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Written by: Sam Fragoso on November 9, 2012

November 9, 2012 | 19 comments | Featured

After five decades and twenty-two films later, Skyfall fitfully arrives as a love-letter to the classic Bond films that have come before, and an exhilarating demonstration of what the future beholds for 007.

Daniel Craig reprises his role as the elusive and suave Bond where his devotion to his country and his employer (M played by Judi Dench) is deeply tested. Once MI6 headquarters in London is infiltrated by a terrorist attack, Bond, M, and the remaining members of the secretive organization (threatened to be closed down by a bureaucrat played by Ralph Fiennes) make finding the group responsible priority number one.

Paying homage to its predecessors, Skyfall’ s plot is as silly as we’ve come to expect. Silva (Javier Bardem), a former MI6 agent cut loose, wants revenge on M for their unsettled past, serving as the campy villain with no motives besides revenge and providing others with pain. Added into the mix is agent Eve (Naomie Harris) and new-age operative Q (Ben Winshaw).

In the film’s cross-world journey – from Shanghai to Macau to Scotland – there’s a pertinent question that continues to surface: is James Bond needed anymore? Q explains to 007 in an enlightening scene that he can do more from his computer (while sipping coffee in his pajamas) by simply clicking a button, than Bond could do in a year.

Q’s reduction of Bond is analogous to the series. In an age where blockbuster action fare is nothing unordinary, does this slick series still have a place in our society? The answer, as Skyfall eventually rolls around to answering, is yes, it does: but, only in the rights hands.

The juggling act brought on since Craig inhabited Bond two films ago, attempts to balance serious dramatics with action theatrics. Mendes’, who’s well versed in melancholy (Revolutionary Road), does an affable job. The action sequences are surprisingly coherent, which is a shock considering Mendes has never directed such before.

All parties considered have done better though. Bardem as menacing and surreal in No Country for Old Men, Mr. Mendes directing a more affecting and effective picture with American Beauty, and Daniel Craig playing Bond with more charm and allure in Casino Royale.

The saving grace is eclectic cinematographer Roger Deakins. Shot by the man responsible for some of the most aesthetically astounding films of the past 25-years (from The Shawshank Redemption to Fargo), Skyfall is every bit as sumptuous and gorgeous as one could ever imagine.

Underneath all that glitz and glamour, though is a perplexing creation of James Bond. As Craig establishes the role, 007 – especially here and in the dismal Quantum of Solace – lacks the vulnerability that made the character fascinating. Bond is no longer ingrained in the depths of reality, but in a fantasy world where’s become the superhero: one that could organically fit in-between Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark. Beyond misguided recreation, Skyfall is vacant of any sort of romantic interest – another recurring element in the Bond saga that adds emotion and stakes to 007’s reckless actions.

Being the commemoration of fifty-years, Mendes’ playfully brings the film full circle. Younger audiences will fall infatuated with the nifty gadgets and kinetic gunfights, and older folks who cherish the days of Sean Connery will be delighted to see the return of the Aston Martin DB5 and a final scene that may draw parallels to Bond’s beginning.

Speaking of which, Skyfall does a splendid job of providing some unprecedented insight to the upbringing of James Bond. For a film that consistently lacks details in its overarching storyline, Mendes hits all the right notes in a brief foray into our protagonist’s backstory.

Stylishly designed, set to an Adele theme song that has already become legendary, Skyfall is at one time simplistic, crowd-pleasing entertainment, and at another groundbreaking artistry. While it primarily falls into the former description, Mendes has made an optimistic and opulent Bond film to serve as a burning torch to cherish the past and anticipate the future.

Rating: ★★★☆

Skyfall

Skyfall (2012)

Cast: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem

Director: Sam Mendes

Writer: Ian Fleming, John Logan

Runtime: 143 minutes

Genre: thriller, crime, adventure

Trailer Skyfall

Comments

There are 19 comments for this post.

  1. sati on November 9, 2012 8:01 am

    I completely agree about the cinematography, the film looks so beautiful! i really liked it, even more than Casino Royale, I especially loved the fact that the relationship between M and Bond was the core of the story.

  2. Sam Fragoso on November 9, 2012 8:16 am

    I’d still choose CASINO ROYALE over this, but they both have their moments of greatness.

