... While CASINO ROYALE managed an "Eh" on my radar, QUANTUM OF SOLACE a "Meh", SKYFALL makes it out with a pursed lower lip and a nod of approval...
Even in my naïve youth when the most mindless of content would catch and maintain my eye, I never once found the exploits of Britain's top spy worthwhile. Hell, it had women in bikinis! Guns! Explosions! An enemy with metal teeth! So why wasn't my young mind captivated? I guess because even at such a young age, I was already coming to understand what a dick acted and sounded like. I mean, he's a womanizer, a remorseless killer, a heavy drinker and never suffers for his actions--no matter how rash. He's a sex-driven version of Superman. He's seemingly invincible, manages to do the impossible where everyone else falters and beds anything and anyone with a cheesy smirk and one-liner (okay, so that last part ain't so Superman). As much a man's man Bond is, as much a ladies' man he is; I've always failed to take much interest in a protagonist who doesn't have to worry about actual conflict or consequence. I've always favored the broken redeemers; the anti-heroic saviors in need of deliverance. While watching an immortal macho-man can be fun, Bond has always served as an annoyance to me rather than a character to stand behind and root for.
However, with the recent Bond films, the focus has seemingly been altered to allow Bond to actually be a character and not simply an icon of sex and style. These recent endeavors have modified the violence from camp to bone-breaking brutality, the characters from talking heads to actual personalities and Bond himself into that of a subject who--after fifty years--is finally to starting to seem a little human. What makes these recent efforts of filmmaking all the more intriguing are the lifted stakes which now feature the loss of central characters. While CASINO ROYALE managed an "Eh" on my radar, QUANTUM OF SOLACE a "Meh", SKYFALL makes it out with a pursed lower lip and a nod of approval. Am I a Bond believer now? Hell. No. But I actually enjoyed my time with this picture as opposed to the past iterations which have only garnered irritation.
Beginning with the grooviest music-video-introduction-montage of any of the films thus far, SKYFALL once again follows Daniel Craig as the best Bond the series (to this critic) has ever retained, in the most entertaining spy-vs-spy adventure since. . . Well, the last Bond flick, I guess. This time around, a plethora of operatives are being knocked-off and it's up to Bond--the last of them--to find out just whose responsible. It's a simple story, but the narrative is riddled with betrayals, new partnerships and creatively compelling action--that is, if you can suspend your disbelief (every random vehicle is always unlocked with its keys in the ignition?). Bringing a breath of fresh, aberrant air to the entire shindig is Javier Bardem as SKYFALL's newest villain, Raoul Silva. It was stated before the film's production that Daniel Craig wanted a gay love scene for the next Bond, and with such a psychopathic lead as Silva, it's certainly easy to understand the compromise that the filmmakers and actor must have come to. With his anomalous qualities and feminine characteristics, Silva proves to be one of the most fascinating antagonists to ever be placed inside a Bond film. His quirky, yet earnest attitude commands attention and his abruptly vicious nature belies an obsessive motivation and makes for some of the best scenes, like a sensually-tense one-on-one with he and Bond. Again, Javier proves why he's a master at villainous roles.
While the film's best exchanges occur between Bond and Silva, the plot also seeks to further its emotional heft by focusing on the relationship between James and M. Judy Dench continues to sell her ice-cold demeanor, but certain moments depict the cracks in her frigid personality. Outside of these portions and that of Silva's, the sentimental heft is non-existent and everything else follows the typical Bond formula. Bond kills a lot of people, has sex. Bond kills more people. Says something lame. Has sex. Bond kills more and more people. States something cheesier. Has sex again. So, for the half hour or so of character development, everything else remains tried-and-true Bond. And while this continued focus maintains everything that infuriates me about the character, it nonetheless makes a large amount of the action quite fun. Solid direction and panache lend a savage new element to the violence as the climax is a creatively suspenseful hold-out while scenes leading up to such a finale are frenetic (and sometimes forgettable) chases placed against a handful of brief, surprisingly bold sequences of carnage, such as a one-take bout which has our hero dueling an assassin over a rifle in the dark. Moments like these ensure that director Sam Medes and his menagerie of writers have taken steps to differentiate this Bond from the rest of the pack--and it shows.
While SKYFALL still doesn't pull me into the fanatical fold of Bond enthusiasts, I can honestly say that it was infinitely better than I was expecting and makes me hopeful for future installments; if they maintain the same sort of intensity and execution, that is. I still don't care for Bond as a person or character, but at least the adventure he's been placed into is worthwhile. For me, this is the most grounded and well-realized adaption of the franchise since. . . Well, ever.