Skyfall: The Dark Knight of Bond Films.

Skyfall
Director:
Sam Mendes.
Writers: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan.
Cast: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Dame Judi Dench, Naomie Harris, Berenice Marlohe, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney, Ben Whishaw.

Everyone's favorite debonair not-so-secret agent, James Bond, is back this week for his 23rd espionage-filled adventure — complete with fights atop of trains, chases in trains and trains being used as weapons.

Oh, and of course there's lots of falling from the sky, too. It is called Skyfall, after all.

But, just as that title has a symbolic meaning within the film, it also symbolizes that this ain't your daddy's Bond flick. As we first saw with Daniel Craig's portrayal of 007 in Martin Campbell's Casino Royale, Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes' (American Beauty, Road to Perdition) take on the now 50-year-old franchise is that of a tortured, flawed hero with a chip on his shoulder and a bullet in it to boot.

Here, Mendes and the film's trio of 007 screenwriting vets (Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Johh Logan) allow us peer into the psyche of that secret agent man in the well-tailored suit while also affording us the chance to see all those secret agenty things he does while wearing said suit.

Think about it this way: Christopher Nolan is to Batman as Sam Mendes is to Bond.

That's an interesting parallel, too, when you consider the campy, ridiculous places this franchised reached when Pierce Brosnan wore the suit. And, really, to say that this is The Dark Knight of Bond films is a fair comparison, too.

Mendes brings a weight and tone in his calculated, hair-triggered direction. With the aide of Roger Deakins' gorgeous cinematography (the flame-filled silhouette-lit finale alone is worth an Oscar nod), he very much takes this franchise in directions never before seen in it five decades on the silver screen.

But just as Nolan's Knight had the help of Heath Ledger's unforgettable, villainous performance, Skyfall has a Joker all its own in Javier Bardem's vengeful, bleached-blonde, disavowed 00 agent-turned-cyberterrorist with a taste for the theatrical . If Bardem's Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men was the silent stalker, his Raoul Silva in Skyfall is that character's doppelganger. His hair is just as odd and his mind is just as diabolical — it's just that he's completely on the opposite end of the baddie gamut as flair is concerned.

More important: He is the ying to 007's yang. Bond is the introvert who shoots first and doesn't like to answer any questions later. Silva completes him as the extroverted baddie who wears his heart on his sleeve and who is driven by (and is very vocal about) his major mommy issues with a capital M (Judi Dench). And, yet, here he stands as the quintessential Bond villain — right up there with Dr. No and Ernst Stavro Blofeld — with just the right amount of odd quirks (and facial scars) that make a Bond villain memorable. Don't be surprised if, while you're hearing Skyfall's name mentioned in a few categories around awards season, Bardem's scene-stealing performance gets a nod or two. Yes, he's just that good at being bad.

But have no fear: This film's not all dark and brooding like its hero. The film is gun barrels of fun and maintains a fine balance between these two ideals. Unlike 2006's Royale reboot and 2008's oft-forgot Quantum of Solace, Skyfall very much acknowledges Bond's rich history as a beloved franchise with a few fan-pleasing wink-wink nudge-nudge moments that are sure to get the crowds all shaken and stirred.

Over the years, 007 has been many things — everything from classic to campy, yet always cool. He's been collected into 23 very different films, played by seven different actors and guided by 14 different directors. But what Craig,Mendes and Skyfall do here for the character and the series is create what is arguably the best Bond yet.

Rating: 8 out of 10 martinis.

Also out this week…

Lincoln
Director:
Steven Spielberg
Writers: Tony Kushner, Doris Kearns Goodwin.
Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Hal Holbrook, Tommy Lee Jones.
Synopsis: Here, Steven Spielberg brings us his historical drama about the life and struggles of the 16th POTUS (as portrayed by Daniel Day-Lewis) as he battles to emancipate slavery while as our country is at war with itself. Day-Lewis' performance looks amazing, and with the triple-threat of DD-L, Spielberg and history, it will likely win every award possible (probably even the title at World Beard and Moustache Championships). But where are all the vampires? Seriously.

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