Thursday, November 22, 2012

Skyfall


Those of you in the mood for a good holiday action film probably won't need to look much further than Skyfall. Now there's an action movie done right - dark, well-acted, tightly edited, and with a soundtrack worth listening to on its own. I daresay in terms of logic and pace it even manages to outshine The Dark Knight Rises.



I like Daniel Craig, but I've never been crazy about his acting. He's always come off to me as trying too hard to be gruff and sarcastic as the titular Bond. He has improved though, and I find him appropriate and sympathetic in Skyfall. Judi Dench tended to have the same over dramatic tendencies, and unfortunately I never quite warmed up to her M, who always felt forcefully stiff.


Javier Bardum, on the other hand, gave a performance here that completely changed my mind of him. In my mind he's always been engraved as the slightly pathetic, tubby love interest from Eat, Pray, Love, but somehow in Skyfall he comes across suave, artistic, and unfailingly dangerous. I also am a fan of the blond hair, which did wonders in allowing me to re-visualize him.


Plotwise, there's nothing particularly original about Skyfall. We get a climactic fake-death scene with nothing but an animated woman showing how exactly he survived a few-hundred feet fall without injuries. We get the necessary retraining (very TDKR-esque), a couple gunfire showdowns, and a rather cheesy, forced-in exposition on Bond's past. I can see where they were going with the background story, but the execution fell flat and I'm sure nobody cared for the vaguely annoying, Hagrid-type man they introduced there.


And of course, since the entire conflict circled around Dench's M, whom I respect well enough as a successful older woman but could honestly care less about, the final scene had minimal impact for me. Who else also thought the final conflict resolution was silly? *Highlight for spoiler* James manages to rescue M at the last second, only for her to die from her  wound about 2 seconds later? *End spoiler*


But, all of these shortcomings were more than made up for by the positives. I was thoroughly impressed with the directing, which shot the film as a true, gritty action offering without forcing some hammy comedy or overly long table-discussion scenes. The shots taken in Shanghai and Macau are stunning, and whoever envisioned that battle in the reflective-glass building is a cinematography genius.


I didn't find anything in that sequence (or most in this movie) believable (there's no way any street in Shanghai could be empty enough for the dude to just kill a guy through a glass window on the sly, and I don't get why Bond had to grab the elevator instead of just taking another one) but it was pretty and fun enough for me to overlook the shortcomings.


I also really liked the Bond girl(s) in this. I didn't much care for the co-agent romance/awkward flirtation, but it was necessary for the end discovery, which I'm sure all Bond fans will enjoy.



The true Bond girl, Berenice Marlohe, is so freaking classy and I adored her throaty conversation with him at the casino. She might just give Vesper a run for her money in the screen charisma department (though Vesper's dialog and characterization were much, much better). She was gorgeous to watch, and perfect for the exotic setting of this film.


As a long-time Bond viewer, I'm happy with the resolutions and references they brought in. The Aston Martin was a nice touch, as were the fresh character intros. I assume all of them have signed long-term contracts with the franchise too, so it should be fun to watch them in the coming films. I'm not, however, a fan of Ralph Fiennes. He's been in so many things now that his very presence takes me out of a movie. He's also not impressed me much with any of his past performances (Voldemort was pretty weaksauce, and he was just sad in Maid in Manhattan). Whatever, I guess Britain doesn't exactly have a large selection of seasoned actors to pick from, and I can do my best to ignore him.


The highlight of the movie was definitely the action, which managed to be both visually impressive and fun to watch. There's something hugely satisfying about seeing physical odds get stacked high and higher against the hero, only for him to miraculously overcome them through some last-minute wit and quick thinking.


I'm almost wary of Daniel being in two more films, as he's getting a bit old for the part. He's trim and good-looking now, but we all want to avoid another Roger Moore in A View to a Kill. When did Bond start to permanently be in his late 40s? I don't find that the least bit believable, and my impression has always been that Bond is someone in his mid-thirties. I guess it's good that at least the Bond girls are somewhat older to match (Berenice is 33)?



This is going to be a hard movie for the franchise to top, given that they put so many layers and excellent reveals into this. I mean, few things beat a hero "death". I'm hopeful though, and excited to see Bond 24.

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