November 15, 2012

'Skyfall'

Kennebec Journal Staff

First of all, in my opinion, "Skyfall" is the best Bond movie ever made, the most beautiful and engaging, and Daniel Craig now owns the title forever more.

"Skyfall" makes all the early Sean Connery Bond films look like Will Ferrell movies. Too harsh? See this one, and make up your own mind. I hold my position. Sean's Bond was, for me, too tuxed up, too stiff to be cool. His world was all about impossible villains and ridiculous women, bikinied and bathed in gold. I never bought it. Now we have a Bond for the new world, one bathed in light but centered in darkness, in a world where there are no more shadows to hide in.

Sam Mendes' "Road To Perdition" still keeps nudging at the elbows of my beloved "Godfather." It will never take its place, but it won't go away. Anyone who saw that 2002 film can never forget the silent scene in which Tom Hank's blazing tommy gun erased all of Paul Newman's gunmen, and left Paul standing alone in the rain. Incredible scene. No sound, just visual. Conrad Hall filmed that scene, and it's immortal.

The brilliant Roger Deakins, ("No Country For Old Men," "A Beautiful Mind") filmed this one, and he has reserved for himself a front seat at the Oscars. It will forever be listed as the most gorgeously filmed Bond movie ever.

Bond's mission this time out is simple and direct: A hard drive -- containing a complete list of all the NATO agents who are working undercover in the shadows, and who have embedded themselves in multi-global terrorist groups -- has been stolen, and is in the hands of an operative being chased by Bond and Eve (a sharp-shooting Naomie Harris). This is the obligatory pre-title opening chase, and it's a Doozy. Yes, with a capital D. It's incredible, impossible, audacious and leg numbing. It's two men on motorcycles, a train and a caterpillar tractor aboard that train. It's a fight to the death, ended by a sniper shot from associate Eve. We get electronic jelly fish and malevolent Komodo dragons.

There will be water, there always is, and there is a magical shot taken from the last Bourne film, enhanced and magnified, dream-worked and fantasized, and that's just the opening. Adele sings us through the credits, and it all begins. There will be no sitting back now. It is a fist-clenched, mouth-opened movie, with visuals to die for -- and many do.

Deakins takes his camera to Shanghai and Turkey, to London's wet streets and the moors of Scotland. He takes us there and just shoots it the way it really is, and it is magnificent. In the end, a parade of death makers walk in the wet fog of William Wallace's bogs, and evoke a bloodshot right out of the final scenes of Peter Weir's "Witness." Be ready for this. It has the taste of Armageddon, and the smell of Jerusalem after the fall.

And we have a villain, twisted and delicious, torn from Phillip Kindred Dick's personal nightmares, a blonde giant who rides the fifth pale horse out of the maelstrom, and his name is Silva, and his name is death. He kills not with silly iron jaws or buckets of gold paint, but with the weapon of the future: computers. Be afraid of Silva, be very afraid.

Freud is here written in faint ink, but well delivered. The script by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan is broken glass sharp and glows like fire.

And then there is the magnificent Judi Dench as "Mum," who embodies the fierceness of Churchill and the wit of Kingsley Amis. She is to be revered.

Enter Ralph Fiennes as a bureaucrat with surprises and in the end, a fierce old man appears who walked a green hall once with Jason Bourne. You'll not recognize him at once, but when you do you'll smile.

I say again, "Skyfall" is the best Bond movie ever. It's not the Bond Ian Fleming envisioned, but the one he would have wished he had. Let us not forget, a very young Ben Wishaw is the once and future "Q," and he's all Nate Silverish and wonderful.

J.P. Devine is a former stage and screen actor.

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