Cinema & Movies

SCREENING SAM MENDES’ SKYFALL, 2012

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By David Beilstein

SKYFALL ends where the James Bond of legendary remembrance begins. The Bond millions of fans have come to know; a provocateur of dapper wardrobe, of pristine fighting skills; a spy with a license to kill. Reintroduced as an ordinary man with searing vulnerabilities before the Bondian legend in 2006’s Casino Royale, Daniel Craig’s 007 is a brooding, violent, spy of action.

The disappointing Quantum of Solace, 2008, took some of the veneer off Craig’s reimagining of the character. It was not as if Quantum was awful; but it paled in comparison to Craig’s earlier outing.  It failed, then, to bring Bond to new and greater heights as did Casino Royale.

From the moment Daniel Craig powers into the opening scenes in SkyFall, now a clandestine operative of cunning and experience, we know as an audience, things look right (slash, feel right). What appears like a conventional plot twist – especially in the 007 universe – the crippling “death” of agent 007 at the hands of fellow agent, Eve, propels an ageing Bond out of the atavistic bazaars of Istanbul, Turkey, morphing into an intimately personal narrative of past sins.

At the outset, especially during a daring set piece on a train – a passenger train, no less – we are introduced to the best-photographed Bond movie throughout the 50-year franchise. There have been many imaginings of Bond – from silly, brutal, to suave – but there has never been a Bond like SkyFall’s 007; a Bond who looks like Daniel Craig, and who could be a killer for her Majesties Secret Service.

SkyFall director Sam Mendes gets this Bond perfect. And Roger Deakins cinematography is exceptional. Long the right hand man of the Coen brothers, Deakins imagines a beautiful patina for SkyFall; the pulchritude of China’s futuristic skylines; of deserted island fortresses, where the films villain, played masterfully by Javier Barden, resides.

There has never been a Bond movie as personal. M’s future collides with the present when Raoul Silva (Bardem) once an MI6 agent, comes looking for revenge. A computer hacker savant, Silva is one of the Bondian universe’s most fleshed out characters. The back and forth between Bond and Silva is masterfully. And that relationship – between Bond and Silva – propels the narrative forward, richly investing us into the relationship between Bond and Judy Dench’s M.

We have never peek-a-booed intimately into the relationship between Bond and M; in SkyFall, we do, and are reworded, dramatically, for it.

The ending of SkyFall is the beginning of Bond; including all the trappings: Q-branch, plus Q; Ms Moneypenny’s class and coquetry with Bond; the hint of gadgets, even if only glimpsed in the classic Aston Martin.

SkyFall is Bond not just back; but where the character’s future is most cinematically realised. Once more then, the latest Bond adventure is more proof, popcorn movies achieve their success for the same reasons serious films work: an eye for detail, rich storytelling, and impeccable filmmaking craft.

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