Monday, November 26, 2012

Skyfall (2012) - Bond Changes Direction Again

Skyfall, The Billion Dollar Bond Movie

Daniel Craig Skyfall

After a four-year interregnum due to MGM's financial difficulties, the James Bond saga returned with a vengeance with "Skyfall" (2012). In summary, "Skyfall" does not disappoint fans. Directed by Sam Mendes ("American Beauty") for MGM and EON Productions, there is a lot to enjoy for anyone who has been following the adventures of the British spy over the years.

Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall
Daniel Craig looking very dapper with a Martini nearby

While Daniel Craig returns as Bond, much about this Bond film is new.  The famous gun-barrel sequence occurs at the end of the film, not the beginning, and both Moneypenny and M are key players in the action.

Daniel Craig Skyfall
Daniel Craig and director Sam Menzies.

Bond (Daniel Craig) chases a man who has stolen a list of NATO agents.  They wind up on top of a train, where they fight it out.  Eve (Naomie Harris) is another British agent watching this who is ordered by their boss M (Judi Dench) to fire at the struggling men in hopes of helping Bond to win the fight.

Judi Dench as M in Skyfall
Judith Dench as "M" in "Skyfall."

Eve hits Bond with her shot, and the other man gets away.  Bond falls into a river, apparently dead. The list is lost to the enemy, and so M is disgraced and forced to retire. Before leaving, though, she determines to rectify the situation. Bond returns from seclusion after barely surviving the train fight and assists M in retrieving the list while at the same time protecting her from an unknown assailant.
Naomie Harris as Miss Moneypenny in Skyfall
Miss Moneypenny, played by Naomie Harris.

It is a fairly simply story.  Everybody wants the list of agents, but it slowly becomes clear that the list is simply being used to even some old scores.  This does not come from an story, so it has modern twists and turns that bring the character of Bond up to date.

Daniel Craig holding a gun as James Bond in Skyfall
Daniel Craig as James Bond.

It all ultimately comes down to protecting a friend, and that is what Bond is best at. We learn about Bond's childhood as he returns to his roots in order to carry out his mission.

Daniel Craig as James Bond aiming a gun in Skyfall
Daniel Craig as James Bond.

"Skyfall" is jam-packed with action, as you would expect.  The fight atop the train is good old, hard-swinging Bond at his best.  A sequence towards the end, when Bond must eliminate a team of assassins sent by his opponent, is full of the kinds of tricks and diversions often seen in the "Home Alone" films.  Craig gets to bring out Bond's cleverness and guile as opposed to using his fists and guns.

Daniel Craig as James Bond standing on a roof in Skyfall
Daniel Craig as James Bond looking out from a rooftop.

Other characters are developed far beyond what we previously have seen.  Miss Moneypenny's first name finally is revealed, and she turns out to be much more involved in the actual spy business than has been apparent all these years.

Daniel Craig as James Bond running down a street in Skyfall
Daniel Craig as James Bond. Craig is in excellent shape and spends his fair share of time in the gym.

The film runs 143 minutes, the second-longest film of the series after the recent "Casino Royale." The title refers to Bond's Scottish childhood ancestral home, to which he returns at a key part of the story.  The main villain is Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), a flamboyant figure who is unlike any major Bond nemesis of the past.  Why he is causing problems and what motivates him only becomes apparent late in the story.

Daniel Craig as James Bond having a fistfight atop a train in Skyfall
Daniel Craig as James Bond in "Skyfall's" opening scene.

"Skyfall" is the first Bond film to depart completely from the Ian Fleming stories.  Adele sings the theme song, which echoes the classic compositions by John Barry such as "Goldfinger" and "Moonraker" much more than it does the more recent efforts by Madonna and Jack Black/Alicia Keys.  It is somewhat sad and downbeat, which does not quite match the mood of the film, but it would sound appropriate on any compilation of Bond theme songs.

Daniel Craig Skyfall

The film scored at the box office, becoming the highest-grossing film in the franchise and setting box office records in England.  It opened at 3505 locations in North American locations, the most in franchise history, and quickly earned back its production costs.

James Bond being touched by Javier Bardem in Skyfall
Daniel Craig as James Bond with villain Javier Bardem.

True fans of Bond will spot scenes that echo those in several of Ian Fleming's works.  He is injured and looks older and more tired than in Craig's first couple of films in the series, giving the character a sympathetic quality that may have been lacking a bit in those efforts.  The classic Bond Aston Martin makes an appearance, as does a new Q who has some useful gadgets for our favorite spy to use.
Daniel Craig as James Bond firing a gun in Skyfall
Daniel Craig as James Bond.

"Skyfall" is an exciting spy film with lots of action. You likely will enjoy it if you favor that type of film.  There are not many Bond girls this time, with Berenice Marlohe holding up that end of the story quite nicely.

Daniel Craig as James Bond talking with Berenice Marlohe in Skyfall
Daniel Craig as James Bond with Bérénice Marlohe.

and ,  the next Bond film after "Skyfall." In addition, Purvis and Wade are slated to help write the James Bond film following "Spectre," likely to be Daniel Craig's last appearance as James Bond. This shows a continuity of storytelling which is new to the Bond series. Where the series goes after that, nobody can say.

Daniel Craig Skyfall

IMAX poster for Skyfall


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