Review: SKYFALL (2012) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Friday, 2 November 2012

Review: SKYFALL (2012)

RATING: 4.5/5

When SKYFALL made its theatrical debut in U.K. and many international countries on October 26, many have hailed this as "the best Bond movie ever". So, does it really deserves such a high praise? Well, I'm proud to say all the four years' wait was well worth it. This is the follow-up to the excellent CASINO ROYALE (2006) that should have been. That said, SKYFALL is a whole lot better than the disappointingly glum QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008).

The movie begins intensely with James Bond (Daniel Craig) on the pursuit at Istanbul to retrieve a hard drive containing sensitive information from an enemy operative, Patrice (Ola Rapace). But halfway through his mission, his partner, Eve (Naomie Harris) has accidentally shoot Bond in the chest, and send him plunging from the roof of a moving train before hitting the river below. He is presumed dead by his superior, M (Judi Dench) and even wrote his obituary.

But being a 007 movie, Bond has survived the shot, of course. He's actually holing up anonymously at a tropical beach with a babe and spends most of his time drinking. He doesn't seems to care anymore until he stumbles upon a breaking news on TV about part of the MI6 headquarters explodes in a terrorist attack. Nevertheless, Bond reports back for duty to M but she isn't convinced enough until he is put back to mental and physical test all over again to see whether he's fit for the field job or not.

Meanwhile, M is having trouble on her own after being held responsible for the terrorist attack and more especially, about the big leak of sensitive information that jeopardized a lot of secret agents ending up being killed. Not only that, she also have to cope with a lot of pressure from her new intelligence and security committee chairman Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), who wants her to step down once the mission is complete.

When Bond is finally back on duty, he continues his mission where he last left off and subsequently discovers that a slick terrorist by the name of Silva (Javier Bardem) is actually responsible for the attack. Apparently Silva has a personal grudge against M, and wants to kill her very badly.

At the first glance, hiring an untested director like Sam Mendes who never direct an action picture or a big-budget blockbuster before is a very risky choice. Look what Marc Forster has done to QUANTUM OF SOLACE when he was chosen to direct Daniel Craig's second Bond movie. However, it's a huge sigh of relief that Mendes proves to be a highly-competent director after all. First of all, he manages to handle action department admirably. With the help of second-unit director Alexander Witt (who also coordinated CASINO ROYALE), the action here is exhilarating and perfectly staged. The first 12 minutes or so -- the jeep-and-motorcycle chase through Istanbul's Grand Bazaar and atop the roof, before ending up in an entertaining showdown on a moving train -- is particularly one of the best action set-pieces ever made in any Bond movies.

But extra kudos to Sam Mendes for reconstructing the typical Bond formula. Let's just say SKYFALL isn't much of your traditional Bond movie per sec. Mendes is smart enough not to top or even replicate the overwhelming success of CASINO ROYALE in term of its high entertainment value. Instead, he goes for the uncharted territory that the previous 22 Bond entries for the past 50 years wouldn't bother to explore -- Bond's rarely-mentioned parents as well as his personal history. He also bold enough to reintroduce Bond all over again. Sure, we have seen Daniel Craig playing a more humane and vulnerable Bond before in his previous two 007 outings. But Mendes lifts his character a few notches above by presenting him as a man whose best days may be all behind him. While the movie may have been drama-centric, there are plenty of well-timed sense of humor as well. Speaking of humor, there are plenty of winking nods that this movie celebrated the 50 years anniversary of Bond movie franchise -- the Aston Martin DB5 in 1964's GOLDFINGER, and the crocodile farm scene in 1973's LIVE AND LET DIE (which is replaced by komodo dragon in the Macau-set sequence)

Speaking of Daniel Craig, he excels his well-worn role admirably. For the third time in the row, he has certainly aged well as a vintage Bond -- older but wiser. Most of the supporting casts here are equally captivating, which includes Ben Whishaw as the geeky and younger version of Q and Ralph Fiennes. Even a small role by Albert Finney who appears at the climactic finale of the movie, is memorable as well. Still kudos goes to both scene-stealers, Judi Dench and Javier Bardem. Dench gives a commanding performance with dignity and poignancy as M, while Bardem made a fabulous entrance for his Silva character -- no doubt one of the best Bond villains of all-time -- where he first tells a little story about himself (the one involving the rats in a barrel is particularly thought-provoking). Then there's the sexual side of him -- the way how he harasses Bond by touching his face and (gulp!) caressing his thighs -- has certainly brought something new to the table than your average Bond villain.

Technical-wise, SKYFALL is remarkably top-notch. Roger Deakins' strikingly beautiful cinematography has no doubt plays a very important role here which rarely seen in a Bond movie. The way how he plays around with contrast, mood and shadow are certainly something to behold. His particular cinematography in the Shanghai-set scene is the most eye-catching of all -- the neon advertising that illuminated the skyscrapers are simply sexy and alluring. Thomas Newman's score is memorably catchy, while Adele's emotionally-driven theme song is one of the best ever heard in a Bond movie.

Despite all the great things in SKYFALL, the movie is still not without flaws. The Bond girls, Berenice Marlohe and Naomie Harris, are somewhat underused. At 143 minutes, there are times the plot has a patchy feel in it (the one involving the Macau-set casino scene is the most obvious one of all). Subsequent action moments after the excellent pre-credits sequence, are unfortunately pale in comparison. The Scotland-set finale is somewhat anticlimactic, although I do appreciate the radical change of an otherwise grandiose ending often associated to a Bond movie.

I wouldn't be surprised if any casual Bond fans may find this a disappointment because frankly, SKYFALL is more character-driven than the action-packed mode like CASINO ROYALE. The movie's deliberate pace might be a turn-off as well. But once in a while, it's a welcome change of pace to watch a Bond movie in a different light.


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