Tuesday 27 Sep 2016

Skyfall
Jennifer Ramirez

In this 50th year of the James Bond series, with the disappointing "Quantum of Solace" still in our minds, “Skyfall” triumphantly recreate 007 in one of the best Bonds ever.


“Skyfall” is the 23rd Bond film and actor Daniel Craig's third go-round as the superspy. The film has been noted by numerous critics as a departure from Craig's last Bond film, "Quantum of Solace," which was not as well received. Judi Dench returns as spy chief M and Javier Bardem makes his Bond debut as a villain seeking revenge. The film also stars Ralph Fiennes and Naomie Harris.

The film starts up with a sequence that could be from any recent movie in the series. 007 is in Turkey pursuing a hired gun who has stolen an encrypted MI6 hard drive containing the identities of deep cover agents. Bond must retrieve the drive before the information goes public. It’s 15 minutes long and the action is relentlessly exhilarating and thoughtfully orchestrated.

As it finishes, you breathe a sigh of relief while the stunning opening credits begin to play. Relief because you realise that not only can Sam Mendes direct action, he can make it look stunning.  A blistering pre-credits sequence, in which Daniel Craig destroys half of Istanbul in a quest to recover sensitive information from an enemy operative, primarily suggests Bond is back on track after the stuttering blip that was Quantum Of Solace.

“Skyfall” then begins like any other Bond movie. He meets M. He gets a mission. He goes off to amazing locations, and sleeps with a beautiful woman. These aren’t spoilers; these are the rules. But after those early trips to Turkey and Shanghai and Macau, “Skyfall” stops globetrotting and returns to London, remaining in Britain for the rest of the film.  From hereon, it begins to stray away from the well-worn formula. There’s still plenty of memorable action, including a barnstorming finale, but “Skyfall” is unafraid to intersperse it with scenes of literary dialogue and emotion. The action is always in the service of its story.

If “Casino Royale” was this Bond finding his footing, “Skyfall” is him remembering where he left it; a brilliant turnaround made all the more effective by giving 007 an adversary who, for much of the film, is crossing the finish line while Jimmy’s putting on his trainers. With his shock of blond hair, dodgy dentistry and spiteful M fixation, Javier Bardem’s Silva is that rarest of creations: a cyber-terrorist who honestly terrifies. But he also has a playful side; witness the literally thigh-rubbing glee he brings to one stand-out interrogation scene. At one point - possibly “Skyfall’s” gutsiest - Mendes has the two decamp to rural Scotland, there to ruminate on Bond’s past and how M took advantage of it.

The most attractive sequence of all plays out in an empty office space in a Shanghai skyscraper: a mesmerizing mix of cool glass surfaces, delicate projected images and bold color, reminiscent of the lush hues in Mendes’ ‘‘Road to Perdition.’’ Within this precise setting, Mendes knows well enough to let the hand-to-hand combat between Bond and a sniper unfold without the kind of needless edits that sadly have become so common in action films these days.

The casting of Dench was always a master-stroke, but it has taken seven outings and one Oscar-winning filmmaker, for her to be exploited properly.

With ‘“Skyfall”’ Craig proves he’s one of the best Bonds, adeptly balancing the action, charm and bone dry humor needed for the film. It doesn’t hurt that he’s surrounded by a remarkable cast including Dame Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw and Naomie Harris. Oh and Javier Bardem, Not since Blofeld stroked his kitten has a Bond villain quite so memorable. As the flamboyant Raoul Silva, Bardem really only has two scenes to strut his stuff but strut he does. No one does bad quite like Bardem and the Oscar-winning actor turns what could have been a traditional Bond villain into something very much non-traditional and we’ll just leave it at that.

“Skyfall” also makes a strong argument for the impact of functional effects; especially in an industry where eye-popping 3D visuals are increasingly becoming the go-to approach for blockbuster filmmakers.

“Skyfall” is pretty much all you could want from a 21st Century Bond: cool but not cheesy, respectful of tradition but up to the moment, serious in its thrills and fairly complex in its characters but with the sense of fun that hasn’t always been evident lately. The 50th anniversary of Bond is being celebrated in many ways this year, but  Mendes may have found the perfect way to pay tribute to this enduring icon of popular culture: He’s made the best Bond film yet.

Jennifer Ramirez, known as Jenny, has reviewed and edited for 5+ years. Originally from Toronto, she grew up performing and competing in rhythmic gymnastics. Jenny enjoys reviewing movies, books and music albums. She describes herself as funny and righteous, with a 'go that extra mile' attitude. Her philosophy is quite simple: try to live life to the fullest Jenny writes that hr passion is books. She reads and reviews current and back-list literary fiction, crime fiction, thrillers, occasionally science fiction, and narrative nonfiction. She also loves music. She's a huge fan of The Maine and All Time Low! Joy is her favorite word and creativity is something she can't live without.

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