Monday, December 3, 2012

Skyfall (2012)

Title: Skyfall (2012)

Director: Sam Mendez

Cast: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris


Through the decades, various directors have taken a stab at directing a Bond film. Usually directors  chosen to direct a Bond film are not what you’d call “popular” or well known directors. Usually they are directors who have made a successful action film at some point and so they are given the opportunity to take Bond for a spin, but it’s not like we’ve seen a Bond film directed by Steven Spielberg or Peter Jackson.  Most Bond directors can almost be labeled as anonymous in the industry; they’ve done a successful film or two, but they aren’t house hold names. It seems that with this new cycle of Bond films, producers are attempting to change that; Skyfall was directed by Sam Mendes, the director behind such amazing films as American Beauty (1999), and Revolutionary Road (2008), two films that have nothing to do with action or espionage, yet are extremely well written, acted and directed. He was also the director behind Road to Perdition (2002), a gangster film that was also heavy on the drama. So I think it’s great that for Skyfall we get a director with a solid background on drama, taking that into consideration, what did Mr. Mendes bring to the world of Bond?   

On this Bond film, Bond has to protect ‘M’ from an old foe who wants to exact revenge on her and all of MI-6. Problem is that Bond has taken something of a sabbatical and is simply enjoying the life, hanging out at the beach, getting drunk, partying. He is taking advantage of the fact that the folks at MI-6 think he is dead. But when M’s life is suddenly in peril, Bond decides to step out of the shadow life he’s been living to protect M; considering how out of shape he is in, can Bond still be Bond? Is Bond as indestructible as he’s always been?

One of the elements that I’ve enjoyed the most about the new Bond films is that Bond isn’t the indestructible super spy he’s been in previous films. Unbelievable as it may seem, Bond’s only gotten shot in two of his films and Skyfall is one of them; so we can deduce that Skyfall aims to make Bond a more vulnerable character. On these last three bond films Casino Royale (2006), Quantum of Solace (2008) and now Skyfall, Bond has been portrayed as a hero with an element of mortality to him, he makes mistakes, he gets beaten to a pulp by villains, in fact, on Skyfall he is practically falling apart, no longer able to pass the physical test that MI-6 gives to its operatives. But I like that about this new Bond, it makes him a bit more real and therefore, more interesting. On this one we get a partied out Bond who’s having a hard time readjusting to the secret agent lifestyle.  Daniel Craig does a great rendition of Bond; dare I say that he has proven himself to be one of the best and most credible Bonds ever? Well, yes, I do dare say it, because that’s exactly what he’s become. When I compare Craig’s Bond with the old ones, the old ones feel like cartoon versions of Bond, while this new one feels so much more credible and serious. He doesn’t have that smirk on his face so much, he’s not about the classic one liners. He comes off as a Bond with lots of inner turmoil. 

Actually, you will notice that this film makes fun of the way the old movies were, for example, when ‘Q’  gives Bond his new weapons, Bond asks “is that it? A gun and a radio?” and Q answers “What did you expect; pens with lasers shooting out of them? We don’t do that sort of thing anymore” making an obvious statement at how much more realistic these next batch of Bond films will be. To be honest I welcome this more realistic rendition of Bond…for now. Chances are that at some point Bond will revert to that jokey version of himself at some point? Who knows, all I know is that right now, I like this super serious version. Daniel Craig does a fantastic job on this one. The filmmakers behind Skyfall have not only humanized Bond more, they’ve also made this film decidedly less technological. By that I mean, Bond doesn’t have all these unbelievable gadgets like exploding toothpaste or cars that turn invisible. On this there’s less unbelievable gadgets; things are made more difficult for Bond this time around. In fact, the car Bond gets on this one is a Silver 1965 Aston Martin DB5, no doubt it looks stylish and slick, but it’s very retro, not cutting edge. It does shoot missiles out of it though, so we still get that. But in many ways, this stylish yet old car represents Daniel Craig’s Bond, he’s growing old, yet he’s still got it, he can still kick ass. 

And what is Bond without a good villain and a good cast of characters to populate his world? For years now we’ve had the same actress play ‘M’ the motherly brains behind MI-6, I speak of course of the awesome Judi Dench. But it’s time for her to move on, and I found it interesting how they’ve structured a whole Bond film around M’s retirement. It gives the filmmakers a chance to show the mother/son relationship that M and Bond have always had. Bond’s an orphan, so he sees M as his mother and she sees him as her son. The dynamics that stem from that relationship offer us some of the most heartfelt moments on this Bond film, this is something rare in a Bond film; heartfelt moments. But we do get those, because thanks to the involvement of director Sam Mendes, this film has an emphasis on drama and characterization. This Bond film isn’t about saving the world, this is a more personal film, with a villain who has a more personal agenda in mind. It’s a different type of Bond film in that sense. We get a mad man, but his vendetta is personal. Javier Bardem eats up the screen whenever he’s on proving once again that he is one of the best actors of his generation.  I mean, I loved how this film has such an amazing cast, we even get Ralph Fiennes playing the new ‘M’. So expect a Bond film whose emphasis isn’t so much in action, but more in characterization, good performances and a well developed story. It might not be the most action packed of the Bond films, but it’s brilliantly acted, you might find yourself more invested in the characters with this film. But fear not action lovers, the film does have some spectacular action scenes, the opening of the film for example is a good twenty minutes of nonstop action. 

It’s no surprise that Skyfall has turned out to be one of the most successful of all Bond films. It’s a well made film, with an amazing cast. Sam Mendes has made a Bond film that pays its respects to everything that came before it, while shaking things up and establishing a whole slew of new characters for future films.  Sam Mendes also infused this film with a great visual flare, there are lots of colors, beautiful locations and vistas, the images conjured up are simply beautiful. Aesthetically speaking, this is one good looking Bond film. The opening credit sequence with Adele singing her bond song, awesome visuals! That opening montage was one of my favorite things about the film. It’s like we get the elements that make a traditional Bond film (gadgets, bond girls, sex, martinis, cars and bullets) but with enough new stuff to keep us on our toes. Skyfall redefines Bond movies for years to come; it shakes the status quo of things, nothing is the same after this one, for this and many other reasons, it’s a special Bond film, highly recommend checking it out in theaters.

Rating:  5 out of 5


Christine Hadden said...

While I suppose there will always be naysayers out there that say Sean Connery is the best Bond ever and/or still have trouble accepting Craig as 007, I am totally on board with the new and improved Bond.

I loved Casino Royale and the revamped series - and I very much enjoy Daniel Craig's take on the secret agent. He's made him vulnerable and emotional, but not to the point that he loses his cool. He's fierce, loyal, and one bad-ass dude.

Skyfall is an excellent film. I wanted to watch it all over again the minute it ended. I can't say that for any other Bond films - or for very few films of any genre.
I too, would give it 5 out of 5.

Great write-up :)

Franco Macabro said...

Thanks Christine, agree with ya, this bond is vulnerable yet kicks ass when he has too. I liked how they adressed the fact that Bond is getting old and isn't a "Young Pup" anymore, he displays an amount of wear and tear on this film.

That would be an interesting article, "who is the best Bond?" I guess they all have their charm in a there's that, but I've turned into a huge fan of Craig's take on the character. This films have gone as far as turning the previous films into jokes in a way. Im not saying I don't love the old ones, cause I do, but by comparison they seem silly.

I too want to watch Skyfall again, as soon as it gets to dvd, or maybe a revisit in the theater would be awesome.

Chris Hewson said...

As much as I liked Skyfall, I have to say, I REALLY don't like the direction the Bond series has been taking since Casino Royale. Daniel Craig's two (yeah, I like to pretend Quantum of Solace doesn't exist) Bond films are just so unlike Bond films, that it annoys me. And the lack of gadgets REALLY bugs me, since the series has lacked them for ten years and three movies now! A Bond movie doesn't need to have gadgets, but when they've been missing for that many movies, it'd be like if they removed the gunbarrel sequence!

Franco Macabro said...

I had that very same reaction when I last saw Quantum of Solace, which by the way I really didn't love a lot...but on this new one, I think they did a fine balancing act of pleasing the die hard Bond fan by including many of the staples we expect from a bond film, and bringing in new elements. I liked that a lot about Skyfall, it didnt forget it was a Bond film the way Quantum of Solace did. On this one, you feel like it's Bond, only not as silly as in other films, its a more serious take of the character.

