Monday, November 12, 2012
Skyfall, the latest installment in the Bond franchise, marks the 50th anniversary of Bond's arrival. And in short, it's a marvelous landmark in the series. Unlike the transition from Casino Royale to Quantum of Solace, Skyfall opens without any messy attachments to the title that came before and starts more or less on a blank slate. Expositional dialogue is key throughout the opening half hour or so as we're oriented to the web of events that will serve as the primary plot for the film. Taking a nod from You Only Live Twice, the movie opens on what appears to be the death of James Bond. But circumstances pull him back into the high-speed world of espionage and expensive evening-wear.
There is a lot to sink your teeth into with Skyfall. To begin with, the film is roughly two and a half hours long, so it's definitely one of the lengthier Bond titles in existence. This is very much by design, as the film sets a very slow but methodical pace. Essentially, the whole film is a slow reveal, taking its time to explain itself to the audience while guiding them along its story. We don't even meet the main villain (Javier Bardem) in the flesh until the movie is almost halfway over. It's not boring in the slightest, and the movie opens on another brilliantly thrilling chase scene. But action vignettes aside, Skyfall takes its time unfolding its narrative.
The movie acts as a bit of a set-up film for the Bond films of yore, and by the time all is said and done we've been introduced to several staples of the original films including Gareth Mallory (Ralph Feinnes), Q (Ben Wishaw), and even the infamous Miss Moneypenny.
The climactic battle sequence at the end of the film is utterly thrilling. Taking brief refuge at a homestead from his past, Bond makes a last stand against his foes on the Scottish moor; booby-trapping the estate with numerous fatal traps. But when the tell-tale sound of an assault helicopter enters the scene, we realize that this showdown is about to get even more explosive. The whole thing is just great action movie stuff, and a brilliant payoff to the whole film's methodical build.
There's precious little I can think of for this section in regards to Skyfall. I wanted to see more of Silva; he's an incredibly engrossing villain. But his late arrival to the film still fit well into the overall pacing, so I can't call that too big of a complaint.
Skyfall is, without a doubt, one of the best Bond films of recent memory. Daniel Craig has solidified his reputation as a bankable Bond and is one of the better actors to have worn the mantle, in my estimation. I don't know if it would be fair to say he rivals Sean Connery just yet, but another Bond film of this magnitude will move him into that bracket.
All the great Bond staples are here, and in spades. There's a visually striking opening credits sequence accompanied by Adele's theme song for the film, numerous chases, a treasure trove of expensive suits and costume pieces, explosions and gun fights, one or two steamy encounters, and just enough camp to keep the whole thing on target. Skyfall is a marvelous return to form for the Bond franchise and sets itself apart as one of the best Bond films since, perhaps, the beginning of the whole franchise.