I saw the new Bond 23 “Skyfall” last Sunday and loved it!
I’d heard Skyfall was good so I wasn’t worried walking into the movie if I would enjoy it or not, which was a big relief because its predecessor Quantum Solace was so dreary and violent it’s quite possibly the only Bond movie I will never watch again.
Before we go any further I have to alert you to a couple of slight spoilers. Please stop reading if you want to enjoy a complete surprise at the movie theater.
First the flavor of Skyfall is so different I cannot compare it any other Bonds. The film’s director Sam Mendes and indeed the entire production team, work in perfect unison to take this well-explored franchise to a new level and give it a stunning rebirth. Everything in Skyfall is familiar to Bond fans, yet everything feels fresh as if we’re finally seeing the real MI6 and it’s cadre for the first time.
Daniel Craig plays this Bond as emotional and insecure in unguarded moments. He’s aging, injured and somewhat abandoned by his peers. He doesn’t hold grudges against those who have wronged him and we see fleeting but intense glimpses of a man who doesn’t care and doesn’t dare to care. He’s driven to keep going because he’s walked through the valley of death and discovered he’s not welcome there, not yet.
This movie is loaded with symbolism and Skyfall is so much the richer for it. In one of the Hong Kong scenes we see the debonair Bond wearing the classic tuxedo sailing into the mouth of a beautifully lit dragon floating in the harbor. This is the glamorous side of his profession, the gambling, the wit and the beautiful women. But beneath the floor of this glittering Hong Kong casino lurks a real and very visceral Komodo dragon waiting to snatch victims by the ankles and drag them into darkness. Metaphorically Bond gets grabbed by the ankle, dragged down and must deal with the visceral elements for the rest of the movie.
There are other interesting symbolic touches as well. The megalithic structure of the MI6 building is destroyed in a bombing and a wounded Secret Service is driven into hidden tunnels and bunkers below London and forced to prove their relevance in court. The theme of rats driven by desperation is explored and I’m sure you can guess which rat wins this battle, but it’s still thrilling to watch the action unfold.
In Skyfall youth and the latest technologies not only fail MI6, but also proves to be their greatest handicap. In the end it’s the long-timers who know how to win a dirty knife fight who survive. I’m happy to report Skyfall is nearly gadget free.
Skill, brains and heart count for everything here.
At the end of an action-packed opening sequence Bond is shot and left for dead. We’re not shown exactly how Bond cheats death, but instead are treated to a stunning reimagining of the opening title sequence. Skyfall ditches the shopworn girly silhouettes and gun barrel animations to do something far better. Instead we see Bond floating into the watery, viridian green world of his own subconscious. His symbolic life flashes before his eyes while Adele sings one of the best Bond themes ever. As Bond’s life force fades away so does the color on the screen. The sequence ends in a stark cemetery that feels centuries old. This is important because the theme of the past will rise again and again especially when Bond tells M that to save their lives they have to go back in time, and they do. MI6 adopts Winston Churchill’s old bunkers and the company car is ditched in favor of the 63’s Aston Martin. I don’t want to spoil anyone’s movie experience but Bond defeats the villain with a very ordinary object. For Bond’s 50th anniversary everything old is made new again.
The villain in Skyfall is someone truly worthy of Bond. Javier Barden plays Raoul Silva an ex-MI6 wonder boy who has an uncomfortable amount of things in common with Bond. In fact Silva is Bond’s evil twin—his dark mirror image and you can sense how badly Silva wants to seduce Bond into agreement with him. Bond and Silva behave like two brothers fighting to be recognized as the favorite son. Silva is at first almost silky in his attempt to seduce Bond to his side, but we also know Silva would be terribly disappointed to succeed. Silva wants a worthy rival to challenge him and Bond provides it.
In Skyfall there is no hokey scheme for world domination. There is threat of exposure and soul searching instead. Silva was once a valuable MI6 operative and obviously once a great favorite of M whom he feels abandoned by. Silva is vengeful and still smarting from being disowned by M. He clearly comes off as a cruel and damaged man who can’t bear another betrayal. When his gorgeous lover Severine leads Bond to his abandoned island lair, he has her tied to a statue, pours her a drink and then literally offers her a “shot”.
Skyfall feels like two movies. One is sweeping and glamorous with all the trappings you’d come to expect from a Bond film and other is intimate and personal, very personal. Bond returns under duress to a haunted place from his past where he obviously does not want to be and many personal sacrifices are made there. It is during these sequences that we feel the full strength of Bond’s mettle. He truly is a hero and survivor here.
Skyfall is exceptional for treating the female characters with respect. The women aren’t perfect and make plenty of mistakes and they come off almost as complex and troubled as Bond himself, which is saying a lot. I loved Naomie Harris’ character “Eve”; she’s smart and totally committed.
Judi Dench as M brings so much subtlety to this performance. It’s one of her best. If there is a femme fatale to be named in Skyfall it’s Judi Dench. For better or worse both Bond and Silva surrender their hearts and souls to M in exchange for cold-hearted betrayal. Silva’s character sums it up when he says, “Mummy was very bad.”
Dench’s “M” is synonymous with the great cosmic mother who must be obeyed. A point which M herself blatantly exploits when she admits to Bond that, “Orphans always make the best recruits.”
The look of Skyfall is wonderful. The scenes filmed in Hong Kong are moving art. The stark mansion on the Scottish moor was perfect. Thomas Newman’s original soundtrack works beautifully with the movie, always enhancing but never overpowering the scene. The humor is subtle and flows seamlessly with the action. There’s no stopping the show to offer a corny joke.
Skyfall is a perfect balance of brain and brawn. Its takes the gloves off and reminds us with both harsh and heartfelt actions why we fell in love with Bond in the first place.