Monday, November 12, 2012

MOVIE OF THE WEEK: Skyfall


Back in 1962, "Dr. No" opened to strong box office and critical acclaim, spawning one of the most beloved film franchises ever. 50 years and 23 films later we have the latest addition to the series - "Skyfall". The film follows James Bond as he struggles to prove the modern day relevance of the MI6 intelligence agency after a serious security breach. As he tracks down the infiltrator, Bond and agency head M are forced to re-assess their value to the agency. After 2 viewings over 3 days, my initial impressions of the film were solidified. "Skyfall" is a polished technical marvel that is just slightly overlong. The highlight is Roger Deakins' cinematography, which really delivers a masterclass in lighting, colour and framing. It's a constant stream of stunning imagery that indicates the work of a truly gifted cinematographer.
The film opens with a thrilling sequence including some awe-inspiring setpieces. It definitely gets you pumped up and climaxes with Adele's fantastic theme song over the opening credits. Following this, the film seems to momentarily get bogged down in its serious tone. Apart from some further excitingly choreographed action scenes, the film tends to drag until we meet Javier Bardem's villain character. This introduction brings some much needed energy and the film is completely captivating from that point onward. Bardem's Silva is the epitome of a scene stealer. In fact, his demented playfulness recalls that of Heath Ledger's iconic Joker. For my money, he's the most memorable Bond villain of them all. While Bardem definitely steals the show, the rest of the cast are no slouches themselves. Daniel Craig once again adds a unique vulnerability to the character's suave machismo, making for another fascinating interpretation. Judi Dench also nails it as M. Unfortunately, the film doesn't know how to properly use its alluring pair of Bond girls. Naomie Harris gets some really cheesy lines and Bérénice Marlohe serves merely as a facilitator for Bond's introduction to Silva.
As I said earlier, the film has an accomplished team behind the scenes, resulting in an outstanding showcase of cinematic craft. It's no surprise though, as the film has an abundance of Oscar-nominated artists, including its acclaimed director Sam Mendes. Thomas Newman did a great job scoring his first big action movie, though he's limited by the requirement to use existing Bond themes. The overall aural quality is top notch work, left in the capable hands of experienced sound mixer Greg P. Russell. Many of the film's thrills are reliant on the film's purposeful art direction too, with moving trains and dilapidated houses leaving a lasting impression.
As it is 50th anniversary of Bond, the film pays nice homage to its vintage roots. There are some amusing references to vintage Bond films with shaken martinis, the original Aston Martin and a mention of exploding pens. Everything comes together for an enjoyable experience for the audience and would especially tickle the fanboys. As someone who is less attached the franchise, I only wish the screenplay was a bit more thought-provoking and emotionally affecting. In my opinion, "Skyfall" doesn't achieve the storytelling excellence of "Casino Royale" but damn, it's so beautiful to look at.

10 comments:

  1. Great post, I've booked a ticket for Skyfall this week. Seems a pretty good film but does not make too much Oscar Buzz I guess.

    How do you think, could Adele's song be eligible best Original Song nominations (I see this the most likable win so far)

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    1. I doubt it will be a Best Picture candidate, but the technical stuff will definitely be in consideration.

      It's hard to tell if the Academy's song branch will disqualify it or not. If it is in fact eligible, I am sure it will be a major Oscar contender.

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  2. Good review. A great movie, but still not my favorite Bond of all-time. However, it's probably one of the best action movies of the year and I look forward to what else they can do with Craig as Bond from now on.

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    1. Thanks Dan. It's not the best, but as you say it's a step in the right direction for the series.

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  3. Nice reivew! Silva reminded me a lot of Joker too, as a man who can't be reasoned with and is set to achieve his goal.

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    1. Thanks! Bardem is really great with his villain roles.

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  4. Dude, you're a pro! I agree with most of what you said, however I feel the long shot that was Silva's introduction scene was actually perfect (not to mention trademark Sam Mendes, if I'm not mistaken) - it kind of personifies the calm, slow evil that he is - and adds to building up the suspense around this villain who nobody knows of till that point in the film. It kind of made his even more scarier for me, when I finally was able to look at him clearly.

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    1. Thanks, I wish we could have watched this together!

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  5. I agree, technically first class, but for me the story was really implausible. The whole concept doesn't really work - the bad guy predicts everything MI6 will do in response to his capture? Down to planning where and how he will escape and having booby traps at the ready? No, this is silly. So much feels fresh and modern, yet, really, as the "bad guy" is escaping through the metro station, I am thinking - why don't they just lock it down and find the guy? I could go on and on, but really, the plot is highly implausible. The interesting (and I must assume unintended) irony is that there is some murmuring about the relevance of secret agents (the attempt to modernize the franchise) and the plot itself proves the point. Ultimately it just becomes a wrestling match between Bond and the "bad guy". Like a comic book. The plot starts with a hard drive being stolen - the only hard drive that has all of the MI6 double agents identities! Really? On a hard drive? This is already absurd. So, a wonderfully crafted movie, with a very serious, modern tone, but killed by a wholly unbelievable plot (I hooted when Bond guesses the bad guy's log in code in a quick second! How convenient!). And, although I really admire Javier Bardem, his bad guy isn't very scary at all. A bit John Malkovich-y, but more petulant than menacing. I wonder how the character manages to hire so many helpers whose role seems to be nothing but to get killed? Nonsense abounds. Why did they go to the castle with hardly any true weapons? Why alone?

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