Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Review: Skyfall

I’m not a huge fan of James Bond. Is that okay? I don’t hate it, but I’ve never been overly fond it either. I think it’s because the first Bond I ever saw was Moonraker, IE one of the worst ones, which kind of colored my opinion of it. I like some of them, mostly the Sean Connery ones, but I also dislike my fair share. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I so enjoyed Casino Royale, because I didn’t care about the trappings of James Bond being in the Bond movies, I just care about them being entertaining. This is also one of the reasons I didn’t care for Quantum of Solace, because it was just fucking BORING. But, I’m pleased to report that Skyfall is both highly entertaining, and designed to return the trappings of James Bond to the Bond series.

The plot is a little interesting, as it seems this is the first real attempt to update the James Bond formula to modern day settings. Bond, after having nearly been killed on assignment, is tasked with tracking down a stolen list of MI6 agents. He finds out it’s been stolen by Raoul Silva, an insane former MI6 agent with a grudge against Bond’s Boss, M. And this is the first place that the story is a unique and interesting take on the Bond franchise. Raoul has a lot of the trappings of a Bond Villain (Trademark), like secret lairs, wacky gadgets and insane plans but with the details updated. You’ll see what I mean.

The lifeblood of this movie is going to be its action scenes, which are all interesting, well staged and inventive. A big chase scene towards the beginning in particular is one of the best chase sequences of the year and while the final action beat isn’t quite Best Ever material, it’s somehow managed to completely be hidden from the trailers, so going in fresh gives it a lot of power.

Daniel Craig is, naturally, killer in the roll of Bond, but we already knew that, ditto Judy Dench as M. But Javier Bardem is the real standout, as the villain. He plays him completely different from any Bond Villain before him and completely different from any performance he’s given before. By relying so heavily on the internet he distinguishes himself from a typical Bond Villain, but his personality and mannerisms are much less Goldfinger and much more Joker, and he really sells it, one of the more memorable villains of the year.

The script is the source of one of the movie’s bigger strengths and also, one of it’s minor letdowns. The strength is the fact that, unlike essentially any Bond movie before it, it has a running theme. In this case, the theme is a running point of how useful analogue agents can be in an increasingly digital world. But, the major failing is how wonky the pacing and structure are. I can’t really talk about it, because it would be a spoiler, but the pacing is awkward, especially towards the end and the act structure is little weird.

Overall though, I quite enjoyed Skyfall, a bit more than I expected. It’s November, so I’m more in the mood for serious actor driven dramas (the theater near me isn’t showing Lincoln yet) but that’s not really a flaw. It’s no Cloud Atlas or Argo, but it’s not trying to be. It’s an engaging and enjoyable action movie starring a well known and well loved character, that also seems to be intending to kick off a new franchise for him. So, unless you still haven’t seen Cloud Atlas (and there’s a lot of you) I can recommend this.

Elessar is a 22 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he wonders if Bardem’s character was supposed to be gay or not. I honestly can’t tell.

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