Skyfall (2012)

And now for something totally different…

After 50 years, this 23rd instalment of the James Bond film franchise has just raised the bar and anchored its place in the 21st century spy action genre. Ian Fleming has long passed, but his iconic character lives on, portrayed and later resurrected by different suave British actors beginning with, and still my man, Sean Connery, to now Daniel Craig.

Resurrection is the word. You’ll hear it, and see its effect, for with Skyfall, looks like the franchise has just been resuscitated to a brand new life, just like the hero in the film. Kudos to Sam Mendes, the Oscar winning director who helmed such human drama as American Beauty and Revolutionary Road, working with cinematographer Roger Deakins, whose talent has enhanced some of my favorite films like Shawshank Redemption, Fargo, A Serious Man, True Grit

So what we have is a slick and stylish action thriller but not just in form. Sure, Daniel Craig in his Tom Ford suit, always standing straight and legs apart is all about style, isn’t it? Well, yes and no. Here, we see some internal tapping into the Bond character, just enough to tie over to the next action sequence. And we see too Bond shedding a few tears, for a good reason.

The villain is Javier Bardem. The cold-blooded psychotic killer in No Country for Old Men is just as ruthless and haunting here, but with a change in hair-do. He is Raoul Silva, a vengeful ex-MI6 agent who has gotten hold of a list of all the identities of MI6 agents embedded in terrorist organizations. His pleasure is to kill them down the list. Bardem’s image of Silva reminds me of Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, especially the scene with that transparent cylindrical cage… just gives away what would be coming next.

And our beloved Judie Dench, who’s so versatile that one minute you see her in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and the next transported into MI6 headquarters as M. Of course, she’s long been M before Marigold. In Skyfall, Dench deservedly gets more significant screen time than in previous Bond movies. In a later part of the film, M is called to a public hearing to justify her actions and even the existence of MI6. She has some powerful lines which make the scene so gratifying. Her voice-over juxtaposes with the urgent sequence in which we see the villain Silva leaving a trail of violence heading over to get her. Here are the poignant lines she delivers, from Tennyson’s poem ‘Ulysses’:

Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Can you sense a bit how this is quite a different Bond film?

A fine cast is always the major asset. Another veteran is Albert Finney, who appears almost incognito (to me that is) but a good match with Dench.

With the new life comes two new faces. Both are excellent choices. One is Ralph Fiennes, and he definitely suits the part. Another is Ben Whishaw. Can’t imagine his transformation from John Keats in Bright Star to the digitally savvy young Q. Playing alongside Craig, Whishaw makes an interesting contrast, the gun-wielding old-timer in the field and the young computer geek in the office, taking control of situations with his fingertips.

Further, there are the exotic locations, Istanbul and other places in Turkey, Shanghai, Macau and… Scotland, which not for its exoticism but atmosphere. Cinematographer Deakins has crafted some very stylish scenes that distinguish Skyfall from just any other action flick… aesthetically appealing, moody and atmospheric, a mixed bag of nostalgic noir and contemporary, and in the last part, even a dash of gothic. If not for that iconic Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger parked outside the old stone mansion by the moor, you’d think it’s right out of Wuthering Heights.

Adele also joins the league. She co-wrote the Skyfall theme song and sings it in a way that echoes previous Bond numbers, most obviously, ‘Diamonds Are Forever’.

Skyfall has propelled the Bond film to a new era and up a notch. I’ve appreciated the internal character exploration but of course, there are still the spectacular explosions and car chases, the over-the-top mayhem and implausible escapes. We need those to ensure the audience that our hero is alive and well, after given a new lease on life. He’s still the same old Bond, James Bond.

~ ~ ~ Ripples

***

Published by

Arti

If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

25 thoughts on “Skyfall (2012)”

  1. I’ve seen this terrific film so forgive me if I leak any spoilers. Actually I saw Anna and Skyfall on the same day. Talk about movie overload!
    Arti I couldn’t agree with you more on all your points – this was a Bond film that went much deeper than we would have thought the franchise allowed. I saw it with my husband and 19 year old son, two lifelong Bond experts and we all agreed the franchise was absolutely freshened and revitalized. We still love and honor Sir Sean but Daniel Craig probably ties him at this point for Best Bond ever. And, yeah, he wears a mean suit.
    The additions of Ben Whishaw as Q (his Robert Frobisher in Cloud Atlas was actually one of the good parts of the film) and Ralph Fiennes signals a new way of working in a new Bond world – didn’t you love Fiennes jumping into the action? I can’t wait to see what comes next.
    Part of what I love about Bond movies are the locations. That uber high tech building in Shanghai with all the glass and the reflections of the colored lights just blew me away as did the scene in Macau with the floating lanterns.
    Bardem was wickedly weirdly wonderful as Silva and yes, again you are spot on. When I saw him sitting in that jumpsuit imprisoned only by plexi or glass it was pretty clear what the next action sequence would entail. But how about when he touches Bond’s neck (“what does the manual say about that, huh?”) or removes his structural device. How intensely creepy was that???
    And Adele’s song. I’ve been gaga for that since I first heard it. I am likely to sing it at the drop of a hat. It is pure Retro Bond, very much in the vein of Diamonds are Forever. My only problem with the Skyfall theme was that it didn’t play over the closing credits too!
    I don’t think I have anything new to add – except to say it’s a MUST SEE and to look closely for Albert Finney cuz I missed him too.
    GREAT review, Arti.

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    1. Sim,

      Yes, I can see you’re excited about it too. Hopefully the standard can be maintained though. I’ve been a Bond fan in the early years… after Sean Connery, I really did’t see anyone surpassing him. The first five Bond films remain as classics for me, even though they didn’t have all the technical stuff and fx. But with Skyfall, I think I’m beginning to feel ok with Daniel Craig. And with Ralph Fiennes and Ben Whishaw joining I think it’s a good step forward. I didn’t see Cloud Atlas, maybe not any time soon. But Whishaw sure is poised to be the rising star. And I’m sure you know by now… Albert Finney is Kincade.

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  2. I’ve enjoyed the many enthusiastic reviews of this film and was looking forward to yours, Arti. I appreciate your take on the versatility of the actors. Such a pleasure to watch a skilled performance.

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  3. You give such readable and perceptive film reviews! That film sounds like a winner and I’ll try to go and see it. This reminds me that years ago at work I told the Chinese trainees (training at our place for 3 months) that I was going to see a James Bond movie that week-end and would bring anyone with me who wished to see it. The 30 trainees did not speak English but had 2 translators. When I went to their apartments, all 30 trainees were waiting for me! I had to go to work and get a 15 passenger van and make two trips. They loved the movie because there was a Lockheed Hercules aircraft in it – I think it was called “The Living Daylights” but I don’t remember much else about the movie.

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    1. Vagabonde,

      That’s an interesting anecdote regarding a Bond movie… and I’m not surprised that all of them would have wanted to go with you. Now fast forward to today, and I just checked, Skyfall will be released in China in 2013. I’m sure many will enjoy watching it in their homeland, and with English subtitles. As I checked the release dates of Skyfall, I noticed that almost everywhere in the world (except China) had a release date earlier than what we have here in North America. Just think, almost all the rest of the world got to see it before we do. Yes, go for it. I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one… much better than ‘The Living Daylights’ (1987, Timothy Dalton as Bond).

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  4. Surely I’ve seen a Bond film – surely I have! I just can’t remember. I never saw Thunderball, but did dive Thunderball cave in the Exumas , so there you have my big James bond link.

    This one caught my attention for a couple of reasons. For one thing, I enjoyed Judi Dench so much in “Marigold Hotel”, I’d love to see her in a quite different role. For another, the plot of this one is very much an art-imitating-life sort of thing. It wasn’t so long ago, for example, that papers filled with information about US activities in Libya – including names – were left scattered around after the consulate attack. Events like this help to make the plot perfectly plausible — adding to the suspense!

    I love the juxtaposition of old and new technologies, too. Cyber-warfare’s on the front line these days, and if it weren’t it this film, I think it would have seemed terribly dated.

    All in all, this looks like a good one – provided I can keep clear in my mind that I’m watching a film and not the evening news. 😉

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    1. Linda,

      Oh yes, how cool is that! I remember you wrote about it… diving the Thunderball cave. Mind you, that’s a good Bond movie, with Sean Connery. You must have seen a few all these years. And I know you’ve enjoyed Dench’s role in Marigold, this will give you an interesting contrast. Mind you, she’s long been the boss M at MI6. Do go to see this one, just for the entertainment value. You’ll know you’re watching a movie, not the news, for the cinematography is way above your evening news standard. 😉

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  5. Hmmm. I wasn’t planning on seeing that one. Action flicks aren’t my thing. That said, you make this sound quite appealing and very different (and with all those A-list Brits, the cast sounds great, too. I’m trying to remember my last Bond film… long enough that I can’t, though I have fond memories of going to “Goldfinger” at the lake a hundred years ago with my cousins and Odd Job’s hat!

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    1. Jeanie,

      ‘Goldfinger’ is one of my favorite Bond films… I still remember being mesmerized by all the gadgets and secret weapons hidden in that Aston Martin while watching those early Bond instalments as a child. As a movie buff, I enjoy all sorts of genre. And I can tell you, this one stands out among spy action thrillers.

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  6. Daniel Craig is my least favourite Bond (althoughI like him as a man and an actor!), so I wasn’t going to see this one. I’ve heard such good things about it, though, that I expect I will have to, now. I do like the revamping of Q – seems to make a lot of sense. Sam Mendes is a very intelligent director, I think. Thank you for the lovely review, Arti!

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    1. Litlove,

      This movie just might change your view about Daniel Craig. It did mine. However, I think the director has a lot to do with how an actor interprets the character. I like it here that he lets us see more of the inner psyche of Bond, and his background. You’ll find it intriguing.

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  7. On a totally trite level, I think Daniel Craig is hot. (!) He is so rugged, so tough, so manly. Not one bit of a wimpy kind of guy like I consider Tom Cruise, and others, to be. Just sayin’ my own “who cares” opinion.

    I’m sad to say good-bye to Judi Dench. She’s been a marvelous M, quite believable and brave.

    I’m looking for Anna Karenina, was hoping I’d see it over Thanksgiving vacation here in the US, but no, it’s not yet released. When it is, when we’ve both seen it, let’s share our thoughts, eh? Perhaps I’ll have something more astute to say than, “He’s hot.” 🙂

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    1. Bellezza,

      ‘rugged’is right… although I still like Sean Connery the best. But I’m glad to have Ralph Fiennes join the league, Ben Whishaw is fine too. Anna K. will be showing Nov. 30 in our City. For sure, let’s share our view in our review posts. I’m also looking forward to Les Miz coming in Dec.

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  8. Hi Arti!
    For once I had actually seen (or actually remembered…) the film you’ve chosen to review and that made reading here all the more interesting. I was pushed into seeing this by a friend whose opinion it was that Skyfall is one of the best Bond films, and I had to agree. Not a big Bond fan normally, although I do like Daniel Craig. I could never have analyzed the film as you do, so am glad to have your perspective on it.
    The references to previous Bond films went over the heads of my kids, who have never seen the earlier ones, but everybody loved the Aston Martin.
    Well done again!

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    1. Deborah,

      Good to hear from you again! Yes, this is probably the best Bond film in years. I hope they’ll keep up the standard, albeit I feel the main factor is a good director and cinematographer. Of course they need to work with a good script to start with. There you go, everyone counts… yes, including Daniel Craig. I still like Sean Connery the best. But it’s the young SC from decades ago. Guess I can’t have that back. 😉

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  9. I looove Daniel Craig. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to see the film still. But my God, your review makes me salivate literally…the thought of M quoting poetry…I can’t wait to see it now.

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