Sunday, November 11, 2012

Skyfall review

With the release of the new James Bond movie Skyfall, it's become clear that the Bond franchise will adhere to the more earthly approach of its two cinematic predecessors. Gone are the days of silly and enjoyable sixties films where the villains had volcano lairs (You Only Live Twice) and the later excesses of production. (Moonraker)) While Casino Royale (2006) was a commercial success, the question becomes, "Is the new Bond realism fun?"

Skyfall starts out with a harrowing chase between James Bond (Daniel Craig) and a thief of a hard drive which contains the names of MI6's secret agents embedded in terrorist organizations. The chase culminates on top of a train with MI6 agent Eve (Naomie Harris) accidentally shooting Bond on orders from M. (Judi Dench) Bond survives but M finds that she is under investigation from her superior, Mallory. (Ralph Fiennes) Meanwhile, the man behind the theft, Silva (Javier Bardem) blows up MI6's headquarters, forcing the intelligence agency to operate literally underground. Bond comes back to MI6 but is still injured from being shot. However, M trusts Bond and sends him out to find Silva, a man at the moment, they know nothing about.

Daniel Craig is the coolest of all of the Bonds. He might be too emotionless. And frankly he's rather dour. That's not bad but he's not Roger Moore's Bond with his tongue in his cheek. I prefer a balance which would be Pierce Brosnan's Bond. Naomie Harris ("Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest") is a sleek and sultry Bond girl. Ralph Fiennes is empathetic as government bureaucrat who has had field experience. Judi Dench is her marvelous self as she displays a stubborn to a fault, M. Javier Bardem ("No Country for Old Men") again displays a knack for playing villains. There's so much humanity and insanity in his character. And there is finally a Q, the quartermaster or the guy with the gadgets. It's played by a moppy haired, young man with acne, Ben Whishaw. He's a computer geek who can do a lot with a laptop.

Director Sam Mendes ("American Beauty") does a smashing job with Skyfall. He doesn't let the film editor make the action scenes, Mendes frames them cleanly. This Bond movie feels like an art film. Camera angles are well thought out. And kudos to him for helping to get the motivations of the characters exposed.

I've always said a good movie starts with a good screenplay. And Sykfall has a very good screenplay. The dialogue fits the characters without strains of the fantastic. For example, Silva's motivation for his madness is believable and makes you feel sorry for him. Action scenes are not there just for the sake of having an action scene. They move the plot along. The climatic showdown will have also thinking about westerns. One thing though. You'll figure out the fate of one character way before the end. However, the result of the excellent screenplay is an enthralling movie that will have you glued to your seat. The only problem I had was M's reckless behavior which seemed out of character for her. There's a scene in a hearing room where she ignores the warnings of coming assassins, refuses to flee and endangers innocent lives. Not logical.

But the question remains. Is Skyfall fun? First, let me say there's a difference between entertaining and fun. I found "The King's Speech" (2010) to be entertaining but not fun. Skyfall is exciting and entertaining. But it's not fun. I mean there are some humorous nods to Bond of the past. Bond will occasionally drink a Heineken but still drinks a martini. But get this, the writers don't have Bond say how he wants it made. He doesn't even utter a famous expression (it has something to do with knives at a gun fight) at the end of the movie that would have been very funny. Yeah, they brought back Q but the only thing he gives Bond is a Walther PPK that fires only for him and a mini-radio. Q then notes that they don't do the exploding pen thing anymore. Well, I'm sorry, Q's gadgets of the past Bond movies were fun. Regardless, don't let this keep you from seeing Skyfall.

Skyfall is another in the series of realistic Bond movies. It is a well made thriller. The grade is A.

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