Skyfall ★★★★★

Skyfall opens with a dapper James Bond stealthily coming out of the darkness into the light. As soon as you are able to see his face, the modern yet familiar Bond theme hits a loud high point and your heart skips a beat. A little while later, he makes a daring leap into the exposed backside of a train and in one of the sexiest moments of the year, straightens his sleeve like it's no big deal. Skyfall sets your expectations sky high and miraculously maintains the excitement and tension established so early on.

Where Skyfall fits into the overall history of Bond films isn't something I can form an opinion on due to the fact that I've only seen about 5 of the 23, but I won't hesitate to proclaim this as my personal favorite Bond film to date. All technical aspects including art direction, acting, costumes, scoring, cinematography, and choreography hover somewhere between genius and inspired. The story is thoroughly engaging and wonderfully paced. There wasn't a single second that I wasn't entertained or enthralled and after it was over I immediately wanted to watch it all again.

It's hard to imagine that there's ever been a James Bond before Daniel Craig threw his magic all over the character. In anyone's hands but Craig, the small weaknesses that make the Bond character more human would be seen as cheap attempts at sympathy and melodrama. I find that the darkness he brings to the character (and in turn, the franchise) fits in with Bond's reputation as a ruthless, sexy, brutal, and talented killer. Never has Bond been more intriguing and enigmatic, and I want MORE.

The villain is always the part of a Bond film that seems to undergo the most scrutiny. Javier Bardem has proven that No Country For Old Men wasn't a fluke and that he can create impressive and memorable villain characters out of thin air. He didn't have to be blond or slightly effeminate, but these flamboyant additions to his terrifying and kooky character were inspired choices and he proved to be an excellent counter to both the Bond and M characters. His introduction was absolutely hysterical. I haven't laughed so hard all year! Bardem rocked my world and I NEED to see him in more villain roles.

I'm a sucker for a well-executed set piece, and my god did I get my fill here! Mendes and company go above and beyond in terms of getting our hearts racing and giving us something spectacular to look at. The most important aspect of an action film is being able to understand the action without everything having to be spelled out for you and without getting motion sickness. That happens in this film like 10 times over. It's really incredible what they were able to accomplish and how they were able to bring a consistently high quality production value throughout. There were parts of Quantum of Solace that felt rushed and half-assed. All of that went away under Sam Mendes' capable direction.

And now I arrive to the real reason why this film is my favorite of 2012: Roger Deakins. In short, the man is a fucking genius. If you don't agree, skip to the end of this review and never speak to me again. My favorite work by him is still the train robbery scene in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford with the silhouette of Brad Pitt against the lights of the oncoming train. The best compliment I can pay to this film is that some of the cinematography here comes close to the virtuosity he displayed there . The shots he chose, the locations he helped choose, the lighting, the colors, the framing….my heart is pounding just thinking about how it all looked! The stunningly beautiful fight scene in Bangkok is the scene I'll probably play on repeat when I buy this on blu-ray. The night photography with the fire at the end is also way more beautiful than it needed to be for a blockbuster action film. The breathtaking shots of cityscapes and Bond's coat blowing in the wind… I mean seriously. Overkill in the best possible way! What on earth were they thinking? And why don't all big budget action filmmakers think along similar lines and put some artistic flair into the look of their films? Roger Deakins can do no wrong. The main reason why the Academy Awards are a joke is because this man hasn't won an award yet. All I'm saying is, get the man a fucking Oscar already! Okay, I'm done.

I found Skyfall to have more in common with Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight than any other Bond film I've seen. That's a high compliment in my book. This is a sleek, modern, exciting action film filled with flawed and interesting characters and a terrifyingly unhinged villain. The stakes are appropriately high and all the nods to the Bond of days past were perfect for a 50th Anniversary celebration of such a beloved franchise.

So yeah, after all of this rambling and Roger Deakins worship, I just wanted to say I love you, Skyfall. I really really love you.

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