MOVIE OF THE MONTH – NOVEMBER 2012
(Poster by Jack Woodhams)
The 23rd Bond film opens with a heart-stopping 12-minute-long chase sequence where Bond tries to recover a hard drive that MI6 cannot afford to lose. Aided by Eve (Naomie Harris), Bond chases the hired gun through the crowded bazaar streets of Istanbul, then the rooftops, and climaxed on top of a train at Varda Bridge in southern Turkey. If this opening doesn’t make your jaw drop or put an excited grin on your face, I don’t know what does.
After the opening chase scene, the credits start—a gorgeous title sequence designed by British television commercial and music video director Daniel Kleinman who has been responsible for all Bond film opening titles since 1995, except for 2008’s Quantum of Solace. And it is of course accompanied by the theme song that has created much hype for weeks, Adele’s Skyfall. After it ends, you know the film is going to be one great ride.
At 43, Daniel Craig once said that he feels he’s getting too old to cope with the physical demands of the part, but this suits the character so well this particular time. In Skyfall, Bond is at his low point, portrayed as a tired agent who has lost his edge and seemingly dwindling into oblivion. Yes, James Bond always survives and always comes back, but this time we are reminded of his mortality. And having a smart villain who’s always a step ahead of him doesn’t help either. Javier Bardem plays Silva, Bond’s latest nemesis, an ex-MI6 agent who has his own secret agenda and will do anything to see it done. This is not the first time Bardem plays a chilling antagonist with a questionable hairstyle, one cannot help be reminded of his brilliance in the Coen brothers’ Oscar-winning No Country for Old Men. Bleached blonde, Bardem has an undeniable presence on screen and enters the frame about an hour into the film, and what an entrance it is. Dressed impeccably in a bright-colored suit, Silva’s campy act with hints of homosexuality makes him an incredibly interesting and captivating adversary. Later we come to know of his fascinating obsession with M and the character becomes even more engrossing, he never fails to capture your attention each second he’s on screen. His manner, his way of talking, his maniacal grin, all so eccentric but never cartoonish, leave it to Bardem to make an unforgettable villain.
Skyfall offers the cars and the gadgets, and although the latter is not particularly extravagant in this installment, the man behind it is delightfully re-introduced in the form of a young, geeky and bed-headed Ben Whishaw. His character Q (Quartermaster), is the man behind Bond’s apparatus who has been absent in the previous two Bond films. Meeting Bond for the first time in the National Gallery in London, their amusing dialogue is one of the most entertaining scenes in the film.
Other than the cars and the gadgets, Bond is as always, surrounded by dames. However, none of them is given much part and compared to previous Bond films, the amount of steamy scenes (although one of them does occur in a steamy bathroom) are rather minimal. They feel very much like decorators, including the ravishing Bérénice Lim Marlohe, a French actress who did TV roles before landing the big gig in Skyfall. We can all agree that this time, the main female in Bond’s life is none other than M. Judi Dench has been playing the part for 17 years and the filmmakers utilized her fully this time, letting her truly shine.
Like Oprah, James Bond’s 50thanniversary seems to be incredibly star-studded. Other than Bardem and Whishaw, there’s also Ralph Fiennes, who plays Gareth Mallory, the Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee. What the ending reveals about him will surely make you giddy for the next Bond film. Another addition is Albert Finney, introduced at the final act of the film as Kincaid, the Bond family’s groundkeeper.
With Roger Deakins (a frequent collaborator of the Coens) as the cinematographer, one of the best things about Skyfall is its gorgeous look. The way it showcases Shanghai’s avant-garde feel in nighttime with brightly lit high-rise buildings is just stunning. Apart from Shanghai, the film is also shot in the aforementioned Istanbul, Macau, London, and ends in Glencoe, Scotland, with its beautiful views and bucolic charms. Speaking of Turkey, not only has it been establishing itself as a prime tourism destination for the last few years, it’s also been featured in movies frequently. In case you’ve forgotten, a few weeks before we have just seen Istanbul in Taken 2.
Another gorgeous aspect is undoubtedly James Bond’s tailor-made Tom Ford suits. Costume designer Jany Temime works with Tom Ford to provide Bond some suits that are “indestructible. Whatever happens, he stands up, and the suit is perfect.” Temime keeps it classic yet with a 2012 touch, and Bond looks perfectly dapper from beginning to end. Like all spies should. Obviously.
With Sam Mendes helming as director, you know that this is not going to be a brainless action movie. After all, Mendes’ previous works include American Beauty and Revolutionary Road. He said that the movie is inspired by Christopher Nolan’s Batman series, especially The Dark Knight, which is an absolute game changer for probably every director. The screenplay is written by frequent Bond movie co-writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, and also John Logan, who wrote Gladiator and The Aviator, among others.
After the impressive Casino Royale, we are given the snoozefest Quantum of Solace, so it’s great that now Mendes succeeds in making a Bond film that has substance and puts the franchise back on track. Although the final act of the movie feels a little too Home Alone-ish, Skyfall is one damn great Bond movie. The director for the next Bond film is not yet determined but the release date will be in two years, and after what Skyfall delivers, I’m absolutely looking forward to it.