An enthusiast's take on a 007 adventureThe 23rd Bond film charged back onto silver screens in a fashion quite uncharacteristic of the franchise.
After a botched mission lands him in a river with two bullet wounds, James Bond drops off the grid, with the agency presuming him dead. Following a direct attack on MI6’s computer systems and a bomb blast in the agency headquarters that killed several of his colleagues and threatened M’s life, Bond decides to pick up the Walther one more time. After a rigorous physical examination (because, well, he was supposed to be dead) that shows his age and fatigue, M turns him loose on the mastermind behind the attacks, one Raoul Silva (played by Javier Bardem). Silva wants one thing, M’s head. Only one man stands in his way…
The 23rd Bond film charged back onto silver screens in a fashion quite uncharacteristic of the franchise. Gone were the gaudy gizmos, frequent explosions, and rapidly moving plot lines. Skyfall takes more of a minimalist approach. The film chose to focus more on the nuances and minutia of the characters involved and attempted to expose the audience to the complexities hidden in Bond’s mind and past. Bond finds himself armed only with his pistol, a radio transmitter, and an aging body appearing to have been put through one too many missions. MI6 is no longer portrayed as an almost independent arm of the British government. M is seen under bureaucratic pressure (led by Ralph “Voldemort” Fiennes) to minimize losses and justify her missions. The world isn’t in danger, just the ones “…fighting in the shadows.” are. Director Sam Mendes opted to take his foot of the gas for a moment and give the world a glimpse of a more realistic and somber Bond universe.
The individuals playing the main roles did so marvelously. All too often one finds himself watching a film and not believing in the characters. Audiences have a hard time forgetting that the actor is portraying someone else, finding they are unable to separate the identity of the actor from the individual on the screen. Such is not the case in Skyfall. You forget that Daniel Craig is playing James Bond. Daniel Craig ceases to exist, as he throws himself into a role in a way hadn’t quite excelled at in the previous two films. He carefully portrays a Bond struggling to remain relevant in a field of espionage changing faster than he can.
Javier Bardem played, in my opinion, the best villain in the franchise to date. During production of the film, he actually had the script translated into his native Spanish to understand his role better. The efforts paid off. His character is incredibly multi-faceted: charming and carefree one moment and cruelly cunning the next. His portrayal of an incredibly intelligent man with nothing to lose and a single-minded focus on vengeance perfectly. He charmed audiences, frightened audiences, and always kept us guessing. Judi Dench and Ralph Fiennes, both played characters at ends with each other in the governmental world – both trying to do their jobs while convincing the other to yield to their respective demands. Dench, a brilliant actress whose skills were always underemphasized in the previous films, stole the limelight from Craig and Bardem numerous times. Fiennes, an acting heavyweight as well, gave a more subtle performance, allowing the storyline and surrounding characters to set the tone as his ex-military government bureaucrat struggles with doing what he must and what he desires to do.
By far one of the most stunning aspects of the film is the cinematography. Whether Bond is driving through bleak British mountains or sailing across the Indian Ocean, the camera work and scene set ups are nothing less than breathtaking and highly original. The only way I can express this is that the entire movie is shot after shot of utter perfection. Each and every scene is masterfully crafted to capture the emotions hidden in the scene and script. Director Sam Mendes and Cinematographer Richard Deakins did more than just use cameras to shoot a movie, they used them to tell a story and give the viewer a way to both observe a scene from afar and be right in the middle of it.
The biggest surprise of the film was the lack of a “true” Bond car. The only vehicles being used in the first two-thirds of the film are a Land Rover Defender 110, Jaguar XJ L, a Honda CRF250R motorcycle, an Audi A5, and some taxi that James catches in Shanghai. It isn’t until the final third of the film that Bond finally climbs into the old Aston Martin DB5 (from Goldfinger, Thunderball, and briefly in Casino Royale). While this may be shocking to some people, I think keeping the Aston out of the movie until a key point in the story was a good move. It allowed for the old titan of a vehicle to make a graceful entrance into the film and back into Bond’s life. Don’t worry though, you get to see plenty shots of Bond guiding it through foggy British roads and through damp moors.
What is seen in this film is a masterful balance of suspense, storytelling, and excitement. The length of the movie, a whopping 143 minutes, gives more than enough time to develop characters, lay out a brilliantly seductive plot, and throw in a few beautifully crafted action sequences. By cutting out all the gaudy frills that were all too common of previous Bond films, the makers of this installment gave Bond fans and moviegoers everywhere a chance to really look past the usual cloak and dagger aspect of the spy game and experience the human side of Bond and MI6. This film had everything one could possibly want in a film all rolled into one celebration of a character who has enthralled audiences for generations.1 comment