Skyfall, Review

Sam Mendes' first turn at the Bond franchise directorial helm has produced a stunningly successful reinvigoration of James Bond with Skyfall.

Sam Mendes, who was responsible for directing American Beauty, Road to Perdition, and Revolutionary Road, has truly created a 007 masterpiece with Skyfall.  The opening sequence of the film sets the pace for the rest of the movie by starting with a high voltage car chase sequence, motorcycle chase and then 007 fighting atop a moving train.  There is also a major shocker in the opening sequence that no one in the audience expects.  This movie defines what a James Bond film should be; there isn’t a dull moment.  Mendes has taken all of the best elements in previous Bond films–the cool cars (the Aston Martin DB5 makes an epic appearance in the film), the sexy women (Severine), the smooth talking, the stellar fight sequences–and brought them all together, as well as added his own elements to leave his mark on the franchise.

Most notable was Javier Bardem’s performance as Raoul Silva (he is the bad guy, here).  Bardem (No Country For Old Men) plays the role of a former M16 agent who is seeking revenge on M16 for betraying him.  Specifically, Bardem spends the entire film trying to kill M, played by Judi Dench.  Bardem has definitely made his mark on the Bond franchise by creating a villain unlike any other in the bond series.  Silva is a very creepy character, especially when telling 007 a story about rats on his grandmother’s island.  I want to compare his performance as Silva to Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight.  It is a rare occurance to have an actor play his role in a way that might actually be bigger than the movie itself when the movie is a fantastic film to begin with.  This is the case with Javier Bardem, as it was with Heath Ledger.

Judi Dench reprised her role as M in this film.  Lady M finds herself struggling with morality from the start of the film, as she is forced to make a very tough decision relating to Bond.  By the end of the movie, viewers definitely get a sense that M isn’t just a cold hearted bitch like she has acted for the last six Bond films; we learn that she has a heart when she finally admits she has a soft spot for James Bond.  Dench’s best moment in the film is when she is describing, in a courtroom, why the world needs special agents like Bond. 

Daniel Craig (Defiance, Quantum of Solace) earns his right to continue the Bond series with this film.  He successfully portrays James Bond as a man who viewers genuinely care for by the end of the film.  His performance as the classy secret agent is second to none and we cannot wait to see him in the next two Bond films (yes–he’s signed up for two more).  We’d also like to note that, until this movie, we have never seen any James Bond shed tears.  We won’t spoil it for you, but it is as much of a moving moment as you can get from 007.

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Debbie McWilliams, casting director of the film, did a fantastic job piecing together this cast.  She created an excellent new dynamic with the older Bond and younger Q, who is played by Ben Whishaw (you might remember him from Cloud Atlas…you might not).  

The soundtrack for the film is sensational.  By now, everyone has heard Adele’s gripping title song, “Skyfall,” as it has been all over the radio.  But, this isn’t even the soundtrack’s bread and butter.  Thomas Newman, who replaced David Arnold as composer, has crafted a true mastery of sound for Skyfall.  Most notable on the soundtrack was the first ten minute fight sequence, when Bond gets into the tractor on the train–the tension build up here is perfect.

After the opening action sequence, the title/introduction is typical of all Bond films starts, but  Skyfall’s opening title sequence is even better than that of Casino Royale.  Adele’s “Skyfall” track plays throughout the sequence and viewers are taken on a journey that is delightfully dark and surreal.  The art design for this sequence gets a major bravo.

We cannot go on any further in this review without mentioning Bérénice Marlohe.  While American viewers would not know any of her work due to the fact that she’s a French actress, she does a fantastic job playing Severin and her role will definitely open Hollywood doors for her.  We certainly wouldn’t mind seeing her in more films or every single film ever made, as she is astonishingly sexy and mysteriously beautiful in Skyfall–certainly one of the best looking Bond girls of all time.

There are many remarkable action sequences in the film, but one of the most memorable is a scene set atop a skyscraper in Shanghai.  Cinematographer Roger Deakins staged a unique moment as the backlit buildings in Shanghai create a silhouette fight sequence for Bond and his target.  This almost makes the film look straight out of a comic book for a brief second and really adds some more style to Skyfall.

Overall, Skyfall is a re-invigorating Bond experience that is well deserving of the positive attention it is getting at the box office this weekend.  Out of the twenty-three total spy movies based on the James Bond character, Skyfall is the best Bond movie to date.  The movie is a complete thrill ride from start to finish, which is a feat, given that the film is 143 minutes long, which may seem too long to some, but you don’t even notice that you have been sitting there for two and a half hours by the time you leave.  After 50 years of Bond movies, you would think that the films would be awful by now, instead of leaving you in awe as Skyfall does.

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Den of Geek Rating: