Writer: Elaine EweWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
"Casino Royale" and "Quantum Of Solace"
The Bond franchise is possibly the longest-running film franchise ever, as it is already 50 years old and counting, and has seen its fair share of ups and downs that expectations for a new Bond film are hardly sky-high to say the least - either you are a fan or you are not. Relatively new Bond actor, Daniel Craig, is still under the critics' consideration as to his suitability to the role of agent 007, so it is a great pleasure to say that with "Skyfall", Craig is the new James Bond that fans need.
Early viewers have drawn comparisons between Sam Mendes' "Skyfall" to Nolan's "The Dark Knight", and it has also been confirmed that the latter was an inspiration for the twenty-third Bond film. Throughout the film, there are many similarities to be found, such as the gritty and character-centric storyline, the obligatory surprising end reveal, engaging soundtrack by Thomas Newman and excellent cinematography, but that does not mean that Mendes has done a slipshod job of directing "Skyfall" by merely drawing on "The Dark Knight". Not only does the film has all the trademarks of a Bond film, such as an eponymous theme song, Dame Judi Dench as M, the bevy of beautiful girls, the exotic locations; it also has what is so lacking in most mainstream films these days: originality.
Set after "Quantum Of Solace", "Skyfall" begins with Bond and Eve (Naomi Harris) in a retrieval operation in Istanbul, which ends in disaster when Eve accidentally shoots Bond. With Bond missing and presumed dead, and the identities of every active undercover MI6 agent leaked onto the internet, questions are raised over M (Judi Dench)'s ability to run the Secret Service, and she becomes the subject of a government review over her handling of the situation. When the service itself is attacked, Bond's sudden reappearance gives M the pretext she needs to seek out Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), a dangerous villain claiming a personal connection to both of them, but Bond soon finds his loyalty to M challenged over secrets from her past.
Mendes knows very well that Craig's Bond has never been known for his good-looks or suaveness unlike that of Sean Connery or Pierce Brosnan, so he cuts down on the romance and brings in more physicality instead. In "Skyfall", we see Bond riding a motorbike off the bridge, operating a digger, fist-fighting atop a moving train, jumping onto an ascending lift, and culminating in an explosive finale. The question of Bond as an agent is also brought into question here, which adds a humanising element to the usually competent agent 007 from the past, and it is what makes him so unique. In addition, Mendes has the good fortune of having Javier Bardem and Ben Whishaw in the cast among other acting veterans such as Dame Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes and Albert Finney. It is Bardem's layered performance as the tortured Raoul Silva that stole the show, since he is one of the few villains that is not motivated by greed or the need for world domination but by betrayal and jealousy. Meanwhile, Whishaw's turn as the baby-faced Q is something that many can look forward to in the next Bond film, after his chemistry and banter with Craig this time around.
The cinematography is one that is rarely seen in a Bond film since the 1960s, impressively delivered by cinematographer Roger Deakins. From the surreal and macabre opening credits to the theme song "Skyfall" by Adele, scenes are carefully choreographed to subtly reveal details such as the meaning of Skyfall, Bond's rarely-mentioned dead parents, and to hide others such as the silhouetted fist-fight in a building in Shanghai, which lends a fresh air to the film. This is also the first Bond film to make use of the spectacular locations in London, such as the tube and the M16 Establishment.
On the other hand, "Skyfall" is not without fault. If anything, the film suffers from having too big an ensemble cast to properly employ them all, such as Harris's peppy MI6 sniper and Helen McCrory's Clair Dowar, a British politician. Berenice Marlohe's glamorous and enigmatic Severine has a few good scenes, but ultimately serves as a distraction to the viewers and to Bond, since the real Bond girl in the film is actually M, who has to hold her own in office to cope with her own nightmare legacy while being harassed by bureaucrats and politicians who want her to retire. But all these are merely minor cosmetic flaws in the face of so many things "Skyfall" does right.
In short, Sam Mendes is to the Bond franchise what Christopher Nolan is to the Batman franchise. The new Bond is cool but not camp, serious but with an element of humour, and deep but not pretentious. With "Skyfall", Mendes has proved that his work on "American Beauty" and "Revolutionary Road" was no fluke and secured his place in the elite club of A-list directors.Cinema Online, 25 October 2012