Snap-review: Skyfall

Saw Skyfall (2012) this morning but first a quick programing note. I will not being doing my full on Blog James Blog break down of Bond 23 until it’s release on home video. The reasons are two; first, when doing my full posts I watch the films at least twice and then re-watch scenes, DVD extras and even get into commentaries in order to make damn sure I get the drink orders right and I know exactly how many baddies were in that jeep Bond sent over the cliff. Needless to say, that’s a little difficult to do sitting in my local multiplex. The second and more important reason is that my normal write-ups by their very nature and design are chock full of spoilers. They are written with the assumption that those reading them have seen the film at some point in their lives and have a passing knowledge of what goes down. Not so with a movie released less then 48 hours ago so I will avoid the typical Blog James Blog fine tooth combing of “what it all means … man.” This “Snap-review” will be written in the traditional style of a review; which is to say it is meant to let readers know if this film is something they should spend their $15 on. So, here is the short, down and dirty, “Snap-review” of Skyfall. The full on treatment and martini glass rating will appear down the road. Enjoy.

Thank you. Thank you to EON for getting this one right. Quantum of Solace (2008) can now be stricken from the record and called what it truly is, a poor man’s Bourne film. Sorry, the truth hurts. Skyfall on the other hand achieves a miracle in quantum physics in that it is both a classic and modern Bond film that occupies the same screen space at precisely the same time. In Craig’s third turn we have his best Bond performance by leaps and bounds as well as a top 5 out of all 23 Bond films. As we left the theater, the wife said it was her favorite and the first where she, as a woman, didn’t feel pandered to. Not bad for a fifty year-old dude in 2012. In the hands of Sam Mendes, the first Oscar winner to helm a Bond film, the series once again becomes a leader and not a follower; a more self-assured 007 film has not been seen since that Aussie dude wore a kilt. Indeed, On Her Majesty’s Secrete Service (1969) very well may be this films closest cousin in the Bond canon. With Skyfall, we get a story that has emotional resonance and connects us to Bond as a person, and by extension the world he inhabits, in ways which we have not been since Bond wept for his murdered bride. The film was shot by long time Coen brothers DP Roger Deakins who delivers the best looking and most cinematic Bond film in memory. A mid-film action sequence in the glass towers of Shanghai enters the realm of the surreal, a visual element that further permeates Skyfall when we visit an abandon, bombed out island and hits a final crescendo in a fog filled climax that allows the pictures to tell more then the words. Which brings us to the script, penned by John Logan who, as the AV Club recently pointed out, writes everything these days (and along with Daniel Craig has signed on for at least two more 007 pictures). One of the lazy clichés when it comes to Bond films is the “talking villain,” the bad guy who tells Bond his evil, world-dominating scheme over dinner. Here, Javier Bardem’s entrance as the grinning baddie Silva, around the halfway mark of the film, is indeed accompanied by a breakdown of his entire game plan. A game plan that notably is not one of clocks counting down to the end of the world or of conquering empires, but of personal and laser like focused revenge. But the explaining and yes, exposition, doesn’t feel forced. It’s all in the writing and acting. Ignore those reviews that don’t praise Javier’s Silva as a wonderful and a classic Bond villain; all detractors be damned. Back to the writing, at the end of his speech, Silva challenges Bond loyalties. A lesser film would have written Bond an on the noise retort. Here, Craig is given the trust to deliver his answer to both the baddie and the audience with his eyes. He succeeds. This is a modern film firing on all cylinders that works because the look and feel is firmly rooted in the cinematic language of the past. Add in the opening sequence that is rightly already being celebrated, the return of Q and the Goldfinger (1964) Aston Martin, a classic voice in the Adele theme, and on and on and the movie takes things we love about Bond (A thug gets eaten by a deadly animal! The villain lives on his own island!) and places it all firmly in the 21st century. Even for all it’s rightfully deserved praise in reinventing Bond, Casino Royale (2006) regrettably shed some of the soul and messy guts that make Bond Bond. Here, those elements are not only reintroduced, they serve as a happy reminder of why Bond films work and have worked for so long. Lets just say I found myself smiling ear-to-ear more then half a dozen times during Skyfall and most Bond fans will experience the same. If you care a lick about Bond, go see this film now and bring a friend. Afterward, you will want to discuss it with someone over a Heineken or a martini. They both get the job done, no point arguing over which is better.