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A more intense Bond film than the usual, Sam Mendes-directed Skyfall thankfully packs in no Mattel-worthy gadgets like the ones of old. Instead, it actually concentrates on themes other than 'cool'. A beautifully shot action film with a little less action than one would have liked, Skyfall is nevertheless great fun.
Easily the most ubiquitous franchise in all of pop culture, a James Bond film is always an event. The franchise tilted ever-so-slightly towards the cerebral with the underwhelming Quantum of Solace. Continuing in that vein but dialing up the entertainment value by more than a notch, Skyfall, directed by the acclaimed Sam Mendes, infuses a sense of grounding and reality into the escapades of The Spy Who We Love.
Skyfall isn't your usual James Bond film. The gadgetry, the Bond girls and the wise-crackery have all been toned down in favour of delivering a more emotional, personal film. This film also gives 007's boss M the longest screentime that she's ever had, which isn't a bad thing. That isn't to say that the film is particularly well-written. While the film is intriguing for the most, the writing in the last hour or so is surprisingly amateurish and tardy. Also, the film seemed to be at least two action-set pieces short. In spite of this, the film still works primarily because of Daniel Craig, director Sam Mendes, a delightfully evil villain in Silva, played by Javier Bardem and, most of all, the work of cinematographer Roger Deakins.
The film dives straight into action, with 007 hot on the heels of a man who has stolen a top-secret 'list', one that is clearly headed into the wrong hands. One thrilling action set-piece later, Bond is presumed dead after M takes a call that leads to him being shot. However, the loss of her best agent turns out to be the least of M's worries, because a new threat is lurking in the shadows.
Dressed in suits that fit him like his second skin, Daniel Craig's posture, his piercing, blue eyes and his rugged salt-and-pepper stubble make him the most intriguing Bond yet. There always seems to be so much unsaid when he is on the screen that it makes you root for the super-spy even more. Director Sam Mendes handles the action scenes well, the climactic sequence in particular. Though the writing is the weakest part of the film, Mendes manages to keep things continuously interesting.
Javier Bardem as Silva is superb. His understated, unapologetic malice works so well because it makes him an unpredictable villain, right till the very end. Few Bond villains have been as intriguing and striking as him. Judi Dench returns as M and does a great job as always. Her no-nonsense, deadpan demeanour are a very integral part of this film, as are those almost deliberate wrinkles that add so much character to her presence.
But Skyfall, in my opinion, belongs to the legendary Roger Deakins. His gorgeous frames and lighting, and his generous use of silhouettes and lens flares make Skyfall the most visually pleasing Bond film in memory. And it helps that few Bonds have ever looked as good in silhouette as Daniel Craig does. As mentioned earlier, the film could have done with a little more action. However, the action scenes that are there in the film, are superbly executed. Action works best when the VFX is camouflaged well, and in this film it almost always is.
For those who are expecting a certain kind of Bond film, the kind where James Bond seems almost like a character out of an espionage-based comic book, Skyfall may be a bit of a letdown. I also got the feeling that a few members of the audience seemed to find the film a little too dialogue-heavy. However, there is much to appreciate in Skyfall, particularly for fans of the character and the genre. Skyfall, most certainly, raises expectations for the next one.
This review is by guest reviewer Pradeep Menon. Pradeep is a filmmaker and a dreamer. He loves books, rain, winters, tea and his parents. Cinema, however, is the only truth he believes in. He breathes and bleeds film, mostly in hues of saffron, white, green and blue. You can watch his short films at www.youtube.com/cyberpradeep.
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