Thursday, November 8, 2012

Skyfall ★★★★

The Classic Bond We've Come To Know And Love; A Perfect Film In Every Way

Written by Matt Giles
Edited by Erin Accomando

If Casino Royale blew your mind as a result of its greatness and Quantum of Solace left you questioning whether or not the James Bond series was headed in a downward spiral, alas, Skyfall trumps both films.

I loved Casino Royale. It reinvented a classic character we have come to know and love over the years and it did it well. Daniel Craig as James Bond is, for me, the best choice for a role like this. I know all of the Sean Connery lovers are preparing their angry comments as they read this, but Craig brings everything you would want to the role and then some: He is well-educated, a brutal killing machine, suave with women, in peak physical condition, has a great sense of humor, and most importantly, he's a human being, as opposed to just another iconic movie character. Casino Royale also set tragic events in motion that would ultimately be resolved in the lesser received Quantum of Solace, making Quantum the first true sequel in the entire Bond franchise. Even though that second film has it's faults, it also successfully established Bond as a man vulnerable to pain, as opposed to someone without feeling or remorse. While that aspect of it worked, the rest of the film was just okay, when it should have been great. Skyfall on the other hand is magnificent, largely because it reintroduces the character with a completely new story and thus frees it from the baggage of the previous installments.

Sam Mendes takes over the directing duties this time around, resulting in the first Bond film that feels like it was made by a true fan of Bond movies. There are references to all the things we've come to know and love about a classic Bond film and none of them are distracting. They work beautifully within the context of Skyfall, and it feels like this rebooted series has finally hit its stride. On top of that, Mendes and writers Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and John Logan, choose a personal story involving both Bond and M's past, giving this film the heart that other Bond films lack. (Judi Dench, who plays M, does her best work in the series here.)

Bond's story relates to his broken state after being badly wounded in the film's opening. He's disheveled, bearded, addicted to pain killers and heavy liquor, but is reinstated by M after a three-month absence out of sheer desperation. That desperation is a result of a stolen hard drive containing the names of nearly every NATO field agent embedded in criminal organizations around the world. The man in possession of that hard drive is Raoul Silva, (Javier Bardem who reminds us what a great villain can do for a franchise), a former MI6 agent with a vendetta for M and a menacing demeanor about him.

Rounding out the cast are Ralph Fiennes as Garreth Mallory, M's boss; Naomie Harris as Eve, a fellow MI6 agent; Bérénice Marlohe as Sévérine, Raoul's employee; and Ben Whishaw as Q, a brilliant piece of casting if you ask me. Each actor is great in their respective roles and every one of them a necessary part of the puzzle that Skyfall ends up being. It takes the characters and story in some unexpected directions, all of which lead to a resolution that is, quite honestly, perfect.

Enhancing everything great about Skyfall is the cinematography by Roger Deakins and the score by Thomas Newman. Deakins is most famous for shooting many of the Coen Brothers films, including No Country For Old Men (easily one of the greatest photographed films of all time) and most recently True Grit, but also for shooting other films like The Shawshank Redemption and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Each of those films were enhanced by Deakins' work and Skyfall is no exception. It's the most gorgeous looking Bond film of the entire series; beautiful, crisp, vivid, and astounding in its imagery. Newman's music enhances that imagery, giving us the most nostalgic score of any of the new films, a point seconded by film critic Michael Phillips in his video review of the film.

Everything works in Skyfall, making it not just a a great Bond picture but an overall terrific film that will be remembered for many years to come. Craig does some of his best work as an actor and Dench solidifies herself as the best M the series will ever have. It's thrilling, it's touching, and it's everything that audiences go to the movies for. Consider me wowed.

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