Cast: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Naomie Harris, Berenice Marlohe, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Albert Finney
Music: Thomas Newman
Director: Sam Mendes
Running time: 143 minutes
Rating: * * * 1/2
Skyfall is the 23rd spy film in the iconic James Bond series. Produced by Eon Productions and distributed by MGM and Sony Pictures Entertainment, the movie repeats Daniel Craig as James Bond (his 3rd appearance as 007 after Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace), and Javier Bardem as Raoul Silva, the film's villain. The film is directed by Sam Mendes and written by John Logan, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.
Mendes was approached to direct the film after the release of Quantum of Solace in 2008. Production was suspended when MGM encountered financial troubles, and did not resume until December 2010; during this time, Mendes remained attached to the project as a consultant. The original screenwriter, Peter Morgan, left the project during the suspension.
When production resumed, Logan, Purvis and Wade continued writing what became the final version of the script, whilst incorporating Morgan's ideas. Filming began in November 2011, and primarily took place in the United Kingdom, China and Turkey.
In the movie, Bond emerges mysteriously even after his obituary has been written by MI6 head M (Judi Dench). Though Bond has been shown to be ageing and his reflexes are slowing, he is the first choice of M to uncover an attack on M by hitherto unknown villain, who later transpires to be a former MI6 operative, Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem). Raoul is sour with M for ditching him when he is working for MI6 but he is accused by M for not sticking to the brief.
After attacking the headquarters of MI6 in London, Raoul hacks the classified information from the internal security system of the secret service of Britain.
Bond travels to Shanghai and Macau to encounter a blonde Raoul who has his vengeful agenda against M. This maverick gets himself caught, thanks to Severine (Berenice Marlohe), to attend to his bigger and evil design of personal vendetta which spills out on the streets of London. This film just isn't about Bond. It is more about his relationship with M; it is about M and her journey over the years as the head of secret service.
The climax takes place in Bond's ancestral house at Scotland aptly named 'Skyfall'. Due to Raoul's superiority with technology and resources, Bond takes M to this place and coaxes Q to throw breadcrumbs so that Raoul follows them where they could be running an advantage. Raoul falls into the honeycomb trap of Bond.
The end happens with a new M emerging in Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) after Judi Dench play this role to perfection in 7 Bond films; and Naomie Harris as the new Eve Moneypenny.
Sam Mendes, the director of the latest James Bond film, is known to play with the mind of the audience with his films. He had done it in 'American Beauty' and 'The Revolutionary Road' and now he does it in 'Skyfall'.
In spite of having slick gadgets, the best secret agent on board, Mendes evolves a story which is heavily dependent on psychological mind games- where each character has an internal battle to fight.
Daniel Craig exudes raw sex appeal and his machismo makes Bond a delectable character. The film makes the most famous secret agent appear very real. He has his own set of insecurities; he fumbles with weapons after coming back to work after a sabbatical, fails physical tests and fights his own childhood demons. And Craig is just fits the bill perfectly.
The film also makes the villain, Javier Bardem, appear larger than life and 'bigger' than the hero. Just like Heath Ledger's Joker act surpassed Batman in 'The Dark Knight'; Mendes makes Silva a menacing hero in many of the frames. And what a superb evil hero Bardem makes!
With blonde hair and eyebrows, Bardem gives a brilliant performance as the crazy, lunatic, venomous Silva who makes you cringe and laugh at the same time. He is smooth and even makes Bond uncomfortable with his 'ways'.
The emphasis of the film shifts to basics, when Bond relies on knowledge and tradition in cornering Raoul. And this certainly would stand as the highpoint. A new Q emerges as impressive who relies more on computers rather than on gadgets and weaponry.
The talented actress Judi Dench gets a meaty role as M, and mouths poetry and reprimands Bond with equal elan. Berenice Marlohe enjoys a short but meaningful role as the Bond babe, which she plays to perfection. Her trembling fingers and speech conveys as to why she's been picked over so many other aspiring actors to play the Bond girl. Naomie Harris could have been given more meaningful role but whatever little role she was given, plays it convincingly.
The movie has been shot beautifully. The colourful sky shots of Shanghai, the busy subway in London to a morbid cold Scotland countryside - all are captured brilliantly by cinematographer Roger Deakins.
Sam Mendes apes Christopher Nolan in many of the scenes. Bond's dialogue "A storm is coming", while revisiting his past aptly conveys it. Many of the shots during the climax, Silvia's eccentricities remind you of Nolan's Batman series.
Though James Bond movies have achieved cult status through its larger than life persona of its hero and ahead of times gadgetry and sequences, which leaves the audience awe-stuck. However, Tom Cruise has emerged as the new trail-blazer in this field of extra-ordinary action through his Mission Impossible series and not without reason.
The franchise of 007 has been struggling off late and as a result, we see the Bond movies to be few and far between. Thus MI movies filled the void with expansive and expensive star cast and screenplay, which are found amiss from this latest Sam Mendes flick. However, he must have had his limitations with ageing M, and also James Bond. So the decent burial given to M (Judi Dench) was necessitated.
There is no denying the fact that Skyfall, though low on budget and gadgetry gives a new meaning to this franchise. There's no doubting the fact that though this movie is about change and transformation, we shall be experiencing the next version of Bond in a totally new avatar.
The verdict is that this movie cannot be missed and salute to Sam Mendes and the team for beautifully summarising the 50 illustrious years of this brand.