How do you improve on “Casino Royale” (2006) - one of the best Bond movies in more than a decade?
Give Bond a better villain to deal with. Put your heroes in peril. Get a great script with a intriguing storyline and really good performances from a solid cast… then shake up those ingredients (don’t stir them)… and you get “Skyfall”.
“Skyfall” poster Courtesy MGM-SONY
(My spoiler-free review)
Daniel Craig is the new generation Bond. His 2006 portrayal in the series reboot may have bothered some, but he brought new life, and a harder edge to a character that, with a few exceptions to the 20 previous movies, had become campy and over-the-top.
We still get some humor and the occasional double entendre, but this Bond is tough, bold, and the world around him is darker. Where “Quantum of Solace” (2008) faltered, “Skyfall” delivers…and even surpasses “Casino Royale”.
The action, the villain, the story, the script, the chases, the opening sequence, all the action sequences, the twists… plus the production values are better: cinematography, editing, costumes, sets, effects, etc… its looks better and feels better. The entire style of storytelling from director Sam Mendes and writers Neal Purvis and John Logan is more polished than the last two outings.
Craig is great in his third outing as Bond, this time dealing with deeper, darker issues than before, facing his own fears and battling his own demons, all while trying to save the world and her Majesty’s Secret Service. Judi Dench reprises her roles as “M” for the 3rd time with Craig and her 7th time overall, she gets a lot more screen time as a character just as important as Bond this time around. She commands the screen in every scene she’s in and is the good balancing out Javier Bardem’s bad.
And boy is Bardem’s “Silva” bad. Remember his Oscar winning performance in 2007′s “No Country for Old Men”? His on screen menace is similiar, but this baddie is more diabolical and scheming than outright in your face bad. That role was a different kind of crazy, both are scary, but this bad guy is the best Bond nemesis since Christopher Walken in “A View to a Kill” (1985).
Ralph Fiennes and Albert Finney add credibility and strength to the cast, while Naomie Harris, Bérénice Marlohe, and Ben Whishaw bring young energy and class to round out this solid ensemble.
Daniel Craig and Javier Bardem in “Skyfall” photo Courtesy MGM-SONY
If you’ve heard me talk (or write) before about the difference between a movie being good or great… or a movie being good or terrible… I have often pointed out character development. For me, you can have the best action sequences, best camera work, stunts, plot, and so on… but if I don’t care about the characters – none of it matters. If there’s no chemistry between the characters or connection between the audience and the characters… they won’t care what happens to them. In a romance, the audience has to have a connection, or you won’t care if the couple ends up together in the end. In a mystery/thriller/suspense/horror movie – you won’t care if the main character solves the puzzle and/or survives – if the audience isn’t connected. Same thing in a action/sci-fi/fantasy/war/western – you can put the main characters through all kinds of great action, but if you don’t get the audience to care, they won’t be as emotionally impacted by the cliffhangers of the story… or the potential loss of a main character.
“Skyfall”gives me character development… some characters are fleshed out so quickly, that it feels like we’ve known them for more than just a few scenes, and the ones that we’ve known for several movies get all new depth and reach new levels of emotional connectivity with the audience. This is all thanks to a plot device that works almost everytime – put your main characters in peril… when they face adversity and come out the other side we have more respect and understanding for them (even if they lose a hand, lose friends, almost die, or face the power of the Ark).
THE BOTTOM LINE: (more…)