Review: 'Skyfall' (2012) Dir. Sam Mendes
The 50th anniversary year for James Bond, and EON created a billion-dollar 007 adventure that was an all-time high for Daniel Craig and co...
When a top secret list of MI6 agents is leaked, MI6 agent James Bond (Craig) is sent to retrieve it. But when 007 is accidentally gunned down in the line of duty by his field partner Eve Moneypenny (Harris), it's up to M (Dench) to cover up MI6's failure.
The man responsible for the leaks is former agent Raoul Silva (Bardem), who is waging a war against MI6 and M - but why? It's up to James Bond to pull himself back from the brink of self-pity to find out why.
Travelling the globe and with the help of Silva's mistress Severine (Marlohe) and Whitehall staff Q (Whishaw) and Gareth Mallory (Fiennes), Bond faces his most personal mission yet that brings the danger closer to home than ever before...
One thing I felt about the narrative of this film was that people and a country were in danger through this story of cyber-terrorism and what lies in the shadows. It's relevant and dangerous, as all Bond plots should be. It's a story of good vs evil, and let's Craig be an almost "heroic" Bond without the personal vendetta angst he bore the first two times.
From the amazingly shot pre-titles, I loved the fact that I knew MI6 agents were working together as a team. In fact, it felt like the first time I'd seen Craig's Bond at his most comfortable in a mission. He knew his allies, he knew his enemy and knew his orders. Thankfully, not a single character was wasted, no matter the size of their role.
Daniel Craig looks and feels the most comfortable he has yet as 007. He forges relationships with the other characters that you believe in, and seems to accept himself as who he is.
He is flawed, but takes steps to rid his demons. You feel for this man, because he's the man you've loved for 50 years. The Walther is there, the Martini is there, the quips are there. However, he does still need to work on losing that "brutish" look to him and that swagger.
We have Naomie Harris as Eve who was set up well, along with Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw and Rory Kinnear with their roles as Whitehall's finest. Fresh faces in a familiar story was always a gamble for Fiennes and Whishaw, but their chemistry on-screen just made things very modern and very comfortable in that they were the right choice for this film. Kudos to Albert Finney as Kincade, taking a good bit of screen time in the finale. A wonderful actor, and one who keeps Bond, and us, grounded with his likable if somewhat innocent personality..
Javier Bardem is a nice return to the villain we've not had for a long time in the franchise. Silva is chilling, dangerous and unstable but brilliantly clever. Yes, you may compare him to The Joker from 'The Dark Knight', but he's in a league of his own and really injects the film with nothing but menace from his overdue entrance.
Bérénice Lim Marlohe is under-used as Severine, but only when you see how great she is as a girl who has a sexy, tough outer shell but very fearful and alone inside under the expensive clothes and make-up. She is a vital cog in the film, smoldering with her looks and sharing a wonderful scene with Bond and Silva.
Judi Dench is back as M and it's her best film out of the 7 she has done. There is no question of trusting Bond once more, but really the question of can she really convince the powers that be that her role in MI6 is justified? Tough as nails, firm yet tender, Dench shows why she is the Bond girl of this story and we see more to her than any previous film in the series.
Istanbul, London, Shanghai, Macau and Scotland. That's all that's needed for this film and each location works. For each location, Mendes finds deeper hidden treasures like the Grand Bazaar, the London Underground, a misty Highland moor, a deserted ghost island and even a floating casino. There's no globe trotting for 2 hours, but a few select choices that are fully used to deliver a rich experience, which each setting lending to the narrative. The cinematography delivers in ways never seen in a Bond film before with sweeping shots over magnificent landscapes, every frame full of colour, life and well thought out shots. Your breath will be taken away more than once and the locations are just as important, I feel, as the actors populating them.
My only minor issue is that the music blended so well into the scenes, I couldn't pick it out most of the time! And yes, that's not even a bad thing as without knowing it, it was keeping the film going and adding to the tension, excitement and emotion I was watching without getting too loud, too quiet or too random. A stand out moment for me in the soundtrack is played as Patrice and Bond battle on the train roof in the pre-titles. The tension is racked up more than ever thanks to Newman's score, and the threat is doubled with his brave score. It doesn't break new ground, but it's handled the way a soundtrack should be. It compliments the film and doesn't over-shadow it.
Plus, yes, there are lots of welcome return riffs of the James Bond theme without it getting too much of a tease as it has been since 'Casino Royale'. The main theme by Adele, 'Skyfall', sounds just as good on screen and cut down fine as you don't lose the haunting vocals and deep meaning which means even more as you watch the film unfold. A brilliant song, a perfect match.
Istanbul's pre-titles car/bike/train chase never lets you go. It's full of daring stunts which prove no-one opens a film bigger than Bond. Shanghai helps give audiences a taste of Bond at his best, working from the neon-lit shadows with some great stunt work and a visually breathtaking fight sequence.
London delivers in more ways than one as Silva wrecks havoc for commuters of the London Underground and on the streets around Westminster. It's real, it's brutal and it's Bond - and seeing danger so close to home makes it more chilling and exciting. Scotland brings us a finale like no-other. This time, it's Bond keeping one step ahead on familiar ground and is simple, yet exciting and full of nasty surprises. It also, I reckon, features one of the biggest explosions on film in recent memory.
Well, the above is due to a crew that know their audience and know their Bond. 50 years later and they deliver a classic feel in a modern, relevant setting. Sam Mendes directs the best Bond film for years with pace, understanding and love for the film franchise itself to give audiences what they want. It's edited in a way we can see the story unfold and not rush to keep up, even if hell is breaking loose on screen.
The costumes are simple but they compliment each character, the camera work is smooth and steady, the sound is crisp and diegetic in many scenes which add to the realism of the film. It's just a result of 4 years of hard work, knowledge of the Bond series and of Ian Fleming's character, which is the most important part if you want a film this big to work.
"Old dog, new tricks." Eve mutters to Bond in scene that sums up 'Skyfall'.
We see Bond a broken man at times, a man who has lost his footing in a world he thought he knew, but we take the steps with him back to the man we know and love in a world that still throws surprises and meaningful stories. Just like 'Thunderball', 'The Spy Who Loved Me', 'The Living Daylights'...any Bond film you name, 'Skyfall' works with them and fits into the Bond canon perfectly. It's full of iconic Bond traits - the gadgets, the girls, the guns, the villains, the heroes and the music.
James Bond, the film character, HAS to change slightly to survive with new audiences and new world issues. Connery did it and Lazenby helped him. Moore carried Bond into darker times, and Dalton took the role into the 90s with a tone of things to come. Brosnan did it for a new generation and a new world, and Craig has done it for the 21st century.
'Skyfall' is still James Bond, it's still everything we love. It's a Bond film like nothing you've seen before, but you will NOT forget it for days after. It's certainly one of the better James Bond films to be made for everything above, and it will be up to personal choice how it sits in your top tier, but you can't fault it unless you really try as a film and 007 adventure.
It's got a lot of narrative to it and a heck of a run time, and it does help this fell in line with the franchise's 50th anniversary to make this something special. It's a celebration of old and new coming together for the future. It's Bond with a capital B.
'Skyfall' is an EON Productions production