The sins of the past are forgotten
As soon as their echoes recede.
But sins of the past
Rarely lie where they’re cast
And will often requite
What you keep out of sight.
Ever someone will keep
In mind malice to reap
To repay an unpunished misdeed.
Of that, you may be guaranteed.
MPAA rating: PG-13
After thoroughly enjoying Daniel Craig’s first two Bond outings, I was eager to check out Skyfall, the film that so many seem to consider the best of his Bond films. Well, they’re right. In fact, despite my fondness for the campy days of Roger Moore, I think Skyfall may be the best Bond film period.
Skyfall starts out with the kind of opening at which Bond films excel, a chase, but not just a usual car chase. Between the motorcycles zooming along rooftops and a train set piece with one of Bond’s most superhero-esque moments, it’s clear that the filmmakers are going all out, especially when Bond is shown to not be untouchable after all. The adventure that follows pits Bond and M (Judi Dench) against a mysterious antagonist (cool and calculating Javier Bardem) with a special vendetta against M and incredible foresight for his vengeful plans. Also added are government man Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) and new versions of Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and the technology-savvy quartermaster Q (Ben Whishaw).
With an especially intelligent script and Sam Mendes taking over directing, Skyfall feels like a different animal from its predecessors. There’s a greater attention to artistry than your typical action film, elevating sequences that are already exciting to another level. One particularly superb scuffle sees Bond wrestle with a sniper in silhouette, all in one take and lit from behind by a colorful moving screen on a nearby building. My VC thought the silhouettes almost looked animated, but it was stunning and possibly my new favorite scene of any Bond film. The exotic settings and impressive action epitomize Bond’s appeal for thrill-lovers, and there’s an effort to keep things at least moderately realistic, with an amusing sideways jab at the gadget excesses of past adventures. That komodo dragon pit is straight out of Johnny Quest, though.
The other element that sets Skyfall apart is that, after five decades and twenty-two movies, we actually get some character development for Bond himself that goes beyond grieving lost love interests or the vague hints of Casino Royale, and it even gives the title a significant part of the story as opposed to just something that sounds cool. Actually getting a glimpse of Bond’s roots makes him that much more human, which is an important factor to offset his superhuman feats and the extreme punishment he often endures. Bond’s prickly relationship with M also gets attention, questioning the hard decisions she’s made with him and past agents and adding depth to the testy but synergetic rapport they’ve established. The ending even takes a risk in incorporating a change in the status quo that had never been acknowledged in past installments of the franchise.
Skyfall may not be quite perfect, thanks to a semi-anticlimactic ending, but it’s as close as I’ve seen the franchise come, being more engaging than Casino Royale and more straightforward than Quantum of Solace. I’m still not entirely sold on Daniel Craig, but he makes the role his own here and rises to the acting challenge. Skyfall has all the ingredients one would predict in a Bond film, but it surprises by going beyond the typical suave escapades we’ve come to expect by adding vulnerability, consequences, and some profound Tennyson lines. Even if he’s not my favorite Bond, I must admit that Craig’s films are the best, with Skyfall at the head of the pack.
Best line: (Q) “Age is no guarantee of efficiency.” (Bond) “And youth is no guarantee of innovation.”
© 2016 S.G. Liput
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