Sunday, November 11, 2012

Movie Review: Skyfall Swings Both Ways

In Skyfall, we see Bond, the usual blue eyed man of steel transformed into a tin soldier with blood shot eyes. This deconstruction of the Bond mythos (as written by John Logan, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade) is surprising but only brings more emotional gravitas to the Bond franchise. The movie starts with guns drawn as Bond (Daniel Craig)  finds a bloody scene and an Agent Ronson near death in a ramshackle apartment in Turkey. M (Judy Dench) monitors and directs Bond through his ear-piece. A laptop sits on a table with the hard-drive torn out of it. A hard-drive that contains the identity of a hundred plus MI6 agents and were they are stationed. It is a perilous predicament. In this dour opening as Bond attends to the dieing agent (placing direct pressure on his gunshot would) M tells him to leave him, to go after the hard-drive. There is a defiant spark of bitterness in Bond's baby blues but the dutiful soldier complies.

A spectacular chase scene ensues as Bond and rookie operative Eve (Naomie Harris). After foot, car, motorcycle chases and a tasty set piece involving an earth moving machine and Volkswagen Beetles a wounded Bond ends up on top of a cargo train in hand to hand combat with the enemy operative. As the embattled agents are about to round a bend on a bridge and as rookie Eve is looking down the scope of her high powered rifle, M tells her to "take the shot". It is a fatal call as Eve hits Bond instead. He plummets off the train falling to his "death" in a river below. All this in the first several minutes before the beautifully artistic title sequence with Adele singing the Skyfall theme.

Of course, Bond is not dead but his obituary written by M signals his emotional and spiritual death. He has had enough of being human fodder. He decides to stay dead and revels in his own alcoholic fueled pitty party only deciding to resurrect himself after the MI6 headquarters (M's office to be precise) is bombed.  Bond is an emotional and physical wreck and has to be certified as fit for duty. Craig looks super fit but also more lean than before, his face looking gaunt and his eyes distant and bloodshot. No Bond film has showed the agent so flawed, so totally ill equipped to serve her Majesty's Secret Service as he is physically and psychologically scrutinized. The knowledge that he is going to meet his nemesis Silva (as wonderfully played by Javier Bardem), in essence, handicapped ratchets up the danger.

Bond (and we) are introduced to new MI6 head played by Ralph Fiennes and the new Q who now resembles a hipster / computer geek played by Ben Whishaw and, of course, the evil Silva who provides us with a tour-de-force introduction. Bardem's performance played with charm on the surface and a truly unsettling psychosis underneath is incredible to watch. While exploring the ins and outs of the plot would reveal too much, Bond does dispatch his enemies and have sexual exploits in some wonderful locales as to be expected but Skyfall's strength is that it swings both ways. It is, as you would expect, an espionage tale but during the last third of the film it essentially becomes an old fashioned Peckinpah-ish western. Besides the thoughtful script, the decision to have Oscar winning director Sam Mendes take control was a master stroke. As he demonstrated in American Beauty and The Road to Perdition his camera movements don't get in the way of the drama or action. His classic style of film making (minus recent conventions like shaky cams and super quick edits) truly serves this more dramatic internal Bond script. Mendes kicked it out of the ball park, in fact, everyone involved with Skyfall did.

Skyfall (like no other Bond film before) puts a more human face on our hero and sense of self sacrifice on the shadow world of spies and insurgents. At one point Bond does something he has never done in any other Bond film. It is about time. I can't wait to see it again.

Robb Donker

2012 | 143 min. | Rated PG-13
Official Site:
Director: Sam Mendes
Cast: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Javier Bardem, Helen McCrory, Ben Whishaw, Santi Scinelli, Naomie Harris, Albert Finney and Ola Rapace


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