Nov 19, 2012

[Movies] Skyfall (2012)

While I can't say that I'm a big fan of the James Bond movies (in fact I haven't seen most of them), I do have a general appreciation for spy movies in general. And I have managed to see a number of the more recent Bond films, especially all those that have involved Daniel Craig playing the famous master spy.

The Daniel Craig reboot of the franchise starting with Casino Royale. Here we had a much greener Bond who wasn't quite as "perfect" as we had seen in prior movies, and thus it did help give us a new perspective on character and the franchise as a whole. And Craig has proven to be particularly effective as a much more physical James Bond.

For Skyfall, this particular movie roughly coincides with the 50th anniversary of the James Bond movie franchise. And thus beyond telling yet another tale of the super spy, it also managed to squeeze in a number of homages and nods to the prior movies amid all the action and adventure.

And I enjoyed it quite a lot.

Synopsis: Skyfall is the 23rd James Bond movie produced by Eon Productions. Based on a screenplay begun by Peter Morgan but only fully realized by the team of Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan together with director Sam Mendes. This also happens to be the first James Bond movie to be released in the IMAX format, although I only watched it in a conventional digital theater.

We jump right into things with Agent 007, James Bond (Daniel Craig) and fellow agent Eve (Naomie Harris) are in pursuit of an enemy agent in possession of a key hard drive. The drive is so important since it contains the identities of almost all NATO undercover agents scattered across various terrorist organizations. But the mission ultimately fails and the drive is lost - and so is Bond.

M (Dame Judi Dench), head of MI6, comes under scrutiny by the new head of the Intelligence and Security Committee - one Garth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes). And she deals with the implied threats from Mallory, M is surprised by at attack on MI6 itself just as she is returning to headquarters. The blast takes out a number of employees and evidence indicates that it appears they were hacked from the inside somehow. And the thought that MI6 itself was compromised in such a manner is very disconcerting indeed.

The movie does start on a rather shocking note with the whole Bond-Eve mission. But it was a nice way to start things off - with a lot of healthy action in anticipation of the narrative build-up to come. And while I wouldn't that other parts of the story are boring - I'm the type of guy who enjoys a lot of good intellectual drama. However this is still a movie that runs for 143 minutes or so. And thus that's still a rather long time to invest in getting through a movie.

Craig of course is as intense as he has managed to demonstrate in his past Bond ventures, which still puts a bit more stress on his physical acuity and his skills as a one-man killing machine instead of being the suave and debonair agent of the prior Bonds. He still has that as well, don't get me wrong. However he's clearly the gruffer version of all the Bonds, partly due to the fact that he is mean to represent the agent much earlier in his career.

But as great as Daniel Craig is, the real star of this movie was Judi Dench as M. The story pretty much revolves around her given the primary villain, the equally disturbing Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), is obsessed with getting revenge on her more than anyone else. And how M carries herself despite being assaulted on all side by both Silva's threat to her life and the internal struggle as the government questions her handling of the department. And naturally Dench maintains a different level of style and class in all her scenes regardless of what is going on.

And while Judi Dench may not be able to perform the kinds of stunts that Craig manages, she does have a fiery intensity as clearly seen in her eyes. Her alertness shines through and overall she maintains an amazingly strong presence all throughout the movie. All other characters pale in comparison to her - but only because she's that good even in the company of so many fine actors.

Beyond the need to stop and praise how brilliantly depraved Bardem's character manages to be, I also want to take the time to cite the addition of Ben Whishaw as this movie's Q, or quartermaster apparently. He had already impressed me in the past given his performance in Perfume, so I was definitely happy to see him again. And he certainly had a unique take on what has previously been a bit of a bungling scientist, his physical appearance was a bit shocking since it stressed how skinny he is. He ended up reminding me a lot of how Cillian Murphy portrayed Christopher Nolan's version of the Scarecrow in the Batman movies.

And Bardem could be another Joker. Seriously.

And I almost forgot to talk about the scoring! Apart from the amazing title song as performed by Adele, the whole movie was handled in a very remarkable manner and the movie was always appropriate to setting the tone or just making James Bond seem all the more impressive.

Skyfall is a very good spy thriller, although you'll just have to accept that M was really meant to be the star of this particular show. And thus it rates a very respectable 4.5 references to the prior James Bond movies woven into the film out of a possible 5.

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