Friday, November 9, 2012

Skyfall Brilliantly Explores the Vulnerabilities of James Bond and asks the Ever Important Question, is he Still Relevant?

Skyfall (4 out 5 Stars)
Directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road)
Written by Neal Purvis (Casino Royale), Robert Wade (Casino Royale). John Logan (Hugo)
Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, and Javier Bardem

Six years ago Daniel Craig took up the post after Pierce Brosnan's version of Bond.  Brosnan was like Connery; he was cool, and sexy.  Craig fit all of the standards, but took being Bond to a whole new level; he kicked ass like no other Bond before.  The question that has been on most Bond fans minds is why is Bond more like Jason Bourne than the Queen's number one spy?

The Bourne Identity and Die Another Day (the last Pierce Brosnan Bond film) were released the same year 2002.  Comparing the two films, the action, and the evolution of a post 9/11 action hero producers seem to go back to the drawing board with the Bond franchise.  The new Bond Daniel Craig was more rugged, and muscular, battling opponents with that hand to hand combat used in the Bourne franchise.  Bond is by no means copying the Bourne franchise, but changing things up, and continuing the make the character relevant in today's world.  Although the the new film address the the old fashioned MI-6, and an ever changing society.

Skyfall starts the way most of the recent Bond films do, with an incredible action sequence, that leads into the title sequence and theme song for a film.  At the beginning James and Eve (a field agent) are chasing two men who have stolen the hard drive with the identities of all the MI-6 agents. The bad guy gets away while Bond is knocked down for the count.  Bond has the opportunity to walk away, but when an attack MI-6 happens he enters back into the arena to do battle the ultimate bad guy trying to take down both M (Judi Dench) and MI-6.

Casino Royale was a game changer, and showed Bond as a human with emotions, through the loss of the woman he loved.  Quantum of Solace showed his need for revenge, although the film dropped the ball.  Skyfall looks challenges Bond's relevance, and gives audiences a window into his past even further.  The villain Silva (Javier Bardem) starts to make M, and her agency look bad.  Silva's plan involves humiliating M, and making her pay for her past crimes.  Along with paying for her past sins, the entire agencies relevancy is questioned by the government, and beaurocrat Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) helps M to try and maintain the agencies relevancy.

Screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are no strangers to this franchise, this is their fifth film of the 23 Bond films.  They are joined by John Logan, and together these three men take you through the journey of Bond new and old.  Using the different characters, England, and exotic locations they have blended the focus of Bond well, and told a story that is action packed, compelling, and that leaves you questioning the evolution of society.

One of the brilliant aspects of this film is the sense of a world changing, but that this change is causing more chaos than good.  The post 9/11 world where the terrorist runs rampant, and is beyond the simple bald man stroking a cat, the villain has to be smoked out the old fashioned way.  How is the James Bond character relevant, or is he?  This franchise poses the question that was established in Casino Royale.  Bond has to become a new man, even though he may not be ready or even up to the challenges of the the people he will have to face.  Craig tackles this role better than ever in this film, not only showing that he can kick ass, but continuing to show the evolution the character started in this "reboot."

The challenge of the old guard vs. the new guard in the battle of Silva vs. M is another fascinating aspect of this story.  Bardem's Silva is clearly an old school evil genius, but with the twist of modern technology.  The villain is brilliantly constructed, and Bardem proves even playing a villain again is not the same old hat.  Bardem ass layers to this role even challenging the concept that Bond is purely a ladies man as he slowly unbuttons his shirt.

While Silva represents the new school M represents the old guard; she is the old fashioned gal who read poetry at the hearing when she should be running from the room in fear of Silva.  M stoic, and while the franchise has always had her waiting in the wings, or as the kidnapped she finally steps up to take on one of the most aspects of her job as a leader.  Dench is brilliant in this film, and has some truly heartbreaking moments.

Bond has always been seen as an interesting genre film throughout the years with a simple formula, but this chapter of the franchise has changed things for the better.  In this film director Sam Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins create imagery so gorgeous, you will get lost.  This is one of the best shot films of the year, from the simplest moments when James is trying to track down a spy in a Shanghai hotel, where the colors and music help build some of the greatest tension.  There are of course the action packed shots like the opening sequence where James battles it out on a moving train traveling through England.  These men have worked together twice (Revolutionary Road and Jarhead), but have achieved visual mastery in this Bond film.

Throughout this film Bond does not bag as many babes, he even flirts back with a guy.  Bond loses his ability  to be that put together gentleman we know him to be, but what a treat to get to watch this character unhinged, and try and find his place in today's society while being the best secret agent.  The story and direction tell audiences who Bond was and where he needs to go to matter in the global society, brilliant!

No comments: