November 7, 2012

Review: Let the 'Skyfall' – Daniel Craig Strikes Back

"Welcome to the new MI6."

American Beauty director Sam Mendes takes Daniel Craig back to basics, stretching his psyche into dark territory for a cerebral exploration of the James Bond character. What Skyfall does so well is present a compelling, inventive new journey while eschewing much of the franchise's silliness yet simultaneously acknowledging it. If Casino Royale was a complete reboot, serious reintroduction, and Quantum of Solace was a shaky continuation, then this is both the end of Bond and his rebirth into what is familiar. Skyfall ends it all and closes who Bond is, what he has become, and resurrects him as the iconic secret agent figure we know.

Thankfully, there's only the most basic and economical of plots here. This is an endearing change from the complicated sometimes hokey storylines. Javier Bardem's blonde-haired cyberterrorist Silva is on an inexplicably convoluted mission for revenge against Judi Dench's M and MI6. Bardem elevates the material, chewing the scenery while evoking a painful, torturous past. His interplay with Craig and Dench sells the film more than any action sequence. There are definite parallels to The Dark Knight trilogy in the narrative and structure.

Mendes somehow manages to make Skyfall the least stereotypical Bond-like film in memory just as he embraces these conventions, referencing Bond's history and everything that came before. It's classic Bond with some refreshing twists. There is some pretty jaw dropping sequences and familiar thrills, but the film goes long stretches without action, adding some great character development and solid adventure in a stripped-down film set mostly in London.

My favourite among the film's contributors is the legendary Roger Deakins and his visually stunning cinematography. Every frame is gorgeous and cinematic with flourish. It adds to the dark, insular look Mendes goes for, getting at who Bond is, without delving into any specific, laborious back story. Admittedly, the third act is ludicrous and preposterous (think Home Alone) yet leads to a rather satisfying conclusion.

As far as Bond goes, Skyfall is among his best adventures and a refreshing take as Mendes reinvents and cements the film franchise in an exciting, new direction. It's a classical and elegant foray into the Bond mythology as it represents both what 007 on film is and what it can be.

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