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Michael G. Wilson
Daniel Craig is back as Ian Fleming's James Bond 007 in Skyfall, the 23rd adventure in the longest-running film franchise of all time. In Skyfall, Bond’s loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.
What a way to celebrate 50 years of Bond
For the past 50 years James Bond has been appearing on our cinema screens in both fanciful gadget filled missions and god awful parkour ventures. I have to admit I was not a fan of the previous Daniel Craig films due to their weak, action packed stories. But Skyfall (Mendes, 2012) was something different. It has reignited the tired and dreary Bond series as well as recapturing my interest in the films. The plot was gripping and full of twists, the return of Q is very welcome and the villain was as inspirational as he was terrifying.
Skyfall does regrettably begin solely driven by action and uninteresting scenes, thus making the first thirty minutes extraordinarily slowly. It is only when the villain, Silva (Javier Bardem), appears that the film picks up pace. As the plot gets going the film is propelled into an epic adventure where we learn more about Bond and M’s (Judie Dench) relationship and past, rather than simply following Bond on yet another mission.
However the plot is not the main talking point for Skyfall. It is Silva, the antagonist. Who is not only the most interesting aspect of the film but who I also think is one of the best Bond villains to date. His influence is what provides the otherwise dreary Skyfall with a meaning and his refreshing reason for villainy is actually far more reasonable than just wanting to destroy the world because he can. The film is offered a sense of realism because of this, something that has never really existed in Bond films due to their fantastical nature.
Earlier I praised Bond movies for their inventive gadgets and innovative vehicles. Whilst this film does once again include Q, Skyfall does not contain any exciting contraptions; with the only real gadgets being a finger print recognising pistol and a car with a few missiles and guns built in. Unfortunately this was not the major disappointment of the film. For me it was Skyfall’s predictability that let it down. This made the film’s finale slower than it should have been as the outcome of all characters involved had become clear to me, and presumably the majority of the audience, twenty minutes before they happened.
Skyfall is able to strike emotion from the audience through its more subjective plot, looking in at the lives of both Bond and M. The lack of gadgets was compensated by an immersive storyline and terrifying villain, if the Bond franchise continues with this approach there is still a bright future for it. I will finish on the final note that the inclusion of Ralph Fiennes is most welcome and I look forward to seeing more of him in future Bond films. The character I am not looking forward to seeing more of is Eve (Naomie Harris), and anyone that has seen the film will hopefully know the reason why.
The Bond series celebrates its 50th anniversary in style with Skyfall.
Posted by Den Of Geek at 11:09, 13 Oct 2012
By now, we all have a good idea of what to expect from a Bond movie. Cars. Ladies. A Walther PPK. Pithy one liners. The elements have all become so familiar, it’s easy to forget that it was James Bond who defined the modern action hero. Without Bond, there’d be no Jack Bauer. No Jason Bourne. No Bryan Mills. And with 007 celebrating his 50th year in the movies, what better time than to bring forth a Bond movie that looks back as well as forward?
Ever since Casino Royale landed in 2006, Eon has sought to reconcile Bond with the modern age. We’ve seen less reliance on gadgets, and more emphasis on immediate, physical action. Yet while Daniel Craig’s first outing was a confident, streamlined affair, the general consensus was that Quantum Of Solace took the rough editing and shaking cameras a little too far.
From Skyfall’s opening shot, it’s clear director Sam Mendez has taken us into different territory. The movie opens not with a bang but with an ominous murmur. Bond’s in Istanbul, and on the trail of a missing hard drive. We’re not sure what’s going on or why this piece of hardware is so important, but there’s an anxiety in James’ eyes that’s troubling, perhaps even unfamiliar. But we get little time to ponder this; with an angry bark from M in his earpiece, Bond’s off on a high-octane chase through Turkey's ancient city, in pursuit of the villains and the vital tech.
It’s a bold opening sequence, and one thing immediately stands out: the camera is rock solid. There are no needlessly rapid cuts or jolting cameras. The suggestion of speed and peril is instead suggested through expert framing, an aggressive use of sound and superb stunt work.
Although this opening sequence is only brief, it tells us everything we need to know about Skyfall: this is a Bond movie establishing its own style of action again, rather than riding along in the slipstream of the immensely influential Bourne movies, as Quantum Of Solace arguably did.
Needless to say, the stolen hard drive will prove to be pivotal to the rest of the movie’s events, though we won’t spoil things by giving away the details here. It’s sufficient to say that screenwriters John Logan, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have brought the villainous threat closer to home this time – something you may have gleaned from the various Skyfall trailers.
Daniel Craig has long since placed his own stamp on Bond, and he once again brings an engaging, human dimension to this most iconic of spies. This is a Bond who’s variously tense, vulnerable, tipsy, embittered and as promiscuous as we’ve come to expect. It’s also pleasing to see Bond the detective as well as the man of action, as he uses his Sherlockian skills to entertaining effect in one small yet memorable moment.
It's a 007 movie confident enough in its writing to dial back the action sequences when it needs to, and instead rely on suspense and wonderfully dry dialogue to carry large chunks of the film. Judy Dench is once again wonderfully icy as M; newcomer Naomie Harris is effervescent as Bond’s occasional sidekick and new verbal sparring partner, Eve, while Ben Whishaw is quietly charismatic as the new, computer-savvy Q.
Skyfall keeps its action sequences well spaced out, and its manner of gradually building up to its set-pieces is more akin to Dr No or Goldfinger than, say, the more outlandish action of Die Another Day or Moonraker. And because those build-ups are so measured, the action sequences, when they arrive, sparkle all the more.
Skyfall’s so well paced, in fact, that it’s easy to miss that all the things we’d expect are still in place - there are exotic locations, glamorous women in expensive dresses, explosions and car chases, but all presented in a manner which feels surprisingly fresh.
Once again, the way Skyfall is shot plays a key role in this – Roger Deakins’ cinematography is unusual and striking, adding drama and artistry to familiar action sequences. One scene in particular, a moment of suspense silhouetted against the surreal, acid colours of a neon sign, is quite breathtaking.
Perhaps influenced by Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, Skyfall has a sweeping, Wagnerian sense of epic scale and foreboding. Thomas Newman’s sublime score underlines the sense of apocalyptic events, and the movie’s at its best when it’s contrasting violence and quiet suspense, the old and the new, the grand and the intimate.
Skyfall, perhaps better than any of Bond’s modern adventures, manages to reconcile the wood panelling and Cold War scheming of the character’s origins, and the high-tech, post-Internet requirements of a modern spy movie. It draws on the iconography of the classic adventures from the 60s, but it’s also, at times, bravely iconoclastic.
Regrettably, not everything in Skyfall works, as decisive as its makers’ choices often are. Although the sense of drama and foreboding hints that Bond may have met his physical and psychological match, that notion is undercut by several events which diminish the tension somewhat. Javier Bardem’s villain is oddly uneven, and in spite of the actor’s gamely animated performance, his menace wanes rather than builds – a disappointing misstep in an otherwise solidly written script.
If all this sounds rather vague, that’s because there’s so much that deserves to be kept under wraps. More than any other 007 movie of the last few decades, Skyfall has unexpected and dramatic moments to savour. It’s not perfect, but it feels complete, satisfying, and equally eager to cater to those hoping for some classic Bond action, and those who’ve never seen a 007 movie in their lives.
“We’re going back in time,” Bond says in one scene, providing what is possibly the film’s key line. Skyfall takes stock of 007’s heritage, while also pointing the way forward. And if Skyfall’s the future of Bond, then the franchise is undoubtedly secure for another half a century.