One’s life has films as a tool to reminisce the traditions and nostalgia by shining light on to the screen scattering those pieces of memories. James Bond has been the fascination world wide and the pieces for me as a kid witnessing this secret agent who has the license to kill appeared to do absolutely nothing but use the gadgets he has been provided and enjoying while doing it by seducing the most beautiful women effortlessly has merely become a trend than admiration. As much as I was entertained watching this iconic agent use the smartest of tools at the most appropriate time, there has never been a sense of grit and value to this franchise as a representation as an art or even simply as a good film. I was too young to remember Sean Connery and too given up by the time Pierce Brosnan dazzled mildly in “The Golden Eye”. The Bond I saw was Roger Moore who was more as a sneaky agent than a man that needs character definition. The films that was made with him were a procedure that had few precise goals for the audience - entertain and fantasize. There has been no doubt that those films of his had an impact in the way I watch films but the migration from a fantasy to a well made film never happened till “Casino Royale”. Daniel Craig might be the best Bond I have seen and it was evident in it despite a lackluster presentation in “Quantum of Solace”. Now here comes “Skyfall” directed by one of my favourite director Sam Mendes that is unlike any of the Bond films and treats like a story than a rundown ritual.
“Skyfall” would be described by many of the critics as yours truly included as refreshing. Not in the way Daniel Craig presents himself nor in the way the action scenes are shot. It is the story that for once treats the agency and the head M (Judi Dench) as an entity making tough calls that resulted in burning the agents that sworn to protect the country. Many films has the tag line and a deep voice in trailer saying “this time it is personal” while “Skyfall” might be the first film to live by it and deliver it with such a conviction.
As the opening scene unravel the traditional action sequence that results in Bond getting shot, “Skyfall” assumes that audience are not dumb while simultaneously feeds their fantasy world of expectation in fast paced action sequences and quick movements in to the plot smoothly but not sneakily. M’s MI6 gets cyber attacked by the mystery man whose sole purpose is to disintegrate and challenge the leadership of her. Bond comes back from the dead to protect her and in the end it becomes a stand off that is unseen in Bond films.
With spectacular cinematography by Roger Deakins, Mendes pens the story of “Skyfall” with a thrill that is familiar and fresh. It is marginally inventive, subtly funny and always right to the point of moving forward. Before you know it, you are in the middle of a finale that sometime feels like to have more to it only to be ended in the right way it could possibly have been. It rarely has a gadget and the raw combat skill that made “Casino Royale” such an invigorating experience is back with some thematic and poetic shot by Sam Mendes along with Roger Deakins.
The elements of standard Bond presentations are all used. Ridiculously overblown stunt scenes only that in Mendes’ hands it becomes almost logical, breathtaking travel to far away lands and populated city of Shanghai only that it becomes a fight in the shadows and silhouettes Deakins’ cinematography that gets used in tense films that takes itself seriously. And then there is Javier Bardem as the rightful opponent for James Bond walks a fine line of not mimicking Heath Ledger and not becoming a complete joke. He is funny in a sense that we are equally disturbed and empathize with him. We understand his motivation for revenge and when he finally gets an opportunity to put down M, his action tells so much about the relation between them that we begin to sympathize. We are also worried what would become of our man who appear to follow similar path as Bardem’s Silva. Ralph Fiennes and Naomie Harries provide the kind of support that are exposed and explained just enough for them to reappear to have more in future.
If “Casino Royale” provided the right opening for Daniel Craig establishing himself as the perfect choice for Bond, “Skyfall” has established a ground for something beyond the franchise has done for the past 50 years. It is mildly beginning to humanize this man and in the process pays homage to those tradition of fantasy and fascination that made this franchise something beyond a regular spy. The next movie is going to be very critical in picking up what “Skyfall” has left off. It either can go back to the old traditions or pick those up and invent something new for itself. Until then though, let us relish “Skyfall”.