Skyfall

Skyfall ★★★★½

Geoff T's James Bond-a-Thon #23
Skyfall (2012)

Coming up to the franchise's 50th anniversary, Skyfall feels like the most ambitious entry in the series in a while, with American Beauty director Sam Mendes attached and a storyline that feels more human and personal than before, upping the stakes in regards to it's explosive set-pieces and narrative. This was the first Bond film I saw on the big-screen, which still for me remains an engrossing experience.

In Skyfall, MI6 is in deeper shit than ever. Bond is thought to have been killed in Istanbul regarding his failure to retrieve a hard drive (containing the identities of agents around the world), but subsequently comes out of faking his death once agent's names begin to leak and MI6 is attacked. M sends Bond around the East (from Shanghai to Macau) to find clues to the culprit responsible, while questions regarding his past and M's outdated methods in the world of espionage begin to arise.

This of course brings us to Raoul Silva, played by a highly charismatic Javier Bardem. He's a disgruntled ex-MI6 operative who is using his past skills to extract revenge on M and MI6, for what he considered an unforgivable betrayal. He is cunning, deceitful, and often poetic with his choice of words (his monologue regarding island rats is genius). In short, he easily has to be one of the most memorable Bond villains in recent times.

This also marks the great Judi Dench's last appearance as M, and what a send-off it is. Her role in the film feels more prominent than ever before, as she and Bond share a chemistry that almost feels like a protective mother-son relationship. Bond's past is also explored more, from the circumstances of his parent's death, to hiding out at his childhodo home ('Skyfall') in the Scottish Highlands (in which his elderly guardian Kincade still resides and acts as useful defense when shit hits the fan).

Some old characters who were absent in the previous two Craig entries are back as well. Moneypenny ('Eve') reappears as played by Naomie Harris, acting as an MI6 field agent rather than a desk secretary. Q is also back (finally), this time a far younger rendition of the character as played by Ben Whishaw, who actually fits in quite nicely into the role. Also included are a few nods to previous Bond entries, including the return of the iconic Aston Martin DB5.

Even if he goes for too much of a "arthouse" look, Mendes proves himself more than capable here. It's easy to say that Skyfall has some of the best cinematography in the series. Everything from the neon-drenched skylines of Shanghai to the vast Scottish countryside look absolutely superb. Also gone is the hideously frenetic direction from Quantum, with action scenes that are far easier to follow, from the opening train sequence in Istanbul to the final siege on Skyfall.

As far as the music is concerned, Thomas Newman replaces David Arnold here has the composer, and while the overall difference style doesn't seem all that apparent, it definitely comes off as a more ambient and 'Zimmerian' score than the usual. On top of that, Adele delivers a theme that is much more resemblant of the classic Bassey-esque Bond songs, while although I prefer the much more upbeat style, it fits the tone nicely.

As far as this being Craig's best outing as Bond, I would say so, though I'd also say that I like Casino Royale almost as much for different reasons. Either way, Skyfall makes a fine addition to the Bond canon that while I feel isn't quite as superb as many people make it out to be, still hits plenty of notes to make for a satisfying (yet different) Bond adventure.

9/10

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