The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

“Skyfall” Surpasses Previous James Bond Movies

Fifty years ago, Sean Connery stepped into the spotlight as James Bond in “Dr. No,” the first film in a franchise that has grown today to contain a remarkable 23 titles. From classics, such as “Goldfinger” and “GoldenEye,” to more modern adaptations, such as “Casino Royale” and “Quantum of Solace,” Agent 007 has transcended generations and has become the golden standard for what is expected in action and espionage movies. However, in the newest installment, “Skyfall,” the brilliant directing of Sam Mendes and the fantastic performance by Daniel Craig have undoubtedly set a high standard for future films.

1. Opening Scene

The opening scene keeps true to the intense and often elaborate action scenes that are characteristic of the films in the series. The first image the audience sees is a blurry silhouette of Bond coming into focus as he moves through a building. The familiar voice of M (Judi Dench), the title given to the current director of MI6, emanates from an earpiece dictating that “you both know what’s at stake here.” Emerging into the bustling streets of Turkey and climbing into a car driven by another MI6 agent, Eve (Naomie Harris), the duo head off in pursuit of an unknown assailant who stole a computer hard drive containing the names of agents important to MI6’s foreign operations.

The opening credits have also been re-innovated with a series of surrealistic animations woven together, which, while similar to past films such as “Casino Royale” and “Quantum of Solace,” convey a different feeling than those dramatic ones. Here, the seamless transition between the conclusion of the chase and the animations is flawless, and it is this connection and the creative animation that sets an ominous and uncertain tone, accentuated by Adele’s song “Skyfall.” Starting with the foreboding words, “This is the end,” the opening credits literally pull Bond and viewers into a more sobering world.

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2. Actor/Actress Performances

The third time around is the charm for Daniel Craig. Having served as Agent 007 in MI6 for several years now, Bond begins to show signs of age as his occupation is beginning to take both a physical and mental toll. From the new Chairman of Intelligence Committee, Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), claiming that “there’s no shame in saying you’ve lost a step,” to Bond struggling on missions that should seem routine, Mendes slowly builds up the idea that the great Agent 007 has perhaps lost something.
Yet Craig takes this adaptation in stride, finding the perfect balance between frustration and determination to portray in Bond’s character. Now when 007 doesn’t meet his own expectations, we start to see a bit of anger flare up, adding a new sympathetic note to the movie that doesn’t detract from the overall plot, but instead enhances it. In addition to seeing glimpses of the stoic Bond so familiar from previous movies, the audience also gets to see this inner struggle for 007 as he tries to convince both himself and his supervisors that he hasn’t become an antique at MI6.

The one constant is the beautiful women so stereotypical of the Bond franchise. From the attractive Eve to the seductive Severine (Bérénice Lim Marlohe), whom Bond meets at a casino during his missions, his interactions with each woman remind viewers that although he may be growing old, his class never goes out of style. Yet Mendes also throws a curveball in Skyfall, shifting the role of the main female protagonist from a beautiful woman to M. Here, with both Bond and M beginning to feel out of place in an evolving MI6, viewers start to see more of a dynamic between the two which had remained elusive in past films.
This diverse set of characters is also improved through the addition of the antagonist, Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), whose performance is an obscure mixture of a calculating genius and quirky but vengeful killer. Although previous villains have served as formidable opponents for Agent 007, Bardem seems to be the perfect piece to complete the puzzle; his character fits so naturally into the flow of the story that the challenge of such a role goes unnoticed. Even more interesting is how Mendes constructs Silva’s relationship with Bond: while adversarial, it can also turn comical and sympathetic at times, as the viewer gets the feeling that perhaps Silva knows the challenges that Bond is facing.

3. Pacing of Story

Every Bond movie has varying elements that are brought together to produce what has come to be a fantastic series. From sprinkles of comedy to high intensity chases to breaks in the action, each part plays an integral role in furthering the plot and developing the characters. Skyfall, as with many other Bond movies, falls nothing short of excellence.
From the riveting opening sequence to the conclusion of the film, Mendes perfectly balances action and breaks while throwing in a bit of comedy when appropriate. Impressively, the humor doesn’t take away from the interactions between characters, but instead enhances them.

Another variable that Mendes controls well is the varying intensity of action scenes, since a character such as Bond has potential to cause havoc in almost any situation. This element is balanced nicely as well, with the film reaching its crescendos at the beginning and the end with enough fighting in between to satisfy, but not overpower the audience.
The breaks in the action, though, are where the real magic happens. As Bond faces both his enemies and the realization that he may not be the agent he once was, his conversations and interactions with other characters take on a whole new tone early on. He invites confidence, yet viewers gradually get the idea that underneath the handsome tux there is a man who is questioning if he really is becoming an anachronism.

4. Action Scenes

The action in the opening scene, from firefights to the basic hand combat, is very similar to what has been done in past Bond films. Daniel Craig looks right at home in his role and it seems that if the first few minutes of Skyfall were transferred to the beginning of another one of Craig’s movies, viewers would have a difficult time telling a difference in the fighting styles. Yet as the movie progresses, the choreography of the action scenes starts to become more unique to the movie, seeming a bit messier and uncoordinated.

While he still manages to shoot down an enemy soldier or knock out an assassin, those who have seen previous movies may wonder if the fights are of the same caliber; with few exceptions after the opening scene, most of the combat in Skyfall is done from a distance, and hand-to-hand combat is brief. The film deviates not only in the style of fighting, but also in how innovative the characters in are preparing for or during combat, from improvised shrapnel to hidden explosives.

Highlighting all of this is the variety of settings that are used throughout the movie. Starting off in Turkey, the setting changes to London, to Shanghai and Macau and finally to the Scottish countryside. In all of these scenes, the gadgets used and the intensity of the fighting progresses as the story goes on. But the sheer adrenaline from chases atop exotic bazaars to hanging from an elevator in a futuristic Shanghai neon building harbor gratuitous amounts of action and are the core of the entire movie.

5. Overall Movie Quality

In “Skyfall,” Mendes has set the bar that critics of both past and future Bond films will use as a comparison. From a diverse set of characters to a captivating plot, every aspect of the movie has been constructed spectacularly and will certainly have audiences on the edge of their seats until the screen fades black. More impressive, though, is the holistic performance by Daniel Craig, who tackles an unusual role as a James Bond that seems to have lost his step. From revealing a deeper dynamic between Bond and M to portraying a perfect balance of frustration and determination during his missions, Craig manages to excellently convey this difficult transition, and in this process crafted his own dimension of whom James Bond is.

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