of old, both subtly and blatantly.  When the traditional Bond theme kicks in I got chills up my spine.  There are plenty of winks and nods that longtime fans will pick up on and appreciate.  This is, after all, the 50th anniversary of the release of the first film, Dr. No.  It's this long legacy that Skyfall both moves away from and catches up to.  That's really all I can say.

I cannot recommend this film highly enough.  It just works on so many levels: the acting it fantastic (Craig is steely and tough as ever as the titular hero), the music blends the original theme and Adele's throaty "Skyfall" beautifully, and the visuals are just eye-poppingly gorgeous.  I saw the film projected digitally in IMAX and I honestly couldn't imagine seeing it any other way.  Action sequences and beautiful location shots just pop off the screen with a resounding vibrancy of their colors.  Please, just go see it.  You know you will.

Skyfall beautifully moves Bond forward while calling back to its roots, all while managing to be the franchise's best.

The Bearded Bullet 

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