Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Critic’s Corner: Skyfall

    Francois Duhamel
    Francois Duhamel • AP Photo/Sony Pictures

    Bond is back, ya’ll.

    While code name 007 is believed to dead, an unknown cyber terrorist bombs MI6, killing many members of the British Secret Service. The incident prompts James Bond (Daniel Craig) to abandon his hideaway—a remote island where he was recovering from a bullet wound by drinking margaritas, laying low and sleeping with the natives. He returns to London in hopes of reassuming his position as the organization’s most valuable operative. Aided by technological guru Q (Ben Whishaw) and Eve Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), Bond’s investigation leads him to the bitter and maniacal Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), a former agent who’s got some major beef with M (Judi Dench), the target of his attacks. Silva plans to kill M and Bond will stop at nothing to protect her.

    Prior to the release of “Casino Royale” in 2006, the casting of Daniel Craig—who many believed was too rugged, gruff and dirty blonde to shoot guns in the same shoes as Sean Connery and Pierce Brosnan—received a lot of flak from critics and 007 fans alike. Despite the pre-movie hubbub, the reinvention of the classic character in “Casino Royale” was well received and many critics praised Craig’s performance and the reinterpretation of the classic series.

    Under even more pressure than “Casino Royale,” “Skyfall” had big expectations to live up to. The film needed to not only repair the damage that the lukewarm “Quantum of Solace” left in its wake, but also commemorate the 50th anniversary of the world’s favorite on-screen spy.
    “Skyfall” went above and beyond the call of duty.

    The three-film franchise that shook up the James Bond status quo—steering away from classic Bond in pursuit of a re-imagined approach—has come full circle in its epic conclusion. “Skyfall” seamlessly restores the pop culture phenomenon to its purest British form and, with its sympathetic villain and heavy themes, is perhaps the most thought-provoking installment yet.
    As the flamboyant and irreparably damaged Raoul Silva, Bardem proves once again that he is, in fact, a chameleon. Physical make up aside, Bardem approaches the character as if he is half stereotypical Bond villain—full of contrived monologues and elaborate, uber-intelligent plans for world destruction—and half subtext-laden basket case. Although it’s safe to say that most on-screen and real world villains are “evil” because they are fundamentally insane, “Skyfall” is one of few action movies to clearly psychoanalyze its villain. As the film progresses, the erratic Silva appears to be more confused than evil, which is exhibited in Bardem’s overt sexual tone and behavioral inconsistencies.

    In many ways, Silva is the embodiment of Bond’s greatest fear: M’s betrayal. The two operatives are undeniably tied because of their similar maternal connections to M, making Dame Judi Dench’s character the very foundation of the film.

    Although actors Harris and Berenice Marlohe serve as quasi-Bond girls in “Skyfall,” it seems that the true Bond girl in this 23rd installment is M. The relationship between Bond and M addresses several themes that are much deeper than those typically explored in Bond films, one of which is redemption.

    Both Bond and M are haunted by their pasts. Bond struggles to shake the memories of his traumatic, orphaned childhood and fights physically to overcome an aging body that has been slowed by a near-fatal bullet wound. M is stalked and tormented by a forgotten operative (years prior, M left Silva in the torturous hands of the enemy in order to save the lives of other agents) and now she seeks atonement for her sins. Bond and M find in each other an outlet through which to absolve their demons: Bond sees a mother figure in M, and M sees a son in Bond.

    These themes of redemption and maternity are conveyed superbly within the film’s narrative elements, but the concepts are also discussed aesthetically, particularly in the final scenes that occur at Bond’s childhood manor, through masterful symbolic imagery.

    Symbols aside, “Skyfall’s” art direction and cinematography were impressive. Every setting made me wonder, “Where the hell do they find these places?” The Shanghai location was chic, futuristic and colorful, a stark and refreshing contrast to the grey, more traditional London and Scotland scenes. The film’s Macau setting was so beautiful it has forced me to reevaluate my entire bucket list. Now my only life goal is to one day own a floating mansion surrounded by Chinese dragons on the Pearl River Delta.

    The film is littered with references to past Bond films that hearken back to the series’ ‘60s roots. I won’t spoil all of them for you here, but I will mention one thing: the Aston Martin. To the joy and delight of grease monkeys everywhere, Bond’s glorious Aston Martin DB5 is resurrected from its famous Connery days with the help of 3D printing. The Aston Martin in “Skyfall” is not the original pimpin’ set of wheels, but a tiny, insanely realistic replica, according to the New York Daily News. This is the sixth film in which the sexy car has appeared.

    And you know who else is sexy? Everyone in this movie. With a genetically-blessed cast that includes Ralph Fiennes and Ben Whishaw, “Skyfall” dutifully upholds the disgustingly attractive world in which Bond exists. Craig is just as muscular and aggressive as ever and Dench’s exquisite bone structure has somehow managed to defy the test of time. Approaching a spry 78, Dench is just about the best looking grandma I could ever imagine. But actress Marlohe takes the sexy cake.

    Marlohe plays Severine, a trafficked woman enslaved by Silva, and she delivers one of the most impressive and compelling performances in the film. Upon our introduction to the character, she appears to be a femme fatale—mysterious, composed and incredibly hot—and it’s easy to initially write her off as the movie’s disposable Bond girl. However, it becomes clear that Severine is one of the most complicated characters in the film and Marlohe’s performance conveys this complexity not through dialogue, but through subtle, expert body language that radiates pain and fear. During the brief time that Marlohe is on the screen, she steals every frame.

    My only critique of “Skyfall” is that it completely and totally rejects even the slightest touch of realism. That being said, the rejection of realism is what makes Bond movies fun. Of course Bond survives after he plummets, wounded, into the depths of a vast body of water. Of course he manages to find the time to sleep with three women and still save Britain within days. But, the most absurd moment in this particular installment is when Bond innovatively escapes a fight at the Macau casino via CGI Komodo dragon. Bond and one of his many enemies fall into the casino’s casual Komodo dragon pit and Bond comes out on top by the grace of his Komodo companions. One of the dragons bites the enemy in the leg and Bond uses the other as a trampoline upon which he leaps out of the hole, leaving the poor creature amazingly unscathed. The audience chortled, the dragons moved on with their lives and all was well with the world of 007.

    After all, what’s a Bond movie without a little absurdity?

    Kellie may be reached at [email protected]

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    • S

      Sara Cox
      Dec 2, 2012 at 12:29 am

      Loved the movie. I really like Daniel Craig as James Bond and was pleasantly surprised when I saw the movie. Did not expect to enjoy it, but we saw it on IMAX and it was more exciting.