Sunday, November 11, 2012

007 James Bond Marathon: Skyfall

Based on the character by Ian Fleming, Skyfall is the story in which James Bond goes on a secret mission to find out who leaked out the identity of various undercover MI6 agents while his boss M is under scrutiny from the British government as they deal with an old nemesis of theirs. Directed by Sam Mendes and screenplay by John Logan, Neal Purvis, and Robert Wade with contributions by Peter Morgan, the film explores Bond dealing with his loyalty to M as he faces new challenges as well as dangerous villain. With Daniel Craig playing James Bond for the third time, the film also stars Javier Bardem, Naomie Harris, Berenice Marlohe, Ralph Fiennes, Helen McCrory, Ben Whishaw, Rory Kinnear, Albert Finney, and Judi Dench as M. Skyfall is a thrilling and visually-entrancing film from Sam Mendes.

When a hard drive that features a list of the identities of various undercover NATO agents, James Bond and an agent named Eve (Naomie Harris) tries to retrieve it from its thief Patrice (Ola Rapace). During the chase leading to a fight on a train, M orders Eve to take the shot only for Eve to accidentally shoot Bond as he is presumed dead. Following the incident in Istanbul, M meets with Intelligence and Security Committee chairman Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) who feels that M should retire. With the hard drive missing and M is under target from both the government and a mysterious enemy who had hacked into her office computer and blow up her office at the MI6 building. When news of the explosion happens, Bond returns from hiding to find out who is after M and why. Bond travels to Shanghai to track down Patrice where he finds Patrice assassinating a target only for Bond to stop him as he asks him who he works for.

Thanks to a gambling chip from Patrice’s briefcase, Bond goes to a casino in Macau with Eve where Bond meets a woman named Severine (Berenice Marlohe) who warns him about what is going on. After Bond seduces Severine on her boat, they’re taken to a mysterious island where Bond meets a man named Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) who was a former MI6 agent that is responsible for the hackings and leaks of undercover NATO agents. After Bond gets Silva captured and taken back to London, Q (Ben Whishaw) tries to decode Silva’s computer only to realize that it’s a trap. With M facing an inquiry from the government, Bond goes after Silva who is planning to kill M forcing Bond to hide M at an old place with the help of a man named Kincade (Albert Finney). With Bond aware that Silva is going to come after M, Bond prepares for what would be a standoff between himself and Silva.

Throughout the 50 years of James Bond franchise, there’s always been the question about Bond’s place in the world as times have often changed. In this film, Bond faces a new enemy that is far more menacing than anything he and the MI6 had to face. It’s an enemy that lurks in the shadow and when it attacks, problems emerge forcing the British government to question whether to count on Bond to stop this menace. What makes it more interesting is that this enemy is going after M who has a very deep connection with this very mysterious villain as he wants her dead. Bond has to do whatever it takes to save M but also realize that not everything about his superior had been good as he starts to question about her past. Notably as they both are dealing with the fact that they’re considered irrelevant by some as many claims the old ways are out. What Bond would try to prove that sometimes, the old ways work.

The screenplay that is created by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and John Logan definitely shows a lot of complexities into the roles of the characters that are involved in the story. Particularly as Bond is presented as a man that is very flawed and a real liability as he’s still dealing with a painful physical wound. There’s also questions into whether Bond is able to get the job done as he’s not just a physical wreck but a mental one due to the fact that he is willing to harm himself. Bond’s flaws gives a lot of advantages to the film’s antagonist in Raoul Silva who is definitely a villain that is psychotic, intelligent, and very determined to reek chaos for the MI6 and destroy M anyway he can. There’s also a very demented side to Silva as he also has a lot of history with M about his work with the MI6 and why he turned against the MI6. For Bond, it does have him asking questions but also makes him realize that he still has a duty to do as a 00 agent.

Sam Mendes’ direction is definitely a marvel to watch from the opening sequence in Istanbul that includes a great chase scene involving motorcycles and trains to some amazing second unit shots of locations in Shanghai, Macau, London, and Scotland. Mendes is definitely aware that he’s making a Bond film but also infuses it with very direct and entrancing compositions that really establishes what is going on and what Bond is trying to do. Mendes also manages to take his time to build up the suspense where he wisely reveals Silva in the film’s second act. That approach to maintain an air of mystery in the first act has Mendes utilizing lots of intimate compositions and moments to help set up the plot and introduce a few key characters.

The action definitely comes back around the second act that includes this amazing fight scene between Bond and Patrice with this beautiful backdrop that shows a true sense of style that Mendes wants to bring. Even in the shot of Bond’s arrival to the Macau casino that is followed by amazing steadicam shots of Bond and Eve walking around the casino in separate directions. Things definitely intensify in the third act when it involves a brilliant chase scene through the London subways. Even in the climatic showdown in Scotland where Mendes definitely takes advantage to utilize the location for a wide canvas. While the film features a lot of amazing visuals and suspense, Mendes is aware that a James Bond film shouldn’t be taken too seriously as he also infuses some small moments of humor along with nods to Bond films from the past. Overall, Mendes crafts a truly engaging and exciting film that bears a lot of hallmarks of past Bond films as well as elements that keeps it fresh.

Cinematographer Roger Deakins does incredible work with the film‘s photography to display an air of style from the lush coloring of the nighttime settings in Shanghai and Macau to more evocative shots of the locations in Scotland with its mist as Deakins‘ work is really a major technical highlight. Editor Stuart Baird does excellent work with the editing to maintain a sense of intrigue in its suspenseful moments with some methodical cuts along with more rhythmic cutting to capture the action without delving into swift, chaotic editing style. Production designer Dennis Gassner, along with set decorator Anna Pinnock and supervising art director Chris Lowe, does superb work with the set pieces from the look of the MI6 offices underground to the lavish look of the Macau casino as it establishes a world that only James Bond can go to.

