Updated on November 9, 2012, 4:36 PM - Written by Tim Buttner
What an experience the latest James Bond venture is. First let me preface with my love for the older adventures of 007 and the fact that I used to say Sean Connery was the ultimate, and best, Bond. Skyfall, directed by Sam Mendes, hands down changes that.
It all started with Casino Royale in 2006 and culminates in this film. There was a realism that Daniel Craig brought to the character, where we could feel his pain and he was physically built in a way that proved he could handle himself. That is essential to how Craig continued to play his Bond into this film. In what could be his best performance as Bond to date he manages to set the bar high for the past and possible future Bond actors.
This film is both about endings and beginnings. The story focuses on the end of the MI6 established in the previous two films and begins the path towards the older film series; except keeping much of the realism that those two films established. It works far better than one could hope. The story is gripping and enthralling the whole way through. From the first frame to the last frame the audience was hooked. We laughed… we cried… we were on the edges of our seat. The story covered all the bases of a classic espionage thriller, while at the same time containing the essence of an espionage action flick. What it did was tell a great story that allowed for wonderful performances.
Judi Dench delivers as M in what could probably be an Oscar nomination type of performance. Rare for a Bond film, but she did it. In these films she really became like a surrogate mother to Bond, and her superior Gareth Mallory (played wonderfully by Ralph Fiennes; more on that later) points this out. She's got a soft spot for him, and he is clearly her favorite. Dench makes the audience feel the same way Bond feels about her, and it's tough for them to let Silva (Javier Bardem) torment her. The movie's plot is about a personal attack against her from someone out of her past. It's because of this that it makes it the most personal Bond film to date. In every way Bond serving his country and protecting her is like him protecting his own mother. It's touching in every way that it should be.
Javier Bardem's villain Silva knows how to make an entrance. Throughout the movie I kept getting feelings of allusions to the works of Orson Welles such as The Lady From Shanghai (1947) and The Third Man (1949; directed by Carol Reed) and his introduction is very much like that of Harry Lime's. You don't see the menacing Silva for a better part of the movie, but he's there behind the scenes pulling all the strings. And when he's introduced it's in a fantastic long shot of him coming from a distance giving an epic monologue… and the shot never breaks. I'll get to the cinematography later. It is this introduction and the way Bardem plays his character that makes him such a brilliant antagonist. He's so malevolently intelligent that it's creepy. Taking to a chase in the London Underground at one point again made a connection to Harry Lime, and there he completes his ultimate comeback to Bond. He's orchestrated and resilient, and has a clear mission, making him one of the toughest Bond antagonists in recent years.
Ralph Fiennes did a wonderful job with a character that had the most dissidence from how he's originally established as a staunch bureaucrat. Without giving too many details away, he surprises the audience with where he places his trust later in the movie after having put doubt there before. A wonderful reverse for the character, and Fiennes pulled it off magnificently. He has a posture that made complete sense for a stuffy paper pusher. The idiosyncrasies that he put into the character makes me happy that he'll be part of more Bond films because he'll bring a level of character acting that is entirely welcome to the Bond Franchise.
Special mention must be made for two more newcomers to the Bond franchise: Naomie Harris (Eve) and Ben Whishaw (Q). Harris's Eve is a character that will return, like Wishaw's Q, and their introduction into the canon couldn't have been done better. Harris is sensual, classy, and witty as she interacts with Bond in what will hopefully be a fun and playful relationship that forms over the course of the next few entries. Wishaw makes Q his own, and brings him into the 21st Century in a satisfying way. He makes a comment about exploding pens being part of the old Q-Branch and that he feels it below him. He's a computer geek who boasts about not needing to get out of his pajamas to do damage. Wishaw plays it excellently. Again his interactions with Bond lead to excitement for more in the coming entries.
This movie was visually stunning. The best cinematography for a Bond film to date… and it was shot digitally. The Arri Alexa was the camera of choice, and it was a perfect choice. The picture looked crisp and the colors immaculate. There wasn't a moment that my jaw was just dropped. It was the most visually interesting Bond film and had great visual sequences that were devoid of dialogue. The story was told wonderfully in these moments, and was accompanied by the most awe-inspiring images. A fight in a glass skyscraper in Shanghai, a sailboat moving towards a deserted city island, and not to forget a wonderful chase/fight on top of a moving train. The choice for some long shots were perfectly timed in comparison to the quick cuts of the action sequences; again Silva's intro must be mentioned.
Overall this was hands down one of the best Bond films to date. It's tough to compare, and place, it against the older films because in the modern world it fits in so well. To call the older films dated isn't right, but this film is so right for a post-9/11 world. Dench's M says it best when she defends the modern MI6 to a bunch of bureaucrats. The film takes a more personal approach, and accomplishes something none of its predecessors could have. Although it won't be nominated for an Oscar in the coming race this awards season, it's the first Bond that deserves to be. That says a lot about the caliber of quality put into this movie. Kudos to director Sam Mendes for his magnificent work.
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