"Dreams feel real while we're in them. It's only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange." -Inception

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Movie Review: Skyfall

It's always delightful to hear the words, "Bond, James Bond" uttered onscreen and the new Bond film Skyfall certainly delivers on the chills and thrills.

As Daniel Craig settles into his third outing as Bond and utters the words, "Brave New World," you know this is not going to be a typical Bond film.  This is the 23rd film in a franchise that celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.  An incredible achievement for any franchise but it's just amazing that a character like James Bond can bring together generations of grandfathers, fathers and sons who can all claim him as their favorite spy, Agent 007.

With a traditional creative opening credits sequence that ominously hints all about death and features a song by the brilliant Adele, Skyfall brings us into the action quickly with an exciting chase sequence in Istanbul, Turkey where a hard drive containing the names of all the MI6 agents has been stolen and Bond is in hard pursuit of it.  This reminded me too much of plots featured on TV shows like Chuck, Alias and even another film released earlier this year, Safe House.  Seriously, people in intelligence services, maybe next time try not to keep such important information on something that can be easily retrieved as a hard drive.

But as it happens, Bond is shot by fellow agent Eve (Naomie Harris) and the bad guy Patrice (Ola Rapace).  This is not a spoiler, you've probably gleaned the same information if you've seen the trailer.  Everyone assumes he's dead and with the stolen all-important hard drive missing, M (Judi Dench) is left to face the fire for the failed mission.  She is brought to task by Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes).

But M has more problems coming up.  Someone is after her, after her past and won't stop for anything. Bond has to step out of the shadows and back into being Agent 007.  He is tested again to show whether he's fit to being an agent again.  I liked that little sequence of various tests on him.  Everyone assumes Bond to be superhuman despite his legendary vices.  They show us the effect on his not so young body.

Nevertheless, we all know that there's no better agent than 007 in Her Majesty's Secret Service.  Bond goes to Shanghai where he meets the lovely Bond girl Severine (Berenice Lim Marlohe) to find out who has the list and is after M.  She leads to him to the very captivating Silva (Javier Bardem), a villain that I have a feeling most people won't get.  Which is a shame because Bardem is so good at transforming himself into whichever character he plays.

Silva manages to rankle M and raise Bond's protective instincts towards her, the only steady woman in his life.  He calls her ma'am, just as he would the Queen.  But revenge is an all-consuming thing and Silva can't see anything beyond it.  Aiding Bond as always is the ever reliable team at MI6, there's Mallory and Eve, Tanner (Rory Kinnear) and the new quartermaster, Q (Ben Whishaw), a wonderful addition to Bond's world.  I loved their scenes together and past references to Bond history with guns and technology.

In fact, there were lots of witty one-liners, so typically Bond, that were enjoyable and familiar.  There were the cars, the martini, the iconic theme music, the shots of London, it was the same and yet different as the director Sam Mendes and cast put their own stamp on it.  The product placements which I thought would be glaringly obvious were subtler than I thought but really these days which film doesn't have them prominently displayed and especially in this case it was one of the main reasons why this film was financed and saved MGM from bankruptcy.

I tried to recall why this film reminded me of another and then it came to me, I recalled reading how Mendes was inspired by Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy and this movie had the same flow to it.  In a good way.  It was dark where it needed to be and light where it should be especially at the end where everything is set up for the next film.  Great balance.

However, the lighting and atmosphere for the climatic resolution was really dim and hard to see but one can definitely guess to what's going on.  Despite that minor quibble, Skyfall joins the list of Bond films as worthy addition and a great way for the franchise to still live on in this modern world.

Directed by Sam Mendes; Written by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and John Logan; Cinematography by Roger Deakins; Editing by Stuart Baird; Music by Thomas Newman.

Additional cast: Albert Finney, Helen McCrory

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