Honoring Roots and Setting A Path for the Future *** 1/2

Bond is 50 years-young (the film version that is) and Skyfall – the 23rd installment of 007 demonstrates 50 is the new 25.

Skyfall displays attributes that are the best of old-school Bond, yet delivers it with fresh new aspects that act as a compliment instead of detraction.  Although a bit too long for my liking, this is by far the best Bond film in ages.  The reason? Many aspects of the film are worthy of the price of admission themselves.

With Sam Mendes at the Directorial helm, Roger Deakins as Cinematographer, Thomas Newman as Musial Director, and Dennis Gassner heading Production Skyfall is staffed with film industry heavyweights.  Skyfall also reunites the Bond screenwriting team of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, plus the addition of John Logan.  Logan has been retained for the next two Bond films.

Nine time Oscar nominee Deakins (Fargo, Shawshank Redemption, No Country for Old Men) displays a variety of color palettes and visual styles that are extremely engaging.  The travelogue aspect of Skyfall is deep and rich in color while the scenes of operational inner workings are more monotone and stark.

The score from Ten time Oscar Nominee Newman (Shawshank Redemption, The Horse Whisperer, Wall-E) is engaging and memorable.  Newman has been accused of operating on autopilot for some films – but this is not the case with Skyfall. In many scenes the music has the moody, deep brassy sound that most surely is Newman paying homage to the late John Barry creator of 12 of the first 15 Bond film soundtracks.  For other aspects Newman has adapted his style to produce a different sound that is equally compelling.

The production values established by four time Academy Award nominee Gassner (AA The Golden Compass, Field of Dreams, The Truman Show) are the best from a Bond film in decades. Seeing that many of the Bond films were deliberately over the top to the point of being cheesy, Skyfall might be the best ever in this subject area.  There are a couple of scenes that do not meet the impeccable standard Gassner holds (i.e., the deserted island), but that is really nitpicking.

With so many aspects of Skyfall being handled by the some of the very best in the industry, it appears that Mendes (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road and the extremely underrated Away We Go) was allowed to focus (successfully) on getting the most out of the script and actors.

Daniel Craig (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Layer Cake, The Mother) gives his best performance as Bond to date.  Craig is steely-eyed and smooth.  Is should be noted that the Tom Ford interpretation of Saville Row Bespoke suits are impossible to miss and striking. However the best suit of all time in film remains the Arthur Lyons crafted Kilgour worn by Cary Grant in North by Northwest.

Naomie Harris (28 Days Later, Miami Vice, Pirates of the Caribbean) as Eve, clearly connects with Bond and for the most part steals the movie. Ralph Fiennes (Schindler’s List, The English Patient, Harry Potter) has a somewhat small role but is good. The end of the film reveals a future in the Bond series for both actors.  The new Q; Ben Whishaw (Cloud Atlas, Layer Cake) is very good, but as a request to all movie directors; if you are going to have Computer Nerds type on keyboards, please make sure they know how to type or appear to know how to type.

The script in Skyfall finally gives Oscar winning Judi Dench (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, My Week with Marilyn, Mrs Brown) something with which to work.  It has bothered me to some degree that an actress as superior as Dench would play what has principally been a cardboard character role for all these years.  In Skyfall, the M character is centerpiece to much of the film.

On a somewhat surprising note Skyfall does not have a real Badgirl/Bondgirl with a highly suggestive name. However the voluptuous french star Berenice Marlohe seduces or is seduced by Bond.

For my money the role and performance (of Silva) by the handsome and quirky Oscar winning Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men, Vicky Christina Barcelona, Biutiful) leaves a bit to be desired.  The script and tempo of Skyfall lags significantly when Bardem is on screen – which I found surprising.  At times I was almost convinced Silva was parodying Dr. Evil of Austin Powers linage.

When all aspects are considered Skyfall is worthy of a trip to the theater and one of the best Bond films to-date.

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