Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Skyfall



James Bond is officially back! This movie had a lot to prove, coming off the slight disappointment that was "Quantum of Solace" and facing inevitable comparisons to the terrific "Casino Royale". Then there was the big five-o. This year marks the 50 year anniversary of Bond in film, and thus expectations were high for not merely a solid entry that could coast on the good-will of its star, but a classic Bond that would stand as one of the best in the massively popular series. I've been anticipating this movie since I first heard its title, which certainly evokes some powerful and slightly ominous implications. Then I saw the impressive and mood-building teaser trailer, which also piqued my interest the moment I saw it. My hype has been steadily building  for the past several months, particularly given the famine of theatrical entertainment following The Bourne Legacy. Somehow, director Sam Mendes was able to not only live up to expectations, but provide possibly the best film of the entire series. As this is a new release, there won't be any spoilers (at least nothing that's not in the trailers) in the plot summary.

Skyfall begins with James Bond chasing after a goon whose employer has stolen a list of agents that are currently undercover. Despite a riveting chase scene through a Turkish city and an adrenaline-fueled fist fight atop a speeding train, the mission ends badly and Bond is presumed dead. Returning from a meeting with a government official who pressures her to retire, M's personal computer is hacked into and she is taunted with the phrase, "think on your sins" before her office is destroyed before her eyes. 007, who is using his supposed death as an excuse to retire, sees a news report of the attack and returns to London. However, despite his best efforts, Bond isn't the agent he once was and he must somehow overcome his lack of physical dominance as well as confront his past in order to stop a villain from assassinating his mother figure.

Unlike the previous two movies, I was able to catch this film in theaters, and I am so glad I did. This is a film that must be seen on the big screen. In my review of "Quantum of Solace" I complained that the editing style kept me at arms length by refusing to linger on anything for more than a second at a time. This film, shot by legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins, not only fixed the problem, but is without a doubt the most beautifully photographed James Bond film I have ever seen. Every frame is expertly lighted and captured and the editing allows you the time to revel in and truly appreciate the impressive scenery. The story also provides further insight into MI6, its director, M, as well as Bond himself, who has demons in his past that he must face in order to protect the people he cares about.

This film also features a wonderful villain, played exceptionally by Javier Bardem. His unnatural blonde hair is a perfect metaphor for the offbeat and disturbed former MI6 agent, Raoul Silva. He has a personal vendetta against M and a horrific past that almost justifies the lengths to which he goes for retribution. Judi Dench is also fantastic as M, whose dark history and questionable decisions are brought into sharp scrutiny throughout the film. But of course, this film belongs to its star, Daniel Craig. I am constantly finding myself more and more impressed with the man I believe to be the best James Bond of all. He can convey such subtle emotions with his eyes or a mere facial expression and brings a weight and depth to a character that has often been portrayed as just a figure to be idolized. This Bond has baggage and it's oddly refreshing to see that played with such care.

Skyfall is a love-letter to the expansive oeuvre that is the James Bond series. However, it keeps the same grittiness and intensity of Craig's previous films, melding a perfect combination of old and new for this latest installment. There are so many little homages that are paid to the previous films in the franchise that will absolutely delight anyone who enjoys the 007 films. This was obviously done in honor of the 50th anniversary, but it doesn't overshadow the narrative as there are still many insights and surprises that somehow manage to shed new light on familiar characters. Skyfall is an incredibly entertaining film, and one that I can see myself watching and enjoying for years to come. I plan on seeing it again in theaters and I can't wait. This is a great film, one of the best I've seen so far this year. I give Skyfall a solid four stars.

SKYFALL is rated PG-13 for intense violent sequences throughout, some sexuality, language and smoking