Gorgeous 'Skyfall' ranks as best Bond film I've seen

atomictown.comNovember 11, 2012 

I don't leave many movies wishing I already were watching them a second time.

That's mostly because I don't leave the movies at all. As the credits roll, I pop open a trap door I've dug beneath my seat (third row from front, one to the left of the disabled seating) and hide away beneath the theater for the long, long week until the next batch of new releases, subsisting on fallen popcorn and a sweet, jelly-like substance I can only hope is congealed soda. Don't judge me. Fatcat critics such as Ebert may be able to afford "homes" and "meals," but for the rest of us, the underground beats the heck out of a cardboard box.

-- Local show times, theaters, trailer.

This week, however, I believe I will make an exception to this routine and brave the wrath of the ushers to emerge for a second viewing. Because the latest Bond movie, Skyfall, has too much for the eyes to take in the first time through.

On a mission in Turkey, Daniel Craig is shot and presumed dead. Nursing a sense of betrayal, along with many cocktails, he's content to live a quiet life -- until he hears that a terrorist is exposing the name of every undercover MI6 operative.

As his fellow agents are revealed and killed, Craig heads to China to track down the terrorist group. He soon learns it's fronted by Javier Bardem, a rogue agent with a very personal vendetta against his former employers.

Skyfall is one of the most gorgeous movies I've ever seen. If we were in high school together, I would have sad delusions of it going to prom with me, but it wouldn't even tell me "No," it would just laugh and walk away. Cinematographer Roger Deakins is proof that meritocracy works, that we should just stuff millions of dollars into the pockets of talented people and see what they do. You might remember Deakins' work from such movies as all of the Coen Brothers and a whole bunch of Best Picture nominees. In the vivid world of Skyfall, even the explosions are beautiful. Give the man a damn Oscar already. Give him 10 retroactive ones. This is getting ridiculous.

So. A director of photography isn't the only thing it nicks from the Coens. You know how Casino Royale had a certain Bourne vibe to it? Well, Skyfall kinda feels like the The Dark Knight by way of No Country for Old Men. You know what I love? All those things.

Not to say it's just a knockoff. But director Sam Mendes infuses it with the same cold gravity as those films. Craig's Bond is aging, stripped-down, and very mortal. Even his gadgets are more down to earth; at one point, Q openly mocks the exploding pen from GoldenEye. It all fits into a running theme that in the age of information and terrorists, where threats come from individuals and remote computers instead of countries and armies, frontline agents such as Craig are increasingly obsolete.

Meanwhile, the plot is as lean as the tech. Most Bond movies have such powerful conspiracies you can't even exaggerate them. Volcano lairs, hundred-yard-wide lasers, underground armies of gorillas with vibro-swords. Stuff like that. In Skyfall, it's all stuff that could probably happen, right through to a tense finale where the stakes are unusually personal.

It winds up with a lot more heart than your typical Bond flick. Honestly, this movie has everything. Amazing visuals. Strong writing. A fantastic villain. An eerie and shadowy atmosphere that winds up downright apocalyptic. I'm not enough of a Bond completist to declare it the best in the franchise. But it's the best I've seen--and one of the top action movies in a strong year for the genre.

Grade: A-

* Contact Ed Robertson at edwrobertson@gmail.com. His fiction is available on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and elsewhere.

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