Big Screen Ballyhoo – “Skyfall”

Disclaimer: I have only ever seen one other Bond film the entire way through. It was “Die Another Day” with Pierce Brosnan and Halle Berry. It was… goofy, to say the least. I enjoyed it the same way I enjoy movies like “The Core” or “The Day After Tomorrow.” It’s simply goofy, ridiculous, over-the-top disaster and destruction.

“Skyfall” was absolutely nothing like that. This was a solid, good film. It was loads of fun that was never over the top or intensely goofy. And it had a really good intro song, I think., sung by Adele.

The movie starts with James Bond (Daniel Craig), the most famous spy, code 007, of the U.K.’s spy/intelligence organization MI6, in the middle of a mission. And it’s going badly. In the standard chase-the-bad-guy scene, like the one seen at the opening of “Casino Royale,” Bond runs and rides and jumps across rooftops and through windows and does his best to stop down the bad guy, who has stolen an important computer hard drive. Ultimately, his partner in the field, Eve (Naomie Harris), is ordered by M (Judy Dench) to take the shot while Bond fights the man on top of a train. She misses and hits Bond, who careens into the water and is presumed dead.

Bond is of course not dead, but he’s certainly willing to take advantage of his forced retirement. Meanwhile, as the bad guy escaped, MI6 is seeing the fallout of the loss of the list of their agents in terrorist cells across the world. M is being forced into retirement in the next two months, with Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) helping oversee the transition period and assisting MI6 during their troubles with this unknown terrorist. The terrorist eventually makes his game personal, using M’s own computer to decode the list and set off an explosion in the MI6 building that sets the game in motion, sends MI6 into hiding and brings Bond out of retirement.

What makes this movie interesting to me is the redemption and revival stories for both Bond and M, two old school old dogs that have to fight their way back to the top, fighting against a hyper-intelligent former agent that tests the very core of their basest beliefs. That villain, Silva (Javier Bardem), puts the entire organization to the test, including the new Quartermaster, or Q (Ben Whishaw), a very young computer genius.

The movie drags Bond back to his origins, sending him to his childhood, as well as forcing him to try to redeem himself as an agent, finding severe physical challenges combined with emotional challenges, as Silva forces Bond to confront his relationship with M, as well as the people he’s trying to protect. There are some references to the classic Bond that even I can catch, such as the old Aston Martin and references to exploding pens. The movie is clearly both a look back to the past 50 years of Bond combined with a strong look forward to where he will continue his journey and how.

The movie managed to mix cleverness and wit with some wonderful action sequences and absolutely gorgeous shooting. Director Sam Mendes is well known for having a good handle on the look of things, making simple look gorgeous, but people were worried about how he might handle an action film, particularly of Bond’s level of expectation. Frankly, I think he did an amazing job. The color and lighting throughout the entire movie creates perfect moods, especially once they make it out to the final fighting grounds. There’s one fight in particular done in the dark, so that all you see is Bond and the bad guy’s outlines in front of bright, colorful, moving displays of advertisements on the building, and it’s beautiful.

The final battle quite made me think of an adult “Home Alone,” though with less slapstick and more awesome tricks. And the ending of the movie… well, I had guessed it was coming for some time, but even if it was perhaps “obvious,” it wasn’t clumsy, leaving obvious hints all over the place. It was well done. And Bardem’s Silva will likely be one of the first Bond characters, villain or otherwise, that has a conversation about a potential Oscar award being tossed his way. Even if you’re not a fan of Bond, I think that you’ll like this film for its solid acting, fantastic story, beautiful shooting and just plain awesome action sequences.

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