Sunday, March 2, 2014

Skyfall (2012)

I did a shorter review of the movie when it came out now that a little time has passed, it's as good a time as any to delve into it a little deeper.  For those who need a refresher course, the 23rd James Bond film sees Bond fail a mission and end up presumed dead, only to pop up when M (Judi Dench) is threatened.  Let's take a closer look.
  • First off, Sam Mendes does a great job directing things here.  He keeps the balance between the action you come to a Bond film for and the actual story he's trying to tell pitch perfect.
  • The pre-credit scene is terrific with a great car/bike chase in Istanbul that is topped by the awesome spectacle of Bond using a digger to create a bridge for him to cross as Patrice (Ola Rapace) unhooks the cars of a train he is escaping on top of.  It's a real fun sequence that really immerses you into things right off the bat.
  • The list of undercover operatives is a bit of an old plot point (the first Mission: Impossible flick used it) but here its merely a backdrop for the real plot which we'll get into a little later.
  • Love the theme song from Adele.
  • The great thing this film does is to take elements of other films that didn't quite work the way they should and execute them in better fashion.  This mainly applies to the plot aspects that are similar to the ones in The World is Not Enough.  In both movies, Bond is drawn into a plot that revolves around an event in M's past.  Unlike the earlier film, Bond stays true to himself (I'll get to those issues when I examine that film) and the film as a whole doesn't get bogged down in soggy emotion.  There are a few minor issues I have with this film in the third act but they don't end up hurting things too much.
  • In both films we also get MI6 blown up but here there is more of a point to it.  Nice payoff at the end as well.
  • I love the little touches the franchise gives in each film, in this case the little scene with a drinking game that involves a live scorpion is quite fun.
  • Daniel Craig is really great here as usual.  This time out, Bond has a bit more mileage on him and there are questions as to whether or not he's up to the task at hand.  He really comes off as comfortable in the role.  I also like the rather laid back way we get some background info on the man.  It's not rammed down the audience's collective throat and is woven neatly into the overall plot.
  • Judi Dench makes her last appearance as M in this film and for once, the expanded role for the character fits.  She's funny, entertaining and as always, Dench brings her best game to the table.  It's a nice sendoff for a terrific actress.
  • Naomie Harris is fun as Eve who in any other entry in the series would be the main Bond Girl (M ends up being that, oddly enough) and the reveal that she is the new Miss Moneypenny is enjoyable.
  • Ralph Fiennes is also entertaining as Mallory who ends up becoming the new M at the end of the movie.  He doesn't have a hell of a lot to do but it will be fun to see how he's used in future movies.
  • Ben Whishaw is dryly amusing as the new Q.
  • The film really takes off 42 minutes in when Bond goes to Shanghai after Patrice.  The stuff with him tracking and fighting with the man is classic Bond.  Here, as in more or less the rest of the movie, the reinvention of Bond that began in 2006 is fused wonderfully with the stuff that came before.
  • The stuff in Macau is equally great with a fun fight amongst some decorative komodo dragons in a casino and an nice intro for pseudo femme fatale Severine (Berenice Marlohe).  Severine is an interesting character in that her background sounds like it comes right from Fleming and while it's fairly clear she's working for Silva, the main villain, it's not explicitly clear where she's coming from.  All we really know is that she wants to be rid of him and Bond is her best chance.  Needless to say, she ends up dead.  Marlohe is pretty damn good, playing the role with a nervous energy that is more than a little unsettling.
  • Javier Bardem does the impossible and somehow manages to make a villain creepier than the guy he played in No Country for Old Men.  Silva looks weird, acts weird and is just about as creepy a fellow as one could possibly hope for.  The removable palate is just the icing on the cake.  Sure, cyanide doesn't really rot your face so that it sags like an old woman but goddamn is it creepy!
  • The first scene with Bond and Silva is a wonderfully written and acted bit of business with both men playing mind games with the other and I would guess the actors were having a blast.
  • Love the base Silva has too.  It's just wonderfully creepy, much like the man himself.
  • Silva's escape and Bond chasing him is a nicely done bit of action, intercut nicely with M appearing at a board of inquiry hearing.  Dench has a nice scene before the shooting starts but my favorite bit comes before as Bond corners Silva in the bowels of the London Underground.  Needless to say, trying to kill Bond by dropping a subway on him is one I haven't seen.
  • The third act is, for the most part, quite excellent.  I love Bond luring Silva out to his family hunting lodge as well as the reappearance of the classic Aston Martin from Goldfinger.  Bond's look of pure malicious rage when it is blown up towards the end is fantastic.
  • Albert Finney's character is solidly played as one would expect but in terms of importance to the plot, not so solid.
  • The shootout in the lodge and the subsequent destruction of said lodge (one of the most massive explosions I have ever seen, both times I saw it in the theater the goddamn room shook) is a nicely spectacular sequence.
  • One little thing I appreciate is how the story Finney's character tells about how upon hearing of his parent's death Bond his in the cellar and came out now a man was not echoed in Bond's escape before the explosion.  It would have been a little too on the nose.
  • The final confrontation between Silva, M and Bond is good, though I probably would have liked a more impactful death for Silva.  A knife to the back is fine and Bond's line to him is fitting but for such a memorable bad guy, you sort of wish Bond would have at least stomped that palate out of his mouth as sort of a period on the sentence.
  • I love the coda with the new MI6, M and Moneypenny taking residence in a slightly modified version of the office sets from the Connery/Moore era.  It's a great way to end the movie, though for me it loses a little coming after the frankly emotional farewell to Dench.  Still, damn good ending.
    Skyfall is just about perfect, save for one or two little things at the end that bug me.  It's a fantastic Bond film, a great spy thriller in general and just an overall great movie.

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    About Me

    I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.