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Apr 5, 2013

Review: Skyfall (2012)

           Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Berenice Lim Marlohe, Albert Finney, Ben Whishaw, Rory Kinnear, Ola Rapace and Helen McCrory.


                   Sam Mendes.


                 I watched Skyfall two times last month, the first time was of course my usual way of watching a movie and the second time was on my way to Bangkok. Never have i been this much entertained, impressed and taken away by an action film since i don't know when. As much as Casino Royale, the previous game changing Bond movie was praised for its new and fresh take on the Bond franchise, this latest movie takes things two steps further. Skyfall is the 23rd Bond movie, this time directed by Oscar winning director, Sam Mendes. After a slightly disappointing movie and a long period of financial problems, MGM announced the new Bond movie to be directed by Sam Mendes which came as a shock to me. No wonder because Sam Mendes is known for awards worthy dramas but he really infected his sense of dramatic undertones into this movie which as you all know is not always the case with this franchise. Ever since Daniel Craig stepped in, James Bond got darker, edgier and more complex than ever. He is still a womanizer, he loves fun, he still jokes and wears cool suits but he has more things to care about now. Its always fun and exciting when character drama, complex dynamics and slick narratives are added to "action" movies without making them overbearing or completely washed out by it. This is what Sam Mendes cared about and this is what i got to see in the movie. So Skyfall is kind of a prequel lets say because it tells us the back story of James Bond and how he came to be the agent he is so famous for as well as other quite well known characters from the franchise. The plot revolves around Bond investigating an attack on MI6 which is done by a former operative, the evil and manipulative Raoul Silva who knows his ways the best. What he wants is to kill M and before doing so, avenge himself by humiliating her and expose the things she did to him.

                 From its very first sequence, this movie establishes its base quite well. Both the agents, Bond and Eve are shown chasing after a man who stole a computer hard drive which has secret information about all the other undercover agents. Chasing through markets, roof tops, train tops and what not in Istanbul, its one of the best action sequences i have seen in a long time and an astounding way to begin this movie. One thing that makes Skyfall so arresting is its beautiful imagery which is something that you would see and praise for its entire running time. So during all that, Eve accidentally shoots Bond and he falls into a river and is presumed dead of course. We then get to see the opening theme which is a tradition for every James Bond movie with a title song. The Oscar winning song sung by Adele is definitely one of the very best Bond themes ever. Thanks to Adele's voice and the lyrics which reflects the kind of a state Bond is going to be in and the entire movie for that matter. That soaring and powerful voice is just amazing and the opening theme is designed quite superb as well. So after the incident, things starts crumbling down for M and MI6 after a server breach, explosion in the office that kills people and so on. Bond is seen enjoying his supposed retirement in exotic places but after he sees the attack, he comes back. Bond does fails the series of physical and psychological examinations but M still approves of his return. Apart from the opening sequence which is great but there are other numerous sequences that will literally take your breath away. Thanks to the excellent cinematography work by the legend that is Roger Deakins, Skyfall is without a doubt the most good looking Bond movie ever made. The most glowing example of that can be found in the Shanghai sequence of the movie where Bond fights with Patrice (the man from Istanbul) in a high-rise. The scene gets much help from those neon-lit images of octopus that slides over the entire building and lights up the dark interior through the glass planes and just dazzles you and offers a great background for two people fighting. That shot is one of the best movie moments of 2012 no doubt. There is also a sequence in a casino in Macau where a strange atmosphere is created by the unusual camera angles and lightning that creates a seductive and intoxicating feel. There we meet the "sort of" Bond girl, Severine who then takes Bond to her employer, the villain of the movie.

                 Skyfall also provides us with yet another memorable villain for the Bond franchise with Silva played superbly and quite eerily by Javier Bardem who is known for such transformations, physical and artistically. His first appearance is quite striking when he slowly walks up towards a tied up bond talking to him about himself and his past. The camera freezes there and we slowly wait for him to appear right in front of us to see only to get freaked out by the way he looks. Silva is enigmatic, behind that blond wig and that insane eeriness on his face lies a person who once was sort of Bond himself. His eyes, the way he stares at you and the way he speaks, scares you because you seem to feel that he knows everything about you. He does actually because he is a computer expert and hacking is his thing. The way he lets them capture him and then play his game while he is in the MI6 is genius. Bond once again gets to fight physically and more on intellectual and level of wits with a villain who is equally strong and smart as he is which makes there interactions or banters quite interesting. There is Judy Dench as M, yet another good performance but this time she gets more time on screen then she ever did. M has an equally important part in this movie because the story as much as its telling us about everyone, revolves around her. All this fuss that is caused is because of her and indirectly, she is the reason why people died and thus she is told to step down. Not before Silva takes revenge from her, he is after her and she has to run. The movie then comes to an explosive, yet quite slow show-stopping finale in Scotland. That is where an endless run of explosions, fights, shootings and running happens. Skyfall's running time is very long and some people might express their concerns regarding that. Well it is one of the things that might bother you a bit specially when towards the end of the movie, everything seems to have lost the energy. But overall the movie is perfectly edited, the flow is quite smooth and the transition from one completely different country and landscape to another is surprisingly fluid. Daniel Craig as James Bond was once again quite good and here, he gets to perform a bit more and get deep into his character due to the circumstances around him. There is Ralph Finnes, Ben Whishaw and Albert Finney who are there in the movie and they performed nicely their parts. Naomie Harris was a good choice to play the role of Eve and well Berenice Lim Marlohe is gorgeous and quite mysterious in her role. So even acting wise, this movie gets to benefit from performances that are well above most of what other actors have done in the franchise in the same roles.

                 Skyfall has an excellent score that keeps the pulsating nature of the impact that most of the action or suspenseful scene has, perfectly in check. The sound design is perfect and there is so much clarity. Once again, Roger Deakins did an excellent job here and this being his most commercial outing till date on such grander level and the use of digital photography with such sophistication makes Skyfall one of the best photographed movies of the year right behind The Master. Sam Mendes did a fantastic job, well beyond what anyone was expecting him to do. He kept in mind to make Skyfall very sleek, edgier and crisp but to still give nods to the Bond we know of, the class and sophistication. There are some scenes where Mendes tries a bit too hard to infect the old Bond jokes in scenes but they comes off as rather awkward considering the overall tone of the movie. The emotional and melodramatic moments in the movie are handled quite well because the story and how it ends, we get to see a very rare version of our beloved franchise. Skyfall embraces its modern and up to date brilliance while equally remembers its legacy and the signature appeal that it had on so many generations to provide us with one of the best movies of the year.

Grade: A