Saturday 27 October 2012

"She sent you after me, knowing you're not ready, knowing you would likely die. Mommy was very bad."

        Since I have watched relatively few James Bond movies, I cannot think of some cracking classic James Bond reference as an opener to this review. I am just going to give it to you straight- Skyfall is the best James Bond movie I have ever seen.

         The film starts with a little outburst of the James Bond theme and immediately we are immersed into one of the most thrilling pre-credits sequences I have seen. Bond is chasing a man in Istanbul who has stolen a hard drive containing all the real identities of undercover MI6 agents when his boss M tells another agent, Eve to take a shot at the man, but she misses and hits Bond instead, leading everyone to believe that he has died. Bond has in fact survived and gone in a kind of emotional and physical retreat and only returns when M and MI6 get targeted by whoever has the hard drive. Though not at his topmost form, Bond goes after this man, who he then finds out is someone from M's past.

         This is the vaguest, most non-spoiler-y synopsis I can manage. Although it is very cool to get to watch a movie two weeks before North America (go UAE!), it is very obviously a marketing technique for the place itself (hello The Avengers!)  and I would like to keep the suspense alive for the audience as that makes the experience better.

        I am just going to enumerate all the things that I loved about Skyfall and talk about them. The most striking aspect of Bond 23 was its look. Legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins has helped it to become one of the most stunning looking films of the year and possibly ever in Bond history. From the ultra-modern setting of Shanghai to the dreary wilderness of Scotland, everything is shot so beautifully and expertly. My favourite action sequence of the film took place on a high-rise Shanghai building with the backdrop of a gigantic neon advertising screen and the all the fighting is done in shadows with the occasional light coming only when the gun gets fired. I sat throughout that part literally gaping, marveling at the mastery of how it was shot. I remember thinking this is the best use of lighting and shadows I have seen since my recent viewing of The Third Man, and then I swear there is a little nod to the film later on in Skyfall. I loved all the settings, from the oriental Macau to the busy London Underground, and both Deakins and production designer Dennis Gassner have done a mind-blowing job with the look of this film. I must also say that the focus on the blueness of Daniel Craig's eyes almost feel like a special effect in itself.

          Nowadays I actively avoid reviews of the films I am excited about except the occasional skimming, but in all my um, light research about Skyfall before seeing it, I kept coming across people saying that it is the "best acted Bond film ever". I can believe that. No one truly watches James Bond for its acting talent, and that is fine. As soon as the film started I could not help but wish I was someone like Bond because that would be so cool! But I was pleasantly surprised at how good the performances were. Daniel Craig, our Bond, and Dame Judy Dench as M shine the most, though baddie Javier Bardem is not far behind. Ever since Casino Royale, Craig has shown that his rendition of the famous British spy is more realistically badass and has a silent power about him. His third outing as Bond is definitely his best, when this aspect is maintained but there is also hurt and confusion and just about a hint of actual humanity in him, and he is not just the slick and suave espionage man, though he can be that too. We see him physically and mentally scarred and tired, and though Craig's Bond doesn't say anything, it is evident that he is reflecting back on this life of his. This film is Bond going back to his roots and re-realising his purpose and with that he has finally sort of become the real hero in this very made-up world. And holy moly, can he pull off a suit! Dench, who I have always loved as the snarky yet concerned M, finally got the chance to flesh out this character in the movie. As many are calling her, she is the true Bond girl of the movie and perhaps of James's life so far, the only person left he cares for and vice versa for her. Skyfall explores her relationship with him, her decisions and way of thinking and Dench delivers it all with the same wit and a quiet, emotional touch. Bardem, who plays Silva, someone from M's past and has a lot in common with Bond, though he is nothing like him, is really good as well. I did at first think he was going a bit over the top with the flamboyance, but by the end of it he was a very memorable and in some ways tragic villain. With his weird way of lip-smacking and questionable sexuality, he does make one laugh in a nervous way, but he is also scary, as one would expect from the man who played Anton Chigurh.

         The other actors are quite good too. Ben Whishaw is rather excellent as the new hip and young Q, though he is just as arrogantly brilliant and shut-in as one would imagine a genius of such less years to be. Naomi Harris is very cool as Eve and I love her flirting with Craig's Bond. The other Bond girl, Sévérine is played by the gorgeous Bérénice Marlohe though she sort of fades in comparison to Harris and obviously Dench. Finally there is Ralph Fiennes who does not have a huge part in the film but is great as the "good beaurocrat".

         Now I will come to the directing. When I first heard that Sam Mendes is directing a Bond movie, I snorted and went "That guy? The one who makes all the dramatic films? Him? LOL. This will suck more than Quantum of Solace." It must be noted here that I had a similar reaction to David Fincher directing The Social Network. So yes, the conclusion of all that useless information was that I am a big fat idiot and that great directors can make incredible movies, no matter what genre. Mendes directed both the action scenes and the sentimental ones equally well. This film is both a look back and forward for Bond, and aspects of his past are dealt with very well in the film, and Mendes is to thank for that as well as the acting that I spoke of earlier. I don't think most directors chosen for the job would have focused on the performances so much, but Mendes, being the dramatic director he is, did and that is what makes the film this good. And he takes risks with this film too. Towards the end Bond and M take a certain step and go somewhere, and I have never seen anything like that in a Bond movie ever. The film actually slows down to focus on that part, which though I wasn't a 100% sure of while watching it, am now more and more impressed by it when thinking back. Like yes it is a cool action movie, but there is so much more to it. Writers John Logan (who has written films like Gladiator, The Aviator, Hugo etc), Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (both of whom have worked on previous Bond scripts together) have penned a smart, witty, emotional and thrilling film together. The dialogues between M and Bond or Eve and Bond are especially funny, and Silva's big speeches are eerie and impactful. The ending too, I felt, was quite brilliant in the way it was written, acted and directed and I really appreciate its place in the whole story of Bond.

          Now as many would know, Skyfall marks the 50th anniversary of the Bond films franchise. The first James Bond film, Dr. No was released in 1962. The filmmakers have really tried to showcase this famous icon and his many iconic traits and associations in Skyfall. As I said, I am not that well-versed in Bond-lore, but from whatever I have seen, I found little winks to the many Bond-related things from the previous films of the franchise which I thought were splendid. I loved this whole circle of life thing that the writers tried to show in Skyfall. We go back to Bond's past and we also see a whole new future being set for him. Casino Royale was the beginning of a reintroduction of Bond, and with Skyfall and the fifty years of history behind it, the new Bond has finally been completely formed for our age that I actually think does need more than just a guy chasing a couple of other guys in fancy cars while sleeping with a few girls on the way. And I like this Bond, even though he does sleep with a few/lot of girls on the way.

        I have to talk about Adele's opening credits song, aptly titled "Skyfall". I have been listening to it pretty extensively since it was released and it works really well in this old-new Bond film. The credits are very cool too. But Adele's voice is to die for. Funny thing happened when I was went to watch the movie in a cinema hall. Nearly half-way through the movie the sound went, and the film kept rolling and then the projectionist decided to rewind it back to almost the beginning. Of course the whole audience got pissed etc., but after the credits and Adele's song got over, the film was fast-forwarded back to where we had lost the sound. Coincidence? I think not.

        Daily Mail has gone a bit over the moon (duh) with Skyfall and has started demanding Oscar attention for, I think, everything in it. But seeing as it does have one of the most Oscar-friendly cast and crew in probably ever, I too would like to speculate a bit. Sorry for whoever wants Judy Dench to get nominated- that's a tad too much. I think we can safely rule out the acting and the directing categories. What I do hope happens in awards season is that Deakins's perfect cinematography gets the attention it deserves. It is about time he won actually, and along with Moonrise Kingdom, I do think that Skyfall is the best looking film I have seen this year so far, so fingers crossed! Also Adele's "Skyfall" should be more officially adored, though this is probably just wishful thinking on my part.

       Skyfall was given a 15+ rating where I am, which was rather unfortunate for my twelve-year-old brother who really wanted to watch it. Honestly, he really could have seen it as there was nothing in it that warranted the rating. And I really wish he did. My dad missed it as well as he then had to take my brother home while my mother and I gazed upon some Daniel Craig, and I wish he was there too. Not because I am some strange family-loving girl but because I do believe that both of them would have loved it. My brother who has little to no knowledge of Bond and my dad who is just the opposite, Skyfall is the film for both of them, and for me. Mendes and Craig and the rest of the gang have made something really spectacular here that should be loved and admired by Bond fans and non-Bond fans alike.

         Till now my favourite Bond film was Tomorrow Never Dies because I actually believed that Pierce Brosnan *was* James Bond as a child and I really enjoyed this film. I still do. But maybe it is time to move on... Skyfall is the way.


  1. Oh man, can't wait to see this! We don't get it til the 22nd of November, though. I really wanna fall in love with Daniel Craig all over again. Those days were fun.

    And heck yes Sam Mendes for directing this film!

    1. It's so awesome. I'm so in love with Daniel Craig right now. Them eyes and suits.

  2. So. Jealous. Dying to see this, but I have to wait until November 9. :(

    1. Ha. Ha. I definitely think it is worth the wait :)

  3. I think I'm the only person in the world that isn't a fan of Daniel Craig's incarnation of Bond. I can understand them trying to 'modernise' Bond for a new age, but Casino Royale (and especially Quantum of Solace)were really disappointing, and far too long even for me.

    I think you should really check out all the other Bond films, particularly Sean Connery's age. Without doubt the best Bond film is Goldfinger, followed by Dr. No, From Russia With Love and On Her Majesty's Secret Service (which is now getting the credit it deserves!).

    I am quite protective of Bond, though, as I've grown up with him for my whole life and have bared witness to all Bond films - even the terrible ones - so it goes without saying I guess there will be some slight bias. (Plus, I can never seem to get away from Bond, since the studios I work in - well a company within that studio - has their own Bond stage and Skyfall posters are EVERYWHERE.)

    However, great review, and I will be checking out Skyfall at some doubt on DVD, but mainly for the reason that I need to keep track of Bond related goings on, even if I am not a fan of Craig's version.

    1. Makes sense sort of. You liked the old slick Bond, and Craig isn't that really. But believe me, he is pretty smooth in this film.

      Thanks so much. Do check it out.

  4. Good to hear such nice things about Skyfall- I really want to see it, but it appears I am the only one in my circle of friends, which is weird. Still, I will watch it soon :)

  5. Awesome review! I agree that while Dench was good, it's just not enough for the nomination. Everyone were really good here, definetly one of the better acted Bond movies but it's just the material that isn't exactly groundbreaking. That said, I really hope cinematography and editing gets something, as the film moved so smoothly unlike Quantuum of Solace which was just a nightmare to watch during the shaky and choppy action sequences.

    1. Thanks :)
      Exactly. If there were Bond Oscars, Skyfall would have bagged a lot of awards :P

      I totally agree about cinematography and editing.