Thursday, March 21, 2013
Released theatrically in North America in November; now available on all home video platforms
Like The Rolling Stones, another heavyweight British entertainment export marked its 50th anniversary late last year, as the James Bond franchise rolled on with its 23rd film and most successful commercial release yet, Skyfall. The Daniel Craig-starring movie raked in $1.1 billion at the worldwide box office and is now the highest grossing theatrical release in UK history. At almost two-and-a-half hours, it's far longer than it needs to be, but there's a few twists on the familiar formula of the franchise and some decent fun to be had. Aside from the expected Bond elements that appear in every film (that familiar theme and the "Bond...James Bond" introduction), Skyfall also marks its milestone anniversary with nods to other significant hallmarks from the series, with the appearances of an Aston Martin and Walther PPK pistol, plus the old "shaken, not stirred" martini line. The ubiquitous opening title sequence set to the newest theme song is a standout here, as a visually arresting showpiece of animations and images is set to the pleasing "Skyfall" by Adele.
Craig's Bond, the direction of Sam Mendes, and the screenplay by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and John Logan explores deeper into the darker aspects of the character that were touched on in Craig's first two outings, with the framework for that being set up via one of the series' most dire scenarios for 007. Bond's downfall (quite literally) occurs during the movie's thrilling opening sequence set in Istanbul, when a mistake by a fellow agent results in what is believed to be his death. The M.I.A. spy resurfaces after an explosion rips through the headquarters of his employer, MI6, who have recently been under cyber attacks that compromised the secrecy of a number of operations being carried out by some of their undercover agents. The man behind the attacks is a disgruntled former MI6 agent named Silva (played by Javier Bardem), a tech wizard (because if your movie boogie man nowadays isn't a Middle Eastern terrorist then it's probably going to be a cyberterrorist) who has a particular grudge to settle with MI6 director M (played by Judi Dench). Bardem does a respectable job as the Bond villain, although he does lay on the camp a little heavy. Certainly, he's a by-default improvement on Mathieu Amalric from the last underwhelming film in the series, Quantum Of Solace, whose French villain was easily the most boring the franchise has ever seen (I've had five years to live with the title of that last movie and it still sounds awkward). Supporting help comes from Ralph Fiennes as Gareth Mallory, M's superior, Ben Whisaw as gadget man Q, Naomie Harris as an MI6 agent and Bond romantic interest (their chemistry isn't terribly memorable, though), and Albert Finney as Kincade, a man from Bond's early years who helps 007 and M hide out at Skyfall, the spy's childhood home and family estate in Scotland.
That trip to Skyfall allows for a mini origins story to play out, which meshes nicely with the more vulnerable and introspective side of the character that has already been revealed since 007's return to action from injury, where he finds himself needing to prove himself again and regain his top form. It's as unconfident and fragile as we've ever seen the cocksure Bond in the entire series. Of course, all of that takes a relative backseat to the customary Bond standbys of sexual conquests, globetrotting adventures, and ridiculous over-the-top stunts within big, loud action pieces, with the centrepiece being an overly drawn out end showdown between the spy and Silva that left me unfulfilled.
Not quite as magnificent as it was made out to be, Skyfall lands quality-wise in the Daniel Craig-as-Bond era of somewhere between the electrifying resurgence of 2006's Casino Royale and 2008's muddled and disappointing Quantum Of Solace.