Costume designer Jamy Temime does wonderful work with the costumes from the lavish dress that Severine wears at the casino as well as Eve‘s dress to the clothes that Silva wears while Tom Ford provides the suits that Bond wears. Makeup designer Naomi Donne and hair designer Zoe Tahir do terrific work with the look of Silva including a surprising feature that adds to Silva‘s dark persona. Special effects supervisor Chris Corbould and visual effects supervisor Steve Begg do amazing work with the visual effects to create something that is realistic in some parts along with some action-driven scenes without going overboard. Sound designers Christopher Assells and Peter Staubli, along with sound editors Karen M. Baker and Per Hallberg, do great work with the sound to capture the array of sounds in some of the raucous moments along with a chilling atmosphere in some intimate moments including Silva’s meeting with M.

The film’s music by Thomas Newman is brilliant for its mix of orchestral flourishes with rock and electronic music to maintain an air of suspense and momentum while finding ways to incorporate the famous Bond theme into the mix and knowing when to use it. The title song performed by Adele is definitely one of the best Bond theme songs in the catalog where Adele and co-writer Paul Epworth go back to old-school Bond themes with its orchestral flourishes and slow rhythms while Adele’s voice soars in what is truly a magical song. The soundtrack also features a cover of John Lee Hooker’s Boom Boom by the Animals and music from Charles Trenet, Jun Chen, and the Ensemble Huseyin Turkmenler.

The casting by Debbie McWilliams is outstanding for the ensemble that is created as it features some noteworthy small roles from Helen McCrory as a government official leading M’s inquiry and Albert Finney in a terrific performance as a gamekeeper named Kincade. Ola Rapace is very good in a small but memorable role as the mercenary Patrice who steals the hard drive for Silva while Berenice Marlohe is wonderful as the very sensual yet mysterious Severine. Rory Kinnear is superb as M’s longtime aide and MI6 chief of staff Bill Tanner while Ralph Fiennes is amazing as government official Gareth Mallory who tries to deal with what role M has left as well as Bond’s place in the MI6. Naomie Harris is excellent as the agent Eve who helps Bond out while ensuring that he does his job while Ben Whishaw is amazing as Q where he provides a low-key sense of humor as well as someone who helps Bond with more realistic gadgets.

Judi Dench is incredible as M where she deals with the mistakes from her past as well as the fact that she might be irrelevant as Dench puts a lot and more into this character as she definitely gives out her best performance in the role of M. Javier Bardem is phenomenal as Raoul Silva where Bardem displays a sense of wit to his role but also someone who is quite sick and cunning in his motivations where he even will do things that are very surprising as Bardem makes Silva one of the great Bond villains. Finally, there’s Daniel Craig in a remarkable performance as James Bond where Craig is able to display Bond’s humanity as a man wrecked by failure as he tries to pick himself up to do his duty. It is Craig showing new sides to Bond that is gritty but also smooth as he finally creates his own interpretation of Bond that is also a tribute to the Bonds of the past.

Skyfall is a magnificent James Bond film Sam Mendes that features marvelous performances from Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, and Judi Dench. Armed with great technical work led by Roger Deakins, a sumptuous film soundtrack, and a wonderful supporting cast that includes Ralph Fiennes, Naomi Harris, and Ben Whishaw. It’s a film that proves that James Bond is still vital after being on the big screen for 50 years. It’s also a film provides all sorts of suspense, action, romance, and humor that bears all of the hallmarks of Bond while emphasizing that James Bond will always return. In the end, Skyfall is a triumphant film from Sam Mendes.

James Bond Files: The EON Films: Dr. No - From Russia With Love - Goldfinger - Thunderball - You Only Live Twice - On Her Majesty's Secret Service - Diamonds are Forever - Live and Let Die - The Man with the Golden Gun - The Spy Who Loved Me - Moonraker - For Your Eyes Only - Octopussy - A View to a Kill - The Living Daylights - Licence to Kill - GoldenEye - Tomorrow Never Dies - The World is Not Enough - Die Another Day - Casino Royale - Quantum of Solace - SPECTRE - No Time to Die

Non-EON Films: Casino Royale (Climax! TV Episode) - Casino Royale (1967 film) - Never Say Never Again

Bond Documentaries: Bond Girls are Forever - True Bond - Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007

Sam Mendes Films: (American Beauty) - (Road to Perdition) - (Jarhead) - (Revolutionary Road) - (Away We Go) - (1917)

© thevoid99 2012


Anonymous said...

Good review Steve. In my humble opinion, not my favorite Bond movie but still a very, very good one that definitely has me excited for the next couple of installments with Craig. Hopefully, though, they find a villain as memorable and vicious as Bardem here, and I don't know if that's going to happen. Who knows though.

Erik said...

Good, detailed review. I'm not a huge Bond fan, but this is one of the few Bond films that really left me wanting more and looking forward to what they do next.

ToxicBadger said...

Good call on Sam Mendes's cinematography, the scene on top of the building in Shanghai is stunning.

Anonymous said...

Excellent review, I love this movie so much.

thevoid99 said...

@Dan-I hope for the same with the next Bond film. Yet, my faith has been restored after the disappointing QoS.

@Erik-That's what a good Bond film should do. Leave you wanting more.

@ToxicBadger-Actually, Roger Deakins did the cinematography and it's truly exquisite. Dude better get nominated for an Oscar.

@vinnieh-Thank you.