  3. Dan O. on November 9, 2012 8:46 am

    There’s a lot of the old-school stuff here for Bond that will make die-hard fans go insane, but a lot of other cooler, newer stuff as well that definitely has me more amped up to see where this franchise takes itself. Good review Sam.

  4. Sam Fragoso on November 9, 2012 3:15 pm

    I’ll have to head over to your site and check out your review, Dan. It’s old school elements make it worthwhile.

  5. Nick on November 10, 2012 8:22 am

    “Bond is no longer ingrained in the depths of reality, but in a fantasy world where’s become the superhero.”

    In some ways, I did always think Bond was kind of a superhero. But a more campy, less serious superhero than this more solemn character he has turned into with the Daniel Craig movies. I don’t know. I guess if you continue a character for five decades it will automatically reinvent itself with the times.

  6. Sam Fragoso on November 10, 2012 12:54 pm

    I suppose that’s true. Perhaps this direction is not the one they should be taking though.

    What did you think of the movie?

  7. Fogs on November 10, 2012 1:49 pm

    Glad you point out the cinematography, it was undoubtedly first rate.

    I’d argue that Craig’s Bond movies air too much on the side of realism, if anything. Bond has always been an invulnerable super hero, doing things that shouldnt be possible… here though, at least they demonstrate he bleeds.

    I’m really enthused about this one, although I might side with you that Casino Royale is still better.

  8. Sam Fragoso on November 11, 2012 12:27 pm

    Roger Deakins is a master. It’s sad to hear even HE will be switching from film to digital to shoot all of his movies from now on.

  9. Rodney on November 11, 2012 5:24 pm

    I don’t understand the hate some people have for Quantum of Solace, I really don’t. Solace is actually a pretty full-bore action film… it’s not a typical Bond film, which is why perhaps some found it “lacking” compared to previous films.

    I’m so glad Skyfall is meeting critical acclaim – it opens here in Australia next week – and I’m really, really keen to see how Mendes brings his own unique eye to the franchise. Great review, Sam. You really should give Quantum Of Solace another chance, though. It’s not THAT bad….

  10. Sam Fragoso on November 11, 2012 11:57 pm

    I’ve seen it …. twice now. Both occasions I didn’t quite care for it.

    By the way Rodney, where in Australia do you live?

  11. James Blake Ewing on November 12, 2012 11:00 am

    Roger Deakins is the best talent involved with this film. I don’t think I’d call this groundbreaking. It has a dash of French New Wave sensibility in the first half and the second half is very familiar territory for Bond. It certainly is unusual for a Bond film, mostly because the film is all over the place and seems like it’s trying to tell about three to four stories that could probably be their own film.

  12. Sam Fragoso on November 12, 2012 1:16 pm

    I think I have may have missed the French New Wave sensibility in the first half. There’re a lot of disparte storylines that could probably amount to their own film.

    Have you written about this yet?

  13. Franz Patrick on November 12, 2012 9:34 pm

    I loved that the third act unfolded the way it did — not particularly exciting, more somber. I liked that we learned a bit more about Bond without hammering us over the head with his history.

  14. Sam Fragoso on November 13, 2012 12:45 am

    Have you written about the film yet?

  15. ruth m on November 13, 2012 12:59 pm

    Great review! I agree that the backstory of Bond is a welcome thing in my book. There are so many ‘origins’ story out there but thankfully it doesn’t seem tacked on here, thanks to Mendes’ direction and the team of writers.

    I’m not fond of ‘Quantum’ at all either, I might give it another go but it was quite a disappointment as I was anticipating that one so much.

  16. Sam Fragoso on November 14, 2012 6:20 pm

    The Bond backstory should hopefully please everyone.

  17. Andrew on November 23, 2012 7:45 am

    What I like about the backstory element here is that it’s not all being jammed into one film. Unlike the superheroes to whom Bond is often compared, Bond himself has had the luxury of his origins being told over the course of not one film but three, which I think lets each picture breathe in a way most origin films simply can’t.

    So now we’re at the end of that story and I think with Skyfall the series is ready to go back to the character’s roots. I actually like the way that these pictures, even Quantum, have basically been orchestrated to put Bond all the way back to square one after Casino Royale kicked off his deconstruction. I doubt we’ll get Moore or Connery-levels of absurd delights with the next slate of Bond films, but I do imagine we’ll get more of the humor and amazingly well done action scenes that we see here.

    Love the look of the film. But that’s what happens when Roger Deakins shoots your picture.

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