Monday, November 26, 2012

Review: Skyfall Y'all!

I tend to enjoy the many little moments of Bond films more than I enjoy the films as a whole. Even with the best, such as Casino Royale, a certain action film fatigue sets in after a while and the film seems needlessly stretched out and overlong. And then there’s Quantum of Solace, a far shorter film that continues to sell me on Daniel Craig as Bond, but has an easily forgotten plot that had me longing for the gadgets, colourful villains, and world domination schemes of the past.

Skyfall addresses all these issues and triumphs. To find out why it worked... join me after the jump.

I do, however, approach this review with a degree of trepidation. I went in knowing very, very little about the story (not even the premise that leads us into the breathtakingly animated opening title sequence) so I became quickly engaged as a result. As such I’m extremely hesitant to reveal anything about the plot really, other than the fact that it’s never dull and has far more drive and depth than I’ve found in previous installments.

But what I loved most about Skyfall is that it is not afraid to rejig things even further. The Daniel Craig Bond reboot has been met with much acclaim but, unlike Quantum of Solace, the filmmaker’s here are willing to continue experimenting with the formula. The theme here appears to be that “sometimes the old ways are best” and Skyfall pays homage to beloved elements from Bond’s past while still embracing the contemporary innovations that helped launch Bond’s present. Q Division is introduced in a reimagine form, Javier Bardem treats us to an unforgettable villain, and some icons from the past return. This is also one of the first film’s to delve into Bond’s mysterious past and flesh out the events that formed the man we now know. It’s a fitting approach to honour the 50 year anniversary of the franchise.

The great accomplishment here is a film that is not only incredibly enjoyable based on its own merits but it leaves the audience excited for future sequels. A lot has changed by the time the credits roll and I eagerly anticipate what is to follow now that Bond has been re-imagined yet again and I’m pleased to hear that Craig has signed on for at least another couple of films.

Speaking of Craig, he is so firmly cemented in the role now that it’s hard to imagine anyone else being better. I’ve never seen a film work so hard as Skyfall does to fetishise its lead performer. The script, the direction, the cinematography, the wardrobe, even the music, are all striving to make Daniel Craig look good. And he has a far stronger character arc to work with here, allowing for a more nuanced Bond who, between moments of angst, is far more at ease than we have ever seen him. He’s still completely badass and frequently tears up the world around him, but now he is even allowed to occasionally smile and quip. There’s also some heavy drinking and womanising - again proving that Bond might be best when its a mix of old and new.

My only criticism of the film (and it’s a very mild one) is that many scenes are so good that the film often peaks early. For example, I’m not sure we ever see an action scene that rivals the unrelenting and inventive opening. Similarly Bardem’s bad guy introduction is so amazing - as are his subsequent couple of scenes - that I don’t think the story ever quite allows him to reach that height again. That said though, director Mendes and the screenwriters have a different approach here. Rather than continually trying to top the action they tend to dig deeper into the character of Bond instead. And it’s probably that choice that had me more engaged throughout than previous films.

Really the best way I can describe my viewing experience is that it felt like Mendes was doing to Bond what Nolan did so successfully with Batman. Skyfall explores resurrection, reinvention and motivation. It’s set in a real world heightened by fantasy action. It’s thoughtful but fast-paced. It plumbs the depths of a grim, gritty hero, born of darkness, who battles twisted, cartoony villains. It respects the past but has its eye firmly set on the future. Bond is in good hands.

Make the effort to go and see this one. (We saw it in IMAX and it was absolutely stunning. As soon as the opening titles sequence finished I wanted to watch it again). Even if you’re on the fence with Bond, or didn’t see the last one, I’d recommend giving this one a try. In fact, even if you’re a Bond first-timer, give this one a watch. The buzz surrounding it is well-deserved.

1 comment:

  1. Bardem has a gigantic, freakishly huge head. His perm reminded me of Amadeus.

    I am still completely enthralled by that Asian lady on the boat. She was phenomenal. God I wish there'd been more of her.