The Monocle – “Skyfall”

Directed by: Sam Mendes
Written by: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade & John Logan
Released: November 9th, 2012
Theatre watched at: Rave Cinemas, Los Angeles

50 years. 23 films. 6 actors. The James Bond series holds the record for the longest running film franchise in history and is the second highest grossing film franchise behind Harry Potter earning nearly $5 billion. That’s insane. Think about it. This franchise has been going for half a century under nearly the same formula of gadgets, guns, women, villains, and action, and has never shown any true signs of calling it quits. After having seen Skyfall, I’m happy to announce that with Daniel Craig, who is by far the best actor to portray 007-yes, I said it- and a new era of darker, grittier, and smarter Bond films, the franchise is destined to continue until it holds a belt in both classes.

Like many other critics have stated, this truly is Bond like you’ve never seen him before and ranks as one of the best; Skyfall not only hits all the right notes you expect in a Bond film, but it manages to outshine all its predecessors in acting, visuals, depth and intellect bringing you Bond’s most beautiful and personal mission yet. Unlike 2008’s so-so Quantum of SolaceSkyfall is not a direct sequel and therefore has a completely new story of its own. While on a mission in Turkey to retrieve a stolen MI6 hard drive containing all the known undercover NATO agents embedded in terrorist organizations around the world, Bond is shot in the shoulder and is presumed dead. A few months later, M is under great fire from the government over losing the hard drive while at the same time a suspicious grand explosion hits MI6 headquarters leaving it in rubble. After hearing of this “accident,” the unofficially retired Bond heads back home to put a stop to the person behind the entire mess. His chase leads him to a blonde-haired man named Raoul Silva whose motive is to kill M for what she had done to him in the past. With Silva outsmarting Bond at every turn and getting closer to M, Bond must resort to unorthodox tactics to bring Silva down and save the boss who has been watching over him since his younger years.

The look and feel of the film has completely toned down from previous installments. Unlike the flashy, high-octane, and sometimes borderline ridiculous nature of what has come to define our expectations of a Bond adventure, Skyfall is made with such a somber sophistication and artistry that it actually plays like how a true secret agent film should, with real stakes and palpable emotion. We really get into Bond as a human rather than just his character, and it is largely due to the well thought out screenplay that courageously delves deeper into Bond’s personal life and backstory; a breath of fresh air that has been long awaited for.

As previously stated, the look of the film has simmered down from the usual rich and grand set pieces, but that is not to say this Bond isn’t enthralling. In fact, it is due to the lack of beautifully exaggerated locations that Skyfall is the most visually arresting, artistically crafted and even poetically related film of the series. The cinematography quite literally takes a step back, choosing to stay wide with its frame and keeping even tender moments at a distance in order to keep us in a sort of observance state. One of the films most dazzling scenes occurs when Bond and the hard drive thief engage in hand-to-hand combat on the 40th or whatever floor of a tall office building that is strangely mazed with tall glass panes while being illuminated from the outside by the glow of neon lights. The camera starts wide as it slowly pushes in on their silhouetted bodies fighting in a ruffled abstract mess of black shapes until finally one of them manages to throw the other out the window, and only when the camera finally tracks through the glass do we realize it was Bond who came out the victor. The symbolism of “shadows” also plays a big, more poetic role in the film as it influences the darker (literally the lack of light in scenes) tone as well as a metaphor for the sort of background Bond comes from. From the orange glow of Turkey, to the dim, neon illuminated Shanghai, the earth toned and vast landscape of Scotland, the film goes through a variety of settings all photographed in the raw beauty of their realism.

On an abandoned and rubbled island city, one that reminds me of Limbo in Inception, is where we meet Bond’s villain-Raoul Silva played by Javier Bardem. Bardem delivers a chilling performance as the psychotically eccentric and oddly personable, Blonde-ald Trump-haired cyberterrorist. His introductory scene is absolutely mesmerizing as he monologues and walks over to Bond; the camera remaining static as he comes more and more into view. I don’t want to spoil the awesomeness of Silva, but he is easily one of the best and most believable Bond villains to ever hit the screen. M, played by the magnificent 007 veteran Judi Dench (her seventh film to date), finally has her time in the limelight having a much more prominent role in the film than she has ever had. Anytime she’s on screen I can feel her coldness permeate my skin, she’s excellent at being ruthless and yet still shows the hint of restrained heart. Her dialogue with Bond is so well delivered and crisp that I wish they had initiated this dynamic in all of the previous films.

Finally, there’s Daniel Craig as 007. Oh how I’ve waited for a Bond like you. I’m a 90’s kid, so I grew up with Brosnan; he had the charm but he just didn’t have the cool or the ferocity, not to mention he looked a bit too old to be believable. Craig, however, by some stroke of the heavens, not only looks like an amazing Bond, he brings the most grounded and real agent to date, even above Connery. Do what you want with me, I’m still going to say it until the next one can do better. Craig is a phenomenal actor, Bond is actually a man of very few words and Craig is able to really sell it in his eyes and the way he moves. The former Bonds all seem to have a sense of just how egotistical they are and try really hard to be cool, while Craig plays a Bond who simply understands what he’s an expert at and wears his awesomeness like the classy wrist watches he wears, the “Martin’s” he drives, or the Walther he keeps close to his chest. He isn’t just the James Bond of the generation, he is the James Bond of the movies.

Skyfall really caught me by surprise. Its dark turn, depth, and intelligence has shown us the possibilities of a new era of Bond films to come, much like the resurrection of the Batman films with Nolan. In fact, you can probably see the resemblance in tone and other narrative elements to The Dark Knight, which is not a bad thing. Whether you love or hate Craig, there’s no denying that this 23rd outing for Britain’s ultimate secret agent has reinvigorated the franchise in a whole new direction. It’s not above my all-time favorite Casino Royale (2006) but it is definitely up there as one of the best in the franchise.

Bow Tie Approved

Bow Tie Score - 4.5

  • jojodoho

    Can’t wait to see it this weekend!