Fast cars, fast women, cool gadgets, huge explosions, flying bullets and English accents- that’s what you can expect from a James Bond film. Growing up I unfortunately never took the time to familiarize myself with the many great actors that dawned the 007 moniker, but I have had the opportunity to enjoy the Daniel Craig era. CASINO ROYALE was a fantastic film and one that put the James Bond franchise on my radar and while QUANTUM OF SOLACE took a major step back, SKYFALL has burst onto the scene to come close if not completely take the top spot as my favorite 007 film.
Daniel Craig returns as the stone faced James Bond to retrieve a list of MI6 operatives that has been compromised due to the super hacker abilities of the ruthless, Silva (Javier Bardem). Bond goes globetrotting to find the mastermind, Silva, while the madman himself threatens to release the names of 5 operatives every week, but may or may not have another agenda up his sleeve.
There is an issue of plausibility from beginning to end of SKYFALL- an issue only if you care and think too much about it. The likelihood of someone planning the exact location someone will be standing after a series of meticulous other plans and escapes to send a subway car tumbling toward them is as ridiculous as it is awesome. There’s no reason to take any of this material seriously due to the sheer nature of the thrilling action sequences- particularly the one that opens the film- and the scene chewing performance from Javier Bardem. At the same time, there appears to be attempts to strike some emotional chord towards the end of the film and it’s an attempt that didn’t quite land for me, but I applaud the attempt.
Making action look good is a feat in and of itself, but making everything around the action look stunning compared to the action or as stunning as the action is nothing short of spectacular especially in terms of Roger Deakins work here. This movie is absolutely gorgeous in just its shots of cityscapes, but even the action scenes have brilliant composition within them. I defy anyone to watch the hand to hand fight scene in Shanghai with the stark blue background and Bond fighting with a random bad guy in silhouettes and tell me it’s not beautiful. There’s a nice touch within that shot where a gunshot goes off that for a brief millisecond lights the two characters while they are fighting- it’s a small detail, but one that adds immensely to the enjoyment of the whole scene.
Having only scene bits and pieces of previous classic Bond films I cannot weigh in on how Craig fits in, so I’ll just say I really enjoy him as the 007 character in the newest iterations. I get a kick out of his snarky comments and facial expressions so while his performance is not something ground breaking, I still enjoy it. Javier Bardem on the other hand is magnificent as the villain here. I’ve heard comparisons to Ledger’s turn as Joker in THE DARK KNIGHT and the reference is fitting except for the single detail that Bardem isn’t wearing clown makeup. The other difference is we learn what made Bardem’s villain become how he is and rather than hate him, you actually understand it. I wouldn’t dare say Bardem is sympathetic, but his motivations are not merely as sadistic and random as you’d imagine- minus maybe the impromptu shoot the glass off someone’s head test he forces Bond to participate in.
There is a lot to love about SKYFALL starting from an incredible opening chase sequence, a stellar performance from Javier Bardem as the villain and absolutely stunning cinematography being the staples. The nearly two and a half runtime never becomes an issue, although after the great opening the pace does slow a bit until Bardem makes his grand entrance. Mendes shows some real skill staging the action sequences and there are plenty of great callbacks to the Bond-isms we’ve all become accustomed to over the years in some way or another. SKYFALL is a spectacular action flick and addition to the Bond franchise, but even more than that it is a truly memorable and exciting film experience.
Written By: Luke (@CrummyLuke on Twitter)