Director: Sam Mendes
Cast: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney.
Plot: Bond's loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.
Awards: Won 2 Oscars - Best Sound Editing, Best Original Song. Nom. for 3 Oscars - Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Sound Mixing.
Rating: PG for intense violent sequences throughout, some sexuality, language and smoking.
This review is spoiler-free.
“There’re some men coming to kill us. We've got to kill them first.”
Skyfall is the best Bond film in a long, long while. It is also one of the most beautifully shot in the history of the franchise. Daniel Craig reprises his role as 007 in his third outing, with Judi Dench playing his superior, M.
But what is most enticing is not the A-list cast, but the crew behind this prestige film. Enter Sam Mendes, the Oscar-winning director of American Beauty (1999), Roger Deakins, nine-time Oscar nominee for cinematography, and Thomas Newman, ten-time Oscar nominee for music scoring. Newman’s score here sounds like a cross between John Powell (the ‘Bourne’ trilogy) and Marc Streitenfeld (Body of Lies, 2008)
The level of cinematic expertise behind this Bond film is unparalleled. Add in co-writer John Logan (Gladiator, 2000; Hugo, 2011) and you get a film that is both serious and enjoyable at the same time. Bond movies of yesteryears were always silly fun, not this one.
This is a serious spy thriller that sees fun in nostalgia. And it is the crafting of this sense of nostalgia, coupled with witty dialogue exchanges, and intense drama that make Skyfall an unconventionally pleasing blockbuster. Mendes is an astute dramatic filmmaker, and it is evident in the film as the focus is on character rather than action.
Bond is given meaning, and his relationship with M represents the fulcrum that Skyfall operates on. M's past history comes back to haunt her when her intelligence agency faces an unprecedented threat as a former spy gone rogue attempts to wreck her legacy. The vengeance is personal, and troublingly intimate. So is Bond's loyalty to M, which comes under a heavy test.
Javier Bardem bleaches his hair and puts on a gayish act as he plays the film's psychotic villain with an engaging mix of menace and comedy. He might just be the most captivating Bond villain ever. Unfortunately, he appears too late into the film, but he makes the most of whatever screen time he has.
Craig and Dench give excellent performances, yet they are still overshadowed by Bardem. The likelihood of another Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for Bardem is dependent on the strength of this year's pool of supporting actors.
Skyfall opens with an astounding action set-piece, a vehicle chase sequence that is as thrilling as any this year. If that is any indicator of the kind of action that the film will pepper action fans with in the next two hours, they will be disappointed.
Action is sporadic, and slightly uninspired for the remainder of the film. Though I must admit the entire climax, shot at dusk with little light is a superb showcase of Deakins' prowess with cinematography.
Deakins' Oscar-worthy work in Skyfall fully compensates for the lack of a pure, big-scale post-prologue action sequence, proving that Bond films can succeed without a dizzying array of special gadgets and pyrotechnics going off every five minutes or so.
Verdict: Mendes focuses on drama, character, and nostalgia in this solid Bond film that is also the most beautifully shot in the entire history of the franchise.
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