It's not hard to reason this one but you migh...
More than anything else, Skyfall is a hat tip to Mr Bond’s enduring character. While that enough is a good prospect to catch the film, it is the way director Sam Mendes performs the hat tip that really deserves applause.
If you’ve seen the trailers, you know what the main plotline of the story is. A disk containing the names of embedded agents that was the responsibility of M (Judi Dench) has been stolen and has spawned a faceless terrorist Silva (Javier Bardem) for the MI6 to contend with.
Silva, who himself is an ex-agent, is also a cyanide pill survivor-turned-hacker who wages war from behind a computer screen rather than come out and face off in the open like the villains of yore. His weapons of choice are cables and wires and his hideout is not an opulent den but a burned out island somewhere off Macau. Fighting such an enemy, who holds a personal grudge against M and is intent on killing her by any means possible, actually makes this the most personal Bond film ever.
However, an aging Bond (Daniel Craig) suffering with a “pathetic love” for his country and job has to rise up to a very different challenge in the current chapter of the James Bond saga. 007 has to prove he and his trade are still relevant in today’s times. That spies and physical brutality are still relevant in today’s sanitized and global world. Mendes uses the template set by The Dark Knight Rises to create a human being rather than a superhero and does so by facing Bond off with a villain that he cannot initially comprehend. And, as you learn the meaning of the title towards the end of the film, the director even offers you a backstory of Bond like no other movie before has done.
The franchise, where events decide what happens to all characters, takes a deeply satisfying turn in Skyfall where the story revolves around Silva, M and Bond. A matriarch who must be saved by an aging agent while serving herself up as bait for another wayward agent. So much so that the guns, girls and gadgets that Bond is famed for flaunting take a huge backseat in this film. Bond’s new quartermaster Q (Ben Whishaw) hands him a Walther PPK gun and a miniaturised radio to fight Silva while Bond girls played by Naomie Harris and Berenice Marlohe hardly occupy more than 15 minutes of the entire 140-minute runtime of the movie.
The cast shines through too. Bardem makes Silva his own, with his shock of bleached hair and little ‘pop’ sounds is as menacing as the loud and egregious villains we’ve seen in Bond films previously. He is definitely the pick of the actors here. Craig gets under the skin of Bond effortlessly and pouts and winks his way through with his trademark rugged dash. Whishaw and Harris makes a good impression in Skyfall and the latter’s surprise identity in the end will surely bring a smile to many Bond fans. However, it is Judi Dench who expressed her desire to leave the Bond franchise some time ago, who gives a memorable performance balancing her preference for Bond with the cold-bloodedness that her organization demands of her profile as head of MI6.
A word of praise is also in order for cinematographer Roger Deakins who has shot locations in Turkey, London, Shanghai, Macau and Scotland evocatively. Scotland in particular is shot so beautifully that even author Ian Fleming would be happy to see his home country with grand vistas and swooning mists. The music score by Thomas Newton with its oriental tint is another brave attempt in the film that pays off and when the familiar Bond music plays, you have no choice but to surrender yourself to the plot completely.
There is a lot of back and forth between paying homage to James Bond and staying James Bond in the film. In the first encounter between Silva and Bond, when the latter says his favourite hobby is resurrection, he might as well as have been talking about the financial troubles the parent studio faced before Skyfall saw the light of day. An almost gay scene that plays next though is decidedly the best shot of the film.
It is unfair to compare this film with its predecessors and when you do so, you will miss the grandness of scale the earlier films achieved, the loathsome ambition of its villains and the cockiness of James Bond. Mendes’ Skyfall, though, is a film that will have the current generation rooting for it even as it is rooted in familiar mores from the past. All in all, it seems that signing Craig for a further two films may not have been such a bad idea. With an overhaul and resurrection for many characters from the Roger Moore and Sean Connery films, the series is poised to enjoy success with its familiar template when Bond 24 and 25 release.
Skyfall is a much better experience in its 23rd outing and 50th year. Welcome back Mr Bond.
Guylife Rating: ****
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