Postscript: Skyfall (2012)

Skyfall (Sam Mendes, 2012) continues the search for more depth in the James Bond franchise, adding yet another layer to the iconic character. ‘Back in time’ is the film’s narrative logic as it links the story about a former MI6 agent turned cyber supervillain into an intimate exploration of childhood trauma. The core of the film is Bond’s relationship with M (the inimitable Dame Judi Dench, in her last outing). Craig gives his best performance as he bravely exposes Bond’s physical and emotional vulnerability in his battle with Silva, played with maniacal farce by Javier Bardem. While Skyfall never quite reaches the high points of Casino Royale, it still ranks as one of the best Bond films in the history of the franchise.

It certainly is the best looking James Bond film due to the awe-inspiring cinematography of veteran Roger Deakins. Every single frame looks like a painting in its own right. Deeply saturated colors, combined with expressive framings and high-contrast lighting, set a tangible mood of urgency and tension that drives the narrative forward. The editing all the while is crisp and seamless, creating an immersive experience for the audience that is cemented by impressive performances and set pieces.

The film also serves as the starting point for the series’ return to the traditional formula. Skyfall organically works in a new Q (a brilliant Ben Wishaw), Moneypenny (played brilliantly by Naomi Harris), and M (Ralph Fiennes as a worthy successor of Dame Judi Dench). It has taken the series three films to fully reboot, adding new depth, complexity, and irony to the known conventions.

Skyfall is filled with memorable scenes, some of which seem reminiscent of other films, especially the third act’s take on The Dark Knight narrative (Christopher Nolan, 2008). The ending bears resemblance to what is sometimes referred to as a ‘Kammerspiel,’ a suspenseful sequence taking place in a narrow location – some critics have even likened it to a more aggressive version of Home Alone (Chris Columbis, 1990). As a result, the film does not fully convey the emotional stakes at play, but it still succeeds in evoking melancholy.

The film’s best scene is its most beautifully staged fight in a skyscraper in Shanghai. Bond engages in hand-to-hand combat with assassin Patrice. The camera slowly tracks in on their silhouettes, capturing the reflections of their movements in the silver glass of the building. It is an explosion of stylistic beauty and physical violence, artistically meshed together. It is both an expressionistic painting, modeling as state-of-the-art stuntwork.

Skyfall is one of the high points of the series. It gives more complexity and humanity as it strips the character to his bare emotions. It is a testament to the franchise’s new logic, using blockbuster mainstream action to construct intimate character stories, with a touch of avant-garde style.

This blog will return with … Spectre.

 

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