movie film review | chris tookey


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  Skyfall Review
Tookey's Rating
10 /10
Average Rating
8.30 /10
Daniel Craig , Judi Dench , Javier Bardem
Full Cast >

Directed by: Sam Mendes
Written by: Neil Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan

Released: 2012
Origin: UK/ US
Colour: C
Length: 140

The yearís best picture?
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Bond movies have picked up an insultingly meagre two technical Oscars over the past 50 years, for Goldfinger and Thunderball. There must be a good chance that this is about to change, and change dramatically. For Skyfall takes the Bond franchise to a new pinnacle of quality.

Nine times nominee Roger Deakins (No Country For Old Men, The Shawshank Redemption) should win his first Academy Award for his stunning cinematography, equally magical whether it is among the iridescent skyscrapers of modern Shanghai or the bleak, ancient moorland of Scotland.

One of the worldís most talented yet least known composers Thomas Newman (American Beauty, Road to Perdition) must also be a good bet after 10 unsuccessful nominations to achieve his first Oscar for best score, finally emulating his famous cousin Randy. The score is matchlessly atmospheric, and makes witty use of old Bond themes while adding a few of its own.

Disgracefully for a series that has brought us such great numbers as Goldfinger, Nobody Does It Better Live and Let Die, Bond has always failed to win best song. Adele should at least win a nomination.

And who would have thought that Skyfall would be a strong contender for Best Original Screenplay? John Logan (a previous nominee for Gladiator, The Aviator and Hugo) has teamed up with previous 007 scribes Neil Purvis and Robert Wade to come up with a script that has qualities rarely seen in action-adventures: topicality, wit and intelligence.

Perhaps most significantly, Skyfall is the first Bond film to have a realistic chance of winning the major awards: Best Picture, Director (Sam Mendes, who has already won for American Beauty), Actor (Daniel Craig) and Supporting Actors (Judi Dench, Javier Bardem).

Thatís how good this film is. A second viewing persuades me that this is not just the best Bond movie, itís up there with the top action-adventures of all time.

It tells a refreshingly simple story and succeeds because of consummate craft, marvellous action set pieces and a cast that looks like the National Theatre at play.

In the pivotal role, Judi Dench as M gets more to do than ever before in a Bond movie, and endows her role with a lifetime of experience and authority. She won an Oscar for Shakespeare in Love, and sheís even better here.

There are juicy roles for Ralph Fiennes as Mís deviously bureaucratic new boss and Albert Finney as an entertainingly violent gamekeeper, plus strong supporting parts for Rory Kinnear, Helen McCrory and especially Ben Whishaw as a new, modernizing Q.

In Javier Bardem, Bond gets his creepiest adversary ever: a man not - for once - bent on world domination but with good reason to hate MI6. Helped by astonishing special effects and a spectacularly demented hairstyle, Bardem exudes a peculiar kind of menace: a cheery perviness all too topically evocative of Sir Jimmy Savile. This guy is so weird, he makes The Joker look wholesome.

The film gets off to a terrific start in Istanbul, with a thrilling rooftop chase of a kind you wonít have seen before. Quite apart from its ingenuity, itís a valuable reminder that CGI is no match for superb stunts, courageously staged.

By the start of the title sequence, Bond is already missing, believed dead, and M has written him a careful obituary. Needless to say, he has miraculous powers of recuperation, and heís soon helping the head of MI6 track down Bardem, who Ė like all Bond villains Ė seems to have endless funds and a limitless supply of henchmen.

The action roams the globe from Turkey to London, then off to Shanghai, before ending up in Scotland for a splendid climax thatís like Home Alone with an unlimited budget. Here, Mendes pays tribute to earlier writers in the spy genre, particularly John Buchan and Michael Innes, and reveals more of Bondís back story and traumatized childhood than anyone has before.

There are more acting scenes than weíre used to in a Bond films, but because of the quality of the cast and gravity of the ideas being discussed they donít drag; they make most action adventure films look rushed and superficial.

Mendes delivers not only some wonderfully exciting scenes but some new, genuinely surprising twists and a welcome element of humour, most of it thanks to Bardem and Dench.

Daniel Craig is superb as a defiantly virile Bond well past the first flush of youth, and not the crack shot or honed athlete he used to be. The film makes more of his patriotism and his resilience than any previous 007 movie, and his relationship with M becomes all the more touching as we realise that sheís become the mother he virtually never had.

Mendes steers clear of cheap sentiment, and British upper lips have rarely been stiffer. But this movie has a respect for Bond, and for the secret services, that hasnít always existed in previous adventures of the worldís most famous spy.

Longstanding devotees will enjoy the way elements are brought back from much earlier films, especially a rather well-known car. But the reason Skyfall excels is that it builds on our familiarity with the Bond canon and takes it in a new direction, much more relevant to world politics in the twenty-first century.

With this film, Bond enters the age of cyber-terrorism. 007 has been regenerated in such a way that now it is he who makes Jason Bourne look old-fashioned.

The ingenious central idea is to probe the heart of what we demand from our intelligence services in the age of WikiLeaks and public accountability. Is it really that murkiest of concepts, transparency, or something deeper than that? Isnít it really our primeval desire to be safe?

Thanks to Skyfall, the future of Bond movies is assured for years to come. Everyone connected with this brave, wholly successful enterprise deserves congratulation. Whether or not it triumphs at the Oscars Ė and I hope it will Ė I donít see how anyone can deny that this is s a cracking story, very well told. There hasnít been a more entertaining picture this year.

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