Skyfall: Is James Bond the British Dark Knight?

November 12, 2012 7:02 pm

“SKYFALL”

Directed by Sam Mendes. Produced By Micheal G. Wilson and Barbara Brocolli
Written by John Logan, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.
Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Naomie Harris, Berenice Marhole and Ralph Fiennes

Bond is out of development hell. MGM, Bond’s studio and the distributors since it’s 1962 inception, Dr. No, have safely been navigated out of their financial problems, for the time being. So, with Bond 23 in cinemas, a new director, returning characters, and the obligatory mid shot of Daniel Craig with his shirt off, can Bond survive the wreckage of 2008’s Quantum of Solace?

The early buzz thought so, tipping it as the best Bond in decades. A chance for Craig to truly revel in the role that he started with so fantastically in Casino Royale. Mendes, (of American Beauty (1999) and Road To Perdition (2002)) was approached after the release of Quantum of Solace, and he, as a British director, took to the project with great enthusiasm. Here was a chance to go darker with Bond, to take that gloomy, gritty, partially political landscape of current Hollywood and punch a James Bond-sized hole in it.

Let’s be clear, this Bond is like no other before. Bond’s all grown up.

Mendes lures us into Bond’s fragile interior from the off with a clever play of shadowy camera movement before we burst off into a vibrant Turkish city where chaos predictably occurs. But Mendes isn’t shy of upping the ante, and if you think the rollicking opening is the whole of the action, then you’re in for a treat. Action, for once, takes a secondary role in a Bond film, and gone are the clinical, misogynistic depictions of women, at least for the most past.

Skyfall is Bond at his core roots. A personal, cathartic battle of character and of mind. For the most part, Skyfall takes great inspiration from 2008’s The Dark Knight in its hardened and relevant stand on terrorist forces. It’s not a case of the end of the world, it’s all about exploiting the element of fear in a character, fear in a motive, with the primary essence of fear in Skyfall present in the character of Silva (Javier Bardem).

The audience is taken through an hour of conspiracy, exhilaration and seductive games, before Silva reveals himself in an epic, extra slow zoom, with an accompanying monologue. Standard Bond, but Silva is no standard villain. Bardem shrouds this character in a mist of uncertainty; maybe he’s not that harmless, maybe he’s just misunderstood? The answer, it transpires, is neither. Bardem turns his creation into a Jekyll-Hyde persona, a man with a calm restraint but a polished hand in the delivering of evil. A perfect villain, and an extraordinary performance  from Bardem, as blockbuster villains get better and better.

Judi Dench is as prominent as always in Skyfall, and provides us with the same senses of humour and sadness as she struts around London. Though, it’s when her defences are lowered that Dench truly shows her class as an actress, with  M becoming sentimental for the most part in this thriller. Craig, the leading man, is developing nicely into the closely closeted Bond, a Bond that has lost that ridiculous element of cheese, a man you actually believe wants to kill someone when he says it and doesn’t use an exploding pen to do it.

 

Character is at the forefront of Mendes’ epic. Bardem steals the show so much that you find yourself glued to him and what else is happening simply doesn’t matter. Fiennes’ role as a government stooge expands and progresses as the film unravels as does Harris’ Eve whose identity does cause quite a spur in the cinema. Still, sultry ‘Bond Girl’ Severine (Marhole) is simply a pretty plot point with not much to offer.

Skyfall is an episodic, hazy and heart-pounding thriller. It works in a three-act kind of way, with the first act as the roaring of the engine, the second, the acceleration and in the third, the car just drives on into the night. A fantastic addition to the Bond world, which I’m convinced will be remembered as one of the best Bond’s ever made. Bardem for the Oscar, and no, that is not a joke.

5/5

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