I’d like to express my regret for not including Skyfall in my Best Films of 2012 post.
How could I be so negligent?
Of course every film you watch has the potential to change your opinion of others you’ve seen; especially in a climate of giving star ratings films are necessarily judged comparatively.
My second viewing of Skyfall actually increased the positivity of my opinion. I should probably point out that I am by no means a James Bond nut and am not even particularly knowledgeable of the 007 film canon. However, I was, and after Skyfall remain, an avid admirer of director Sam Mendes.
Despite doubts as to whether Mendes’ could pull off an action movie due to having previously worked on indies and dramas (most impressively 1999’s American Beauty) I believe Mendes has more than proved his versatility.
Not only does Skyfall boast stunning visual effects and photography (in a year without Ang Lee’s Life of Pi it surely would have won awards for cinematography), but the quality of writing and characterisation is also sky-high.
Almost none of the characters in Skyfall are under-written, a common flaw in action films, so kudos to the screenwriters (and of course Ian Fleming). Even Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), a relatively minor MI6 big-wig, has been invested with a thoughtful back-story. Such careful attention to detail gives his character the ability to surprise when he allows Q (Ben Whishaw) to act illegally during the film’s climax.
As the names mentioned above indicate, the calibre of the actors is a further strength of the film. Mendes has drawn a characteristically understated yet well-judged performance from national treasure Judi Dench, and Javier Bardem’s villain is a fantastically creepy and altogether terrifying piece of work. In fact, it’s perhaps Daniel Craig as the lead who somewhat lets the side down.
But it’s not enough to damage enjoyment of the film. The story allows for several more visual wonders due to the multiple settings; change and travel helps the viewer remain entertained throughout the long running time (143 minutes). Then of course there are the great set pieces, such as Bond’s pursuit of Silva (Bardem) through the London underground, and the readying of Skyfall house for the final-act showdown. Overall, Skyfall is a lot of fun, but it’s also intelligent fun.
On Skyfall Mendes turned again to composer Thomas Newman, who previously provided the score to American Beauty. As any Newman fan would expect, the score taken alone is a great piece of work (and good for studying to). It’s also a bit of a departure from Newman’s trademark set of tinkling piano notes as the sound is a bit more electronic on some tracks – see especially ‘Shangai Drive’.
Although I don’t include Adele’s contribution to the soundtrack as one of the reasons why Skyfall is a great movie, the animation of the title credits is a further high point.
So, with the benefit of hindsight, where would Skyfall come in my ranking of last year’s releases? To be honest it turns out looking back in time gets a bit messy – it ‘fries your brain’, as Bruce Willis’ Joe quipped in Rian Johnson’s Looper (my number 1). Like Crazy definitely loses its place, but as far as I’m concerned Skyfall also beats out The Hunger Games, Young Adult and maybe even The Dark Knight Rises(!). And I found Argo much less enjoyable in the less-than-suspenseful second viewing…
Lest this all get a bit too messy, I’m going to open it up to the floor.