Movie Review: Skyfall

I saw this celebration of 50 years of James Bond the first Tuesday it was available. Suffice to say I was very pleasantly surprised.

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Starring:
Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench
Director:
Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road)
Rating: M
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I never thought I would be comparing a James Bond film to a Batman one. Not in my wildest dreams. Yet here I am, having watched a sucker punch of a 007 film that quite possibly ranks as one of the best instalments in one of cinema’s longest-running sagas, doing just that. Emotional, lengthy and fraught with unpredictability, featuring great action scenes that for all their grandiose ambition don’t stick in your mind as much as the quieter character-driven interactions; yep, to say this movie wasn’t influenced even a little by Christopher Nolan would be a bit daft. Throw in a skin-crawling villain who has already been compared to Heath Ledger‘s Joker in The Dark Knight by several critics and you get a film that is worthy of a certain category of artistic praise and yet is still quintessentially, unmistakably, Bond.

What makes a good Bond movie? Is it a pulse-pounding opening action sequence? A cool opening song/graphic montage? A few witty one-liners? A smattering of gadgets? Skyfall has all this and more, with a handful of tasteful easter eggs thrown in for the Bond fanatic to chew on (see how many you can count in the last two minutes alone). Q also returns for the first time since Daniel Craig‘s blonde Bond rebooted the series in 2007 with Casino Royale and his role is larger than it’s ever been.

Yet director Sam Mendes, of American Beauty fame, does quite a few fresh things with the 007 licence, not least of which is a promotion of Judi Dench‘s “M” to what essentially amounts to the leading female role. Dench‘s typical classy performance style is even more powerful in the light of her long-standing character’s deconstruction, which gets fairly brutal as the narrative stakes rise higher and higher.

The catalyst behind such stakes is one of Skyfall‘s biggest triumphs. Javier Bardem‘s portrayal of the film’s main antagonist, Silva, is nothing short of astounding. Looking every bit as creepy as he did in his assassin role from No Country For Old Men, he commands the screen from the first, brilliantly-framed sequence in which he appears. Magnetic and repulsive all at once, Silva’s thinly-veiled insanity is palpably unsettling. I struggle to recall a better Bond villain; it’s as simple as that.

As with any action film well over two hours long, The Dark Knight Rises included, Skyfall struggles with pacing at times. After a worthy opening action set piece in Turkey and some very stylish Shanghai scenes, things take a while to build up again, but when they do they don’t let up. The finale is so unexpected in so many ways, from its location to its execution to the films it quite oddly reminds you of (To mention them by name would be to spoil the ending).

As can reasonably be expected from a Sam Mendes film, character interaction is key, and while it may initially seem a little weird to see so much of characters traditionally presented in a more two-dimensional light, the man behind the lens somehow makes the constant heart-to-hearts believable. Craig, Bardem and even Dench are involved in their fair share of onscreen action, but they truly sizzle when their characters are laying their emotions bare. It’s stunning stuff.

Sorry Live and Let Die, I have a new favourite James Bond film. Skyfall is a pretty good anything film, actually. It’s this year’s most powerful cinematic surprise and, as a lifelong 007 fan, I am delighted to have witnessed the series reach such heights. See this movie.

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THE VERDICT

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Good:
Great balance between old and new, some standout scenes, the best villain in Bond history, unpredictable narrative
Bad:
Minor pacing issues
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5 VsP H E N O M E N A L

5 responses to this post.

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed Skyfall (also wrote a review for it), but now you have intrigued me to watch The Dark Knight Rises. 🙂

    Reply

  2. great post, check out mine on this subject and see what you think http://wellthatsdifferent.wordpress.com/2012/12/10/the-worst-evil-plan/

    Reply

  3. Posted by Shahab on December 19, 2012 at 9:06 am

    Totally agree with best villain. for some reason reminded me to Heath Ledger because of his sadistic attitude. Although it was a bit unfortunate that they didnt give his character enough value and role in movie.
    Im not a BIG 007 movie fan but i could clearly see some sort of inspiration from movies such as TDK ( some critics agreed with that as well ). The whole chaotic situation that made a country in pure danger and harm with a sadistic villain. And as well with an *almost* fallen hero.
    Thanks for the review Ryan.

    Reply

  4. Posted by Shahab on December 19, 2012 at 9:08 am

    But I have to say that i could feel the lack of Bond Girl. it was sorta divided into several roles but i was expecting more scenario for Severine.

    Reply

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