Movie Review: Skyfall [2012]

Skyfall [2012]

Skyfall [2012]
Director: Sam Mendes
Genre: Action/Adventure/Crime
Starring: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris
Running Time: 143 minutes

I feel as if every Skyfall review should come with a preface stating the writer’s level of James Bond fandom. I am a novice to the series, a “rook” if you will, as I have only seen a grand total of three Bond films — the very first two with Sean Connery (Dr. No and From Russia With Love) and Daniel Craig’s first outing (Casino Royale). I enjoyed all to some degree, but I wouldn’t quite call myself a fan — yet. With Skyfall, I feel myself being drawn back into the universe, one that seems more exciting now than ever.

In this dark and rather bleak entry in the series, Bond is not quite as invincible as one might expect. Played to perfection by Craig, 007 is now old, broken down and even vulnerable. When MI6’s headquarters are blown up by the despicable villain, Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), the British agency and its head, M (Judi Dench), are forced to rely on the rickety frame of Mr. Bond to save the day.

Silva presents a great challenge for them, as he always seems one step ahead with every move he makes. He is an excellent villain — he has superior hacking skills, a seemingly endless group of goons at his disposal, and he has an entire bombed-out island all to himself. Javier Bardem, mildly ludicrous blonde hair and all, excels in the role, making for a dangerously strong adversary despite his physical deformities.

Skyfall [2012]

When it comes to Bond films, I am always most fascinated by the exotic locations, and Skyfall does not disappoint. From the thrilling opening car chase scene through the streets of Turkey to a brutal hand-to-hand combat sequence in a Shanghai skyscraper, there is no shortage of eye candy. The Shanghai scene, in particular, is visually stunning with its black silhouettes and flashing blue lights. A later visit to the gorgeous Scottish countryside also shows off the talents of cinematographer Roger Deakins (who also worked with director Sam Mendes on Jarhead and Revolutionary Road).

The action set-pieces are flashy and loud, and for the most part this is a white-knuckled ride that rarely lets up. Since this is the 50th anniversary of Bond, there are nods and homages to every single film in the series. As a newcomer to the series, I obviously missed many of these, but I got a kick out of hearing the audience cheer in delight when some of the more obvious throwbacks were shown. Diehard Bond fans — most of whom likely saw this opening weekend — will certainly appreciate these tributes, subtle or otherwise.

Skyfall [2012]

In many ways, Skyfall is similar to The Dark Knight Rises. Both films are centered around a hero who has seen better days, one who has hit rock bottom and has to work his way back up to help save the day. Both delve a bit into their backstories; in Skyfall, we learn a little about Bond’s origin, something that I greatly appreciated. There’s even a wink at the end of both films in which a familiar character is revealed in an ode to the future. It’s an interesting thought — Skyfall simply wouldn’t be the same if it were not for The Dark Knight trilogy.

The bottom line here is that Skyfall is one of this year’s best action films, and being a Bond fan is not a prerequisite in really enjoying this. There are a few moments that could have probably been omitted — and surely a few of the groan-worthy one-liners could have been improved — but I can’t recall many trips to the theater this year that were quite as exciting. Count me in for the next one, Mr. Bond.

8/10

Movie Project #7: Casino Royale [2006]

Due to the overwhelming success of my initial Movies Project, I decided to do a second round for 2012. This time around I put a greater emphasis on directors I am not familiar with, but I also tried to compile a mix of different genres and eras. This will be an ongoing project with the finish date being sometime this year.

Casino Royale [2006]

Casino Royale [2006]
Director: Martin Campbell
Genre: Action/Adventure/Crime
Starring: Daniel Craig, Eva Green and Judi Dench
Runtime: 144 minutes

It seems there is always one startling revelation with these movie projects. Most people couldn’t believe that I hadn’t seen Back to the Future in last year’s edition; this year, the big surprise is my lack of experience with James Bond. Somehow, despite 22 entries into the series, Mr. Bond has eluded me. I feel like I may have seen all or part of Goldeneye when I was much younger, but my memory is foggy at best. I was unsure of where to start, but the seemingly unanimous praise for the fairly recent Casino Royale sent me in that direction.

Let’s just say I want to see more of Bond.

Casino Royale marks Daniel Craig’s first appearance as 007, and the action gets started in a hurry. An early scene shows a frantic foot chase through a Madagascar construction site, including a run up some staggeringly tall ladders that gave me a case of vertigo. Seriously, it was a freakin’ thrill ride, and from that point on I was hooked.

Casino Royale [2006]

The movie follows the early days of Bond’s career as Agent 007. His first mission is to find and stop Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelson), a banker who funds terrorist organizations, from winning a high-stakes poker tournament in Montenegro. In this instance, high stakes equals a $10 million buy-in. Le Chiffre is something of a poker aficionado, so this isn’t an easy task.

Along the way, Bond seduces a married man’s wife, stops a terrorist attack at the Miami International Airport, and falls in love with a stunningly beautiful (and intelligent) Treasury agent, Vesper Lynd (Eva Green). Oh yeah, he is also brutally tortured and has a near-death experience. All in a day’s work, right?

Casino Royale is a wild ride, and I wish I had been able to experience this intense adrenaline rush on the big screen. Daniel Craig is on top of his game here, effortlessly stepping in to play one of cinema’s biggest names, and the famous Bond women are phenomenal. I could have done without the stop-start double ending, but I liked the way it set things up for future entries. This movie is a lot of fun, and more importantly, it has me interested in seeing more from the franchise.

8/10

So, Bond fans, where do I go next? I want to see Quantum Solace despite hearing mixed reviews, but what else would you recommend?