Some don't like that, they like their Bond with gadgets and lazers coming out watches and stuff like that, I like that version too, but I'm digging this new take on him as well. I like the fact that their trying new stuff instead of repeating cliches all the time.

The gadgets are still in Skyfall, but in a minimal way, they still form an integral parta of the story. A Bond fan should be happy with Skyfall I think, that credit sequence is awesome, at times I felt like I was watching a bond film from the 60's.

Vladimir said...

I loved that one, and I liked the opening credits, amazing visuals, lined to following moments of the film.

Jack Thursby said...

Yeah I didn't really enjoy Casino Royale or Quantum of Solace but this film managed to finally win me around to liking Daniel Craig as Bond.

Loved the visuals. The burning house and glass building sequences were superb. The film managed to both embrace and chuck out a lot of Bond traditions.

Eager to see what they do for the next film.

P.S. The only thing that bugged me is how Silva had that bomb set up to blow up the underground train??

Franco Macabro said...

@Vladimir: Agree!

@Jack Thursby: This is the same thing that happpened to me, Skyfall made me like Craig as Bond, the film won me over as you say.

The thing about the bomb, the way I see it, maybe he had everything planned really far ahead?

LLJ said...

I don't mind change. I'm cool with Craig. He's probably not my favorite Bond, but he's in the mix. That said, Quantum of Solace was one of the worst-edited action films I've ever seen.

I thought Tim Dalton was a really underrated Bond. I like to put Licence to Kill into the ol' BD player whenever I want some satisfying revenge stuff and some good action scenes.

teddy crescendo said...

The only problem with Quantum of Solace was that they copped-out with regards to the running time (and the bastards got away with it as well, thats how gullible the movie-going public can be sometimes), it was only 1:46 instead of the usual 2:22, there should have been another half-hour and another two massive and major action sequences in that last extra half-hour. Strickly speaking though that was the ONLY problem with Quantum Of Solace, it was quite a good film but the way they copped-out and denied audiences those extra 30 minutes of action was totally unforgivable. I hate it when movie-going audiences are conned and jipped in that way by the money grubbing bastards who produce movies, still at least they seem to have redeemed themselves somewhat with Skyfall.

Franco Macabro said...

LLJ: To me Quantum of Solace was just boring, it needed more oomph for a Bond film. I'd like to give it a re-watch though.

Agree, Dalton was a good Bond, though not the most popular. Moore's A View to a Kill and Dalton's The LIving Daylights were my intro to Bond films so I love them just for that, wouldnt mind checking out both of Dalton's Bond films actually, havent seen them in ages!

Teddy: Too bad about that, I agree, Solace needed more action, it was sorely missing and that aint a good thing in a bond film. Skyfall might not be the most action packed, but its intriguing and well acted, loved that about Skyfall. But hey, that 20 minute action sequence in the beginning of the film was amazing!

SFF said...

Bravo indeed!

You're right up is terrific here Fran.

I would only add that Skyfall is really a work of art as you describe articulately here. It's just beautiful.

It's strange because I had virtually no memory of Quantum Of Solace after seeinng it. Nothing left an impression with me. Nothing stayed with me. I couldn't tell you a thing about it today or the week after I saw it. I will be watching it again soon for that reason.

But Skyfall, I mean, that really resonates with you after watching it. It has such visual power as well as plot. The contrast is stark.

Honestly I wish they could go back and fix Quantum's deficiencies to make it a more memorable sophmore outing because Craig is a terrific pick as Bond. Casino Royale and Skyfall are two of the best!

Franco Macabro said...

Same thing happens to me with Quantum of Solace, I left the theater feeling unimpressed, but I want to re-watch it anyways, to see if it really is as vapid as I remember.

Looking forward to more Craig Bond!

Dan O. said...

Good review. I’m very glad that after 50 years Bond still manages to remain relevant which is very, very impressive and I hope they keep it going too.

Franco Macabro said...

The movie ends with these big letters that say 50 years of Bond, James Bond will Return, to tell you the truth, I think they've brought Bond to his maximum expression here, looking forward to whats coming next.


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