Saturday, August 10, 2013

Why Skyfall is such a treat to both art enthusiasts and middle-core action addicts.

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Pacific Rim and Lone Ranger
In the Mood for Love vs Belle Du Jour

Yes, Skyfall achieves that beautiful balance that can only be watