Sunday, November 25, 2012

Review: SKYFALL


SKYFALL
2012
Directed by Sam Mendes 


SKYFALL is the INSERT NUMBER HERE! James Bond film, and the third film to feature Daniel Craig as 007. Critics have been going Double-O-CRAAAAZY for this film--so how good is it? 

I'm not a huge Bond fan. I like "Goldfinger," and "Casino Royale," and the one with the gadgets! But SKYFALL is certainly one of the better Bond films, especially after the weird disaster that was QUANTUM OF SOLACE, which was about James Bond trying to stop some guy from stealing water or something. 

There are two big things SKYFALL has going for it: one, they decided to let Sam Mendes direct, and two, after the two rather dull villains of the previous Craig-Bond films, Javier Bardem turns in one of the most memorable Bond Villain performances of all time. 

Mendes brings with him master cinematographer Roger Deakins, who makes every single frame of this film look gorgeous. He also works hard to bring some fun back into the franchise. 

SKYFALL's story is one of the simplest of all the Bond films. For one thing, there's no ice hotel or invisible car. The plot is this: Creepy bad-guy Silva (Bardem) has stolen files that will reveal the identities of undercover spies. He's doing this because he has a grudge against MI6 head M (Judi Dench). Bond tries to stop him. Things blow up. Bond looks great in suits. Ralph Finnes has a badass scene where he shoots a gun. Naomie Harris is gorgeous. Bond has a spooky old family mansion. More things blow up. The End.

Oh mamma....
Of course there is more to it. The film's overall theme seems to be about how Bond (and M) just doesn't fit into the "modern world." Bond is getting old; he's lost a step or two. He drinks a lot more (and still maintains that amazing physique!) 

Mendes wisely strips everything down. While there is the usual globe-hopping and exotic locals of the Bond films, the plot is so simple that we don't get lost or bored. And who knew Mendes could film such thrilling action scenes. Unlike other action films, we can actually see what the hell is going on here. The camera doesn't shake all over the place. The stunts (for the most part) look real. 

Original Gangsta
That said, SKYFALL left me a little cold. For one thing, there's a strange disconnect with what's going on here. One of the side-effects of stripping the story down is that the stakes aren't very high. Yeah, our bad-guy Silva is clearly crazy and evil, but really he just wants to kill M. And sure, that's not good, but it doesn't really have the same effect as "WORLD DOMINATION," which is what most Bond villains are out to achieve. Bond almost feels unnecessary to the story. Anyone who is good with a gun could just as easily protect M here. 

The other problem I have with this film is that it's almost beat-for-beat an adaptation of THE DARK KNIGHT. Before the film came out, Mendes said in several interviews how heavily influenced he was by Nolan's film. Afterwards, he seemed to quiet down about this--probably because the film is just too damn similar. 

Javier Bardem is a great actor, especially when it comes to playing lunatics, but Silva is straight out of the Heath Ledger Joker Playbook. Bond has a dreary old family mansion (like Batman!). He has an old, trusty housekeeper (like Batman!) who helped raise him after his parents were killed (like Batman!). 

M takes on the Harvey Dent role as the person trying to change things who is targeted by a lunatic. Hell, Silva even has facial/mouth scars (like the Joker). Silva even lets himself get captured, just so he can pull of this big elaborate scheme (again, like the Joker.) 

You wanna know how I got this hair??
I get it; THE DARK KNIGHT was a game-changing film, so it was only natural it would influence other films. But the influence here is just a little too on-the-nose. 

All that said, I can't deny SKYFALL is a lot of fun. He may be a Joker-clone, but Silva is a really entertaining villain. A particular scene where he tries to "seduce" Bond is hilarious and incredibly well acted between Bardem and Craig. For the "final battle," Bond and co. transform his family's mansion into a Home Alone-like boobytrap factory, which results in a lot of fun scenes of nameless henchmen flipping on light switches only to end up exploding. As mentioned before, the direction and cinematography is fantastic. All of the actors are great (Dench is always good, as is Ralph Finnes; Ben Whishaw makes a nice, nerdy Q; oh, and did I mention Naomie Harris is gorgeous? Because she is).

SKYFALL also acts as a sort of "greatest hits" of the Bond franchise. I won't spoil things, but let's just say the last half of the movie is filled with fan service, from characters to vehicles.

SKYFALL is a fun film. It's entertaining, and it's never boring. Yet it somehow left me a little cold. Maybe the hype got to me; or maybe I'm just not a big enough Bond fan to get bowled over.

All in all, I give SKYFALL three Javier Bardem's out of four.

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