Saturday 27 October 2012

Review: Skyfall

Welcome Back Mr. Bond.

50 years. 23 films. 007. Skyfall - the newest outing for the world's most iconic secret agent James Bond (Daniel Craig) - marks a landmark achievement in film history, with the franchise spanning over five decades and still going strong; so no pressure then Mr. Bond! In Skyfall, Bond's loyalty to M (Dame Judy Dench) is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.

After 50 years of film history, what is about Bond that makes him so well renowned and enjoyed globally? How is the franchise as relevant today as it was back when Sean Connery first donned the iconic tuxedo in Dr. No? At the centre of each and every Bond film lays the heart and soul of what makes essential mainstream cinema. It's the excitement of escaping into extraordinary world of action and adventure that breaks away from the everyday norm. It's the exotic locations that allow us to see the world's most inspiring locations that we ourselves can't see. It's the glamour and elegance of the expensive cars, gadgets, suits and dresses that allow us to peak into the high life. It's the taboo of having a brief erotic relationship. It's about dreaming of a life that whilst unrealistic isn't entirely implausible, and being able to experience the things that you've always dreamt of. Whilst cinema and the Bond franchise have evolved and changed over time to meet contemporary themes, issues, fears and desires, the essence of every Bond film is timeless, and the pure essence of escapist mainstream cinema. That's why it worked 50 years ago, and that's why it still works today, as the 23rd Bond film Skyfall proves...

Skyfall - celebrating 50 years of 007.

What director Sam Mendes has done with Skyfall, and the reason that it works so well, is take the original formula that made the franchise so iconic, and bring it back to life. Where the last few Daniel Craig Bond films (Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace) completely reinvented the franchise from scratch, setting them prior to all of the previous Bond films, Skyfall takes this new style and brings it together with the franchise's origins to bridge the divide between the two; returning to and reusing, whilst reinventing and revitalising the franchise. It's modern and relevant, but a Bond film that could have been made 50 years ago. Skyfall uses all of the best bits of the last 22 Bond films and crafts the ultimate Bond film; a love letter and the perfect birthday present to a franchise that has entertained generations of people.

Sam Mendes, newcomer to the Bond family, has proved that he was in fact the right man for the job, by crafting a beautifully shot film in which the cinematography is flawless. Exotic locations such as Turkey, Shanghai, and even London and Scotland are presented spectacularly and are immersed into the plot through incredibly impressive and non-stop action set pieces that make the film an adrenaline pumping romp of a ride. The sets of Shanghai in particular, with their vivid colours and bright lights are truly remarkable and I imagine almost unbeatable on IMAX. With these scenes shot on location, including through the streets and tubes of London, and part of the opening fight which takes place atop an actual moving train through Turkey (no stunt double - fair play Mr. Craig), filming Skyfall is an incredibly impressive technical feat of filmmaking and more than deserves that recognition.

Beautiful cinematography and impressive action set pieces bring London to life - Bond Style.

Daniel Craig leads the cast once again as 007, an actor who I've always enjoyed in the role and this time if anything he actually feels more comfortable and at home in the role than ever before. This time round he's joined by a mostly new and very impressive cast of British talents who make up the rest of the ensemble in this very character driven film. Dame Judy Dench reprises her role as M in her most influential and involving role in a Bond film to date, and one that largely drives the narrative and emotional core of the film. Young talent Ben Whishaw brings the role of Q - 007's gadget specialising quartermaster - back to the franchise, providing a refreshing performance that helps to bring film back to its roots; as too does Ralph Fiennes who plays government official Gareth Mallory.

When it comes to the Bond girls, Skyfall impressively boasts two; Bérénice Marlohe who portrays the traditional glamorous sex icon in her part as Sévérine, and Naomie Harris who steals a number of scenes as the hard hitting, strong female agent Eve - bringing a nice contrast to the film with both the old and the new representations of women being present as we celebrate 007 in cinema. And of course, perhaps the most important supporting role of all is that of the villain's, who in this case is portrayed superbly by Hispanic actor Javier Bardem who plays Silva. Unlike the disappointing villain in the previous Bond film Quantum of Solace, Bardem's Silva works brilliantly as the unpredictable, haunting, and above all else camp terrorist villain who is as entertaining as he is edgy; a sort of combination of Heath Ledger's Joker (The Dark Knight) and Norman Bates (Psycho), with a little bit of 'the only gay in the village' thrown in for good measure!

Javier Bardem as the camp and villainous Silva.

It's fair to say that there has been an elated sense of national pride in Britain this year, with the Queen's Jubilee early on in the year, then the London Olympics captivating the Summer (at which 007 himself was in attendance), and now you can add a third reason to that list as we celebrate 50 years of 'Bond, James Bond' in the Birthday present tribute that is one of the most entertaining and satisfying films of the year: Skyfall. With a stellar cast of acting talents including a show stealing performance by Javier Bardem, Skyfall is an exciting and entertaining romp that has more laugh out loud moments than some of this year's comedies, a series of incredible action set pieces, impressive and exotic locations, beautifully shot cinematography and a character driven plot that left me shaken and stirred - it was both everything that I wanted it be, and everything that it needed to be. Skyfall travels back to the roots of the franchise to find the heart and soul of the Bond films and in doing so simultaneously discovers the definition and appeal of escapism and mainstream cinema. Skyfall closes an ongoing theme from Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, in which Daniel Craig's Bond searches for himself to define who he is and become the man we know and love - ladies and gentlemen, Bond is back!

Verdict: 5/5

Skyfall (certificate 12A) is now showing in cinemas across the UK.

Have you seen Skyfall? Agree or disagree with my review? Leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

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