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Skyfall: This Time For Bond, It’s Personal

James Bond has always had a certain degree of detachment from cases. Sure, the villain usually makes it personal by kidnapping or killing the girl he most recently slept with, but the nefarious plot rarely directly pertains to Bond or his way of life– he’s simply reporting for duty. With Skyfall, the best of the Daniel Craig Bonds by a healthy margin, we see Bond for the first time personally affected by the case he’s facing. We learn about Bond’s past, the past of MI-6, and how the tragedies of our past catch up with us. When I heard this, I was as scared as you might be now: how will this film be any fun? Did they Dark Knight my favorite spy franchise? I’m pleased to report they strike just the right chord: it’s personal without getting morbid, heart-wrenching without delving us into despair. There are still hearty portions of laughs and action, making this more personally-affected Bond the most affecting one yet. When you add Javier Bardem’s outstanding turn as the villain and Roger Deakins providing the best cinematography you might see all year, this is a gorgeous blast, elevating beyond the usual genre tropes while remaining deeply rooted in those same traditions.

We start with a huge action sequence, as Bond (Craig) and a fellow agent (Naomie Harris) are in hot pursuit of a man who has stolen a list of the identities of all of MI-6’s agents in deep cover in terrorist cells. Unfortunately, the sequence doesn’t end as planned, leaving the list in the wrong hands and Bond in an unusually vulnerable position. A few months later, when someone begins leaking the list to the public and committing a full-blown attack on MI-6, Bond has to prove himself ready for duty. A new bureaucrat (Ralph Fiennes) has his doubts about Bond, but M (Judi Dench) needs him more than ever, as these attacks seem pointed in particular at her. He hunts down an attractive female associate (Berenice Marlohe) of his target, but once he finally does encounter his adversary (Javier Bardem), he finds that this isn’t the usual villain. His loyalty to M is tested, and he’s forced before the film is over to look into his own past and come to terms with issues he’s left unresolved– but never worry, he resolves these issues with much gunplay and fisticuffs.

Craig and Dench have great chemistry, the action is terrific, the supporting roles are deftly portrayed (Ben Whishaw has fun as Q, and Harris and Marlohe are both worthy entries to the Bond girl canon), and the opening credits are gorgeous– these are givens in the Daniel Craig Bond films. This movie has two additional aces in the hole: first of all, it has Javier Bardem, not only one of the best actors of his generation, but a proven formidable foe from his Oscar-winning work in No Country For Old Men. However, Silva is nothing like Anton Chigurh: Chigurh lived by principles, taking nothing personally. Silva absolutely takes everything personally, and his whole drive to succeed is rooted in past grudges. Chigurh was quiet, deadpan, sexless. Silva is the first gay Bond villain, flamboyant, seductive, prone to short little exhale bursts and eyerolls… all of which had me howling with laughter in the theater. However, none of that eccentricity distracts from the fact that this man is absolutely the biggest threat Craig’s Bond has ever faced. He is brilliant, twisted, and utterly ruthless. The script plays with the idea that Bond isn’t enormously computer-savvy, he’s more of a hand-to-hand killing machine, so when faced with someone both tech-savvy and trained in the art of combat, he’s at a distinct disadvantage.

The real star of the film, however, is cinematographer Roger Deakins. I’d be stunned if this isn’t the first Bond film to be nominated for cinematography (and the first to be nominated for anything since 1982), as the lighting is nothing short of immaculate. The Shanghai fight sequence is going to be talked about for years, not because of the choreography, but because of the gorgeous light the actors are bathed in. Other sequences, such as the entrance to the casino in Macau, Silva’s entrance, a fight sequence in a swamp bathed with fog… these achieve a level of beauty that genre films usually don’t dare dream of. Sam Mendes, director of American Beauty and Road To Perdition, knows the value of good cinematography (he previously worked with Conrad Hall and has collaborated twice with Deakins), yet I found this film to be less cold and cerebral than his other works– it’s gorgeous but kinetic. Working within this genre suits him well, resulting in his best directorial effort to date. It very well may be the most complete Bond film to date as well: he’s become a full-blooded character without losing any of what made him great in the past (this movie is full of quips and references to old franchise standards). Most importantly, it leaves us with an exciting new direction for the franchise. It’s no longer the Bourne-esque bombastic excitement of the last two Craig Bonds, but instead a combination of that blunt force action with the classy sexy fun of the Connerys and Moores, which couldn’t be more exciting heading forward. Just please please PLEASE keep Roger Deakins on board– don’t give me a taste of this type of martini just to take it away.

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~ by russellhainline on November 9, 2012.

5 Responses to “Skyfall: This Time For Bond, It’s Personal”

  1. That’s crazy talk. This is a very weak bond movie which just got worse and worse by the minute. (contains spoilers)
    Out of all the flaws of the film the biggest was that Bond’s main mission is to save Q. He fails this miserably. Instead of taking her to a site with backup and security, he takes her to an abandoned house with no guns and no way to ask help out of his MI6 pals. On top of that he leads Silva right to the house. And his less than intricate plan still fails to save Q. If James Bond wasn’t the main character I’m sure he’d be dead along with Q. The whole hideaway in skyfall and set home alonesque traps turned out to be utter waste of time.
    This movie completely changes Bond’s image from intelligently suave to idiot brute kicking drinking and failing from one mission to another.

  2. Your review is spot on. The series does have to straddle the dangerous line between grounding Craig’s Bond in reality and the usual improbable realities he faced in pre-Craig movies. But the updates to the characters work – Q is sexy and savvy and so is the Naomi Harris (though they didn’t quite hv the same chemistry as you know who) M is brilliant as always and Silva I can watch again and again.

  3. I have watched this James Bond movie myself and thought it was a great movie!! Although i thought there would be more action involved in the whole movie and some spots seemed like it could have ended earlier which made things kind of confusing. The other thing that could have made me think these things are that my annoying friend was nagging me the whole movie about how she wanted to leave. Therefore this movie isn’t for everyone but i thought it was pretty good. Well that’s all i had to say.

    Hope you have a wonderful day!!

  4. […] BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: 10. Steve Yedlin, Looper 9. Mihai Malaimare Jr., The Master 8. Seamus McGarvey, Anna Karenina 7. Benoit Delhomme, Lawless 6. Yves Cape and Caroline Champetier de Ribes, Holy Motors 5. Robert Yeoman, Moonrise Kingdom 4. Dariusz Wolski, Prometheus 3. Janusz Kaminski, Lincoln 2. Claudio Miranda, Life of Pi (in 3D) 1. Roger Deakins, Skyfall […]

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