SKYFALL
Author: JoAnne Hyde
November 8, 2012

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SYNOPSIS: Bond's loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.

Sam Mendes, director of Skyfall, has said that he was heavily influenced by Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Trilogy” in establishing the tone of the film. That is quite apparent in this darker and more personal James Bond thriller.

Skyfall is not based on an Ian Fleming novel or short story, nor is its plot related to Casino Royale or Quantum of Solace. For me, that’s a plus because I enjoyed this film much more than the previous two. This is Daniel Craig’s third venture as James Bond, and he more than does the character justice. In my opinion, only Sean Connery surpasses Craig in alpha-male, raw sexuality. We’ve had many Bonds – some smooth and sophisticated, some taciturn and stoic – but Daniel Craig’s Bond is a man who makes women want to shed their clothes and succumb to the urge to mate. Adding the fact that he does many of his own stunts, including the opening fight sequence atop a speeding train, only makes him more desirable.

If you’ve seen the trailer, you know that Bond is shot and appears to die in the opening action sequence. Of course, there’d be no film if that were true, and although how he survived is not detailed, he does emerge when England needs him. He’s wounded and weaker, but nevertheless ready to resume the search for the computer file containing the names of all MI6 agents, stolen in the opening scene. His personal struggle to get his game back adds layers to the character and reveals more about his past and his relationship with M (Judi Dench), the only person whose authority he seems to respect. Bond has always been a bit of an amoral, lone-wolf type, doing whatever needs to be done to save the world from a variety of madmen, but he acquiesces to M.

Speaking of madmen, Javier Bardem’s Silva may be the best one yet. He’s a smooth-faced, sexually ambiguous, blonde psychopath who seems to have trouble deciding whether he wants to kill Bond or seduce him. Silva isn’t interested in taking over the world because he believes that he’s already done that by hacking every important computer system in the world. Like all Bond villains, he likes to explain to Bond why he’s invincible. In this case it’s all about currency and stock market manipulation and “regime change” in whatever vulnerable country he wishes. No, Silva’s agenda is highly personal. He wants to kill M for “what she did to him”. The audience, of course, learns what that was as the plot progresses. Rather than living in opulence, as most Bond villains do, Silva lives among ruins on a deserted island. He’s a minimalist of sorts. Silva is the hacker responsible for attaining MI6’s files and revealing slowly who its embedded agents are so that they’re killed off one by one. The blame falls on M. Of course, a master hacker requires an up-to-the-minute, tech saavy Q , well-acted by Ben Whishaw.

The review continues after the jump!

As the film begins, M is informed by a new superior, Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), that she’s going to be “retired” over the ensuing two months, and Mallory will be taking her place. She does not take the news well and vows to finish what she started. Therefore, she clears Bond for active duty even though he failed all medical and psychological readiness tests. She sends Bond to Shanghai to “terminate” the assassin who stole the files and retrieve them. It’s in the course of this assignment that Bond learns of Silva’s identity and true intent and becomes determined to stop him. The chase eventually ends up at Skyfall, Bond’s childhood home in Scotland. Albert Finney does a fine job portraying Kincade, the estate’s gamekeeper of many years.

From the impressive opening montage, set to the haunting strains of Adele’s Skyfall theme song, to the breathtaking stunts, the film pleases and surprises. For example, Bond finds himself in a pit inhabited by Komodo dragons with one of the many men who want to kill him, and later, in a stunning sequence filmed at Pinewood Studios using full-size models of subway trains, Bond has to somehow avoid being crushed by the subterranean crash set up by Silva. In addition to the opening train sequence, there are chases. Female agent Eve (Naomie Harris) follows alongside the train in a dizzying attempt to keep up and insure that the files are recovered. As you know, that doesn’t happen, so a future chase scene on motorcycles through a crowded bazaar provides some heart-stopping moments while demonstrating Bond’s ability to do anything! The other beautiful woman who falls for Bond is Severine, played by Berenice Marlohe. Even with the presence of these two attractive women, along with a love scene featuring an un-named lover played by Tonia Sotiropoulou, there is much more sexual innuendo than actual sex. In fact, sex takes a backseat to the personal inner struggles of the main characters.

Skyfall is quite a ride. So, whether you’ve seen every Bond film made or this is your first one, sit back – when you’re not on the edge of your seat – and enjoy it! - JAH

GRADE: A

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