On Skyfall


Bond: Everyone needs a hobby...
Silva: So what’s yours?
Bond: Resurrection.

Skyfall poster
If Albert Broccoli himself had wanted to make a fine Bond movie for the 50 year anniversary of the beloved franchise, he could not have found a better choice than Skyfall, the 23rd Bond film in the longest running superhero franchise in cinematic history. He may wear Savile Row suits in lieu of tights and spandex, but Commander James Andrew Bond is every bit a superhuman spy.
Skyfall is a virtual reboot of the Bond juggernaut to the world of the 21st century. Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace introduced us a grittier, meaner version of Bond than his flamboyant predecessors; but QoS in particular, did not quite hit the mark. The main issue with Quantum of Solace was its radical departure from the formulaic narrative of Bond movies, and a very (for all of its realism) unbelievable payoff for the equally uncharacteristic villain. Skyfall, on the other hand, throws all preconceived notions and formulae out to sea, and then gleefully parades the brooding, aging superspy finally accepting that his world is certainly not enough for the viewers of today; and the movie should be taken as a transition from the old guard to the new (in this case, literally). It is not surprising that Daniel Craig has signed on for the next two films, keeping this transition in mind.
On the subject of the old guard, Skyfall serves as the perfect swan song for Dame Judi Dench, who plays ‘M’ – Bond’s authoritative boss and possibly, surrogate mother-figure, in the last days of her reign at MI-6. ‘M’ plays a more central role in this movie - her past decisions come back to haunt her and Bond. This does lead the movie into previously uncharted territory of “sentimentality” (Yes Virginia, James Bond does have tear glands), although the emotions do not feel forced. In fact, after 50 years of watching him serve the Empire as a ruthless killing machine, the least we can do is allow James a period of mourning for a loss that is as personal to him, as it is to us.
Skyfall also introduces a new Bond - a relic of an antiquated era who was never in doubt about “us” and “them”. Times have changed – the enemy no longer has a face, and Bond’s hand-to-hand combat skills can serve no purpose against a computer virus that can cause havoc from halfway across the globe. Back from a near-death experience, Bond finds his place in the world uprooted, literally. A stranger in an even stranger land, he struggles to come to terms with his failure to adapt. He is no different from M, who is also struggling to explain her old-fashioned crusade against the “shadows” in a new world where a YouTube video could affect the balance of power in the world of espionage. For the first time, we see James shaken by self-doubt, and then stirred into killing because that is the only trade he ever learned. For Bond to be superhuman again, he needs to rediscover his humanity, his roots, the place-where-he-was-born – and it seems only logical that the journey for the new Bond should begin in the dark caverns where the old one emerged from, two days (and nights) after his parents’ died.
With this view in mind, it is also appropriate that Bond should fight a product of the same decrepit system that produced him. Javier Bardem’s Raoul Silva is a once-favorite-now-rogue British agent who is out to punish M for giving him up to the Chinese. Although this card has been played before - Sean Bean’s 006 in Goldeneye comes to mind – Silva’s vendetta is more personal as he targets not the Empire, but its invisible instrument – M. Unlike other Bond villains, Silva is not out to get the world; he is only interested in getting even. Bardem delivers a suitably creepy performance as Raoul Silva.
On the technical side, the movie is virtually flawless in the execution of latest technological goodies. It is the first Bond movie to be shot entirely in digital format, and the framing in the able hands of Sam Mendes and photographer Roger Deakins is exquisite! The entire movie seems to be set as stage pieces, with long takes and center-framing (especially the action shots). This could have been a necessary step for aspect-compensation for the IMAX transfer. The movie looks gorgeous in IMAX, and having seen it in both the formats, the theatrical format (widescreen) now seems a tad bit bloated at the waist (Hoping that MGM will release the movie in both formats on discs). The soundtrack is appropriate and the title song (sung by Adele) is addictive.
Skyfall also introduces a new team for the next installments -- a new M (Ralph Fiennes), Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw). The supporting cast turns in an able performance as expected, and it would be interesting to see how the team dynamics develops in future movies. 
Skyfall could be one of the finest in the series yet. Well, at least until the next one …
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