Pras on World Films: SKYFALL

SKYFALL released in the United States last weekend, but with earlier UK premieres week and early screenings stateside, reviews have surfaced on Twitter and generated more buzz for the 23rd installment in the James Bond saga. “Skyfall” is the 23rd Bond film and actor Daniel Craig’s third go-round as the superspy. The film has been noted by many critics as a departure from Craig’s last Bond film, “Quantum of Solace,” which was not as well received.This 007 flick is attracting mixed reviews from media critics and moviegoers, even though film critic Roger Ebert tweeted, “Skyfall is the best James Bond film in years.”

SKYFALL is the antithesis of all things we associate with “Bond’ films. It took away all stereotypical elements that make such films a perennial favorite. Not that anyone goes to a Bond movie for navel-gazing, but there’s definitely a more serious undercurrent this time around, a certain hankering after relevance.  Scripted by Bond specialists Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, this time with a significant assist from John Logan (“Hugo”; “The Aviator”), “Skyfall” cobbles together bits and pieces from many another thriller, sometimes more loosely than we might like, and draws in particular from “The Dark Knight”.

The film opens with a distinctly tired & haggardly James Bond. An experienced-looking “Q” replaced with a college-kid hacker.  Moneypenny as an ex field agent trying hard to pretend to be a secretary.  Kill a very promising Bond-girl character with barely 15 minutes of screen-time. Propagate a distinctly dark feeling of age-bias (and explicit dialogs) throughout the film beginning with “M”. Judi Dench’s M also looks set for the scrap heap. Also, the Bond series has lasted half a century without referencing Shakespeare, Tennyson and JMW Turner, so why shoehorn them in now.

In “Skyfall” Her Majesty’s sexiest spy seems to be on the verge of a midlife crisis: He’s stuck in a rut, feeling redundant and getting self-conscious about his age. He even considers early retirement, plunging to his apparent doom after he’s shot in the movie’s thunderously exciting pre-credit sequence.

The film generated a thrill, but didn’t feel like a Bond film. Having said that, I thought the Adele-sung Skyfall theme was wonderful. But why spare the theme-song either. Should easily have replaced that one with a hip-hop song as well.

Skyfall's eyefall: New Bond girl Bernice Marlohe with Daniel Craig's 007 in the background SKYFALL had a great opening-chase sequence, just as one would expect from a Bond film (Casino Royale set that trend). The action roams the globe from Turkey to London, then off to Shanghai, before ending up in Scotland for a splendid climax that’s like Home Alone with an unlimited budget.

I also thought the CGI effects (especially the MI6 HQ  blowup scene was great. But here were some very tacky computer special-effects, such as the one in which Raoul takes off his dental prosthesis while in his sexy glass prison. Javier Bardem’s villain character seemed all too familiar especially as was a poor rehash of his flamboyant psychopath character Anton Chigurh from “No Country For Old Men” crossed with a transgender-villain from another film (I forget that one).

 The best Bond yet: Skyfall is one of the top action-adventure films of all time The producers rolled-out big-names to market the film.  Sam Mendes to direct, Javier Bardem to weigh in as the villain Raoul, Judy Dench who we have all come to love and admire as “M”, award-winning photographer Roger Deakins to helm the filming process, Ralph Fiennes as the replacement for “M” (that’s wasn’t such as bad idea either) and not to mention Daniel Craig himself). 

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 world’s most talented yet least known composers Thomas Newman (American Beauty, Road To Perdition) must also be a good bet after ten unsuccessful nominations to achieve his first Oscar. For a series that has brought us such great theme-song numbers as “Goldfinger”, “Diamonds Are Forever” and “Live And Let Die”, Bond has always failed to win best song. Adele’s rendition should at least win a nomination this time. John Logan (a nominee for Gladiator, The Aviator and Hugo) has teamed up with previous 007 scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade to come up with a script that has qualities rarely seen in an action adventure.

Mendes himself delivers some wonderfully exciting scenes,and some new, genuinely surprising twists and an element of humour. There are more acting scenes than we’re used to in Bond films, but because of the quality of the cast and gravity of the ideas being discussed they don’t drag; they make most action adventure films look rushed  and superficial. Or to look at it another way, the heavy acting scenes did feel like a drag next to the fast-paced action sequences.

Academy Award contender: Daniel Craig could be in the running for best actor while Skyfall could take the biggest prize - best picture Skyfall even had a successful  box-office opening both in Europe and US markets.

I expect SKYFALL will win its usual quota of special effects & photography awards. But best-picture Oscar?  Please let’s not go overboard here. “SKYFALL” Was No “CASINO-ROYALE”.

Scoring the best opening weekend ever for a 007 Bond film, Skyfall amassed to $88.3m in its opening weekend. The tally passes $90m when Thursday previews are taken into account. A strong word of mouth  pushed Skyfall is on its way to become the first Bond film in history to pass $200m at North American box office. Current tracking places it insight for a final take of $225m, by the end of its run. Internationally, Skyfall has proved to be huge. Two weeks prior to its North American release it has managed to cross $418m already with some major markets yet to open. A final tally of over $550m international is well in sight. Worldwide expect it to touch somewhere close to $800m, which is a major achievement for this spy series.

In defense of this film. It’s a daring move to reintroduce Bond after a four-year hiatus as a man whose best days may be all behind him. It would have been easy for director Sam Mendes to wallow in the former, tick all the right boxes and play to the gallery. Instead he poses questions. Who is Bond? What is his role? Is he a man with a future, or an irrelevant relic trapped in the past?

The real Bond girl here is of a more seasoned vintage: Dame Judi herself, here evolving from 007’s testy taskmistress into a surrogate mother he will kill to protect.

Academy Award contender: Daniel Craig could be in the running for best actor while Skyfall could take the biggest prize - best picture

If Casino Royale was Bond finding his footing, Skyfall is him remembering where he left it – a clever turnaround made all the more effective by giving 007 an adversary who, for much of the film, is crossing the finish line while Jimmy’s putting on his trainers.

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