It must be said, and it has been, that Skyfall, the new James Bond film, is beautiful. Like, really, really beautiful. The cinematography is from the legendary Roger Deakins, so that visual wonder is to be expected, and yet it still manages occasionally to take your breath away on the strength on it alone.
If you’ve seen 2007’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, which Deakins shot, you’ll know there is a particular scene involving a train at night where light and shadows and darkness and the actors all come together to create a transcendentally gorgeous atmosphere; now, imagine that masterful manipulation transplanted into a Bond movie, a comparably much bigger, more exciting and rewarding canvas to paint on, and hopefully you get the point that the Skyfall deserves to be seen on the big screen as soon as possible.
(And with as little knowledge of the plot as possible, which is something that could be suggested for all movies but really increased my enjoyment of Skyfall.)
The film is, put simply, a genuinely magnificent, marvelously entertaining achievement from director Sam Mendes and the entire cast, crew, etc., that were involved. This is the best film that Hollywood has come out with for quite a while now, a smart action blockbuster that dips into the generous box labeled “Everything We Love About Bond, James Bond” without actually relying on it for its success.
Its tight, focused script doesn’t go for farcical nor outlandishly silly moments, similar to Casino Royale before it, but, make no mistake, this is a Bond film – even the frenetic Bourne-esque pre-credits opening set in Istanbul carries itself with the distinctive, assertive elegance and sophistication (again, more credit than you think is due to Deakin’s work) as well as the sense of importance that is expected.
Yet Skyfall isn’t a relic of yesteryear, trying to clumsily combine the past with the present – it embraces it fully, and has more than a few witty jokes and nods to the Bond franchise’s storied legacy in doing so. The clash of times also influences the plot, where the cloak-and-daggers game that MI6 plays is called “old-fashioned,” claims are put forth that there are no more “shadows” for Bond and the agency to hide in while doing their stuff, and the main characters are confronted with their shrouded pasts which give some welcome depth to the action.
Daniel Craig’s Bond has to to protect M (Judi Dench, allowed more emotional range though her character still works best when trading icy barbs with Bond) and England from the immensely amusing Javier Bardem (above) who, sporting a blond wig as a vengeful cyber-terrorist, makes for a villain that you don’t want to take your eyes off and the only character, ironically, who seems to be taking it all in perspective (after a spectacular action sequence, exhausted, he heaves a sigh and looks around: “All this running around…it’s so tiring,” and we’re inclined to agree).
Rounding out the stellar cast is Naomi Harris as an fiesty MI6 field agent, Ben Whishaw as the young in-house computer genius Q who forgoes “old-school” exploding pens for technology and a gun, Berenice Marlohe as the mysterious Severine, and Ralph Fiennes as a bureaucrat sent to supervise.
I love this movie. And I want to see it again. It’s one of the best wide releases of the year without question, and deserves to be recognized as such. [A+]