Skyfall – Sam Mendes – 2012

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That Skyfall is not the most action packed Bond film and is still a superb effort is note of grace. It is not to say the film is without action, in fact the opening sequence is one of the best action rides of the year. Still, it is an impressive high-wire act for your film to never be overly self-important, but to always lend enough gravity so that the stakes matter.  It’s never goofy but never overly emotional either.

The stakes really are a bit small for a Bond film. Some ex-MI6 joker wants M embarrassed and slain. Javier Bardem is creepy and slimy as the villain Silva. This beast is everything one wants in a Bond villain, egomaniacal, vain and he’s got an island hideout! HE clearly doesn’t have the influence over the Internet suggested later when in the beginning of the film he has to physically steal the information that he wants out of a laptop instead of stealing it digitally.

Furthermore, why the fuck would MI6 create a list of operatives and their covers? Good grief.

Anyway, Bond is great, and the story really launches off what could be a great new phase of films. Bond essentially kills all sentimentality and nostalgia in this film and lives only as an extension of his country. At the beginning of the film, Bond is nonplussed because he doesn’t agree with M’s decision to shoot him. His ideology is beholden to his respect, (or lack thereof), for M. Over the course of the film, as he observes her personal resolve for her country, Bond learns not to be beholden to an individual, but to an ideal. He becomes that arm of country that M was, and in her wake he is the flying flag of Great Britain.

The Bond women are sexy, and the gal who ends up being called Moneypenny is especially charming, but the real Bond girl of this film is M, who is almost the main character really. Judi Dench never plays this material as beneath her, even though spy stuff is kind of fun compared to much of her higher-brow material. Still, she plays the action scenes brilliantly and reacts so fearfully to these field situations that I was very concerned for her.

M is representative of a person who believes they are doing good for the many even when they are being persecuted by those very people who appointed them to their position. It reminds me a bit of Hannibal, and the way Clarice is gone after by her own. M gets a chance to defend her ideals at her deposition, and this scene is staged so much like the attack on the mayor in The Dark Knight it’s funny. M is great throughout and her final scene is especially endearing.

In fact, the third act of this film so beautiful it hurts. Hell! This film should really get the Oscar for cinematography, as the film is one miracle or nightmare vision after another. Two of my personal favorites are the fight in the glass room with led displays and the burning of Skyfall illuminating the darkness as our players’ retreat to sanctuary.

The music by Thomas Newman is killer and intense. It drives the tension through the scene with electric beats and eastern flair. The film is parade of diverse sound and vision, never resting on one motif for very long.

If this is what flavor Bond is right now, sign me up for many more. This is one of the best adventure s he’s had yet. Bond is fifty years young and still going strong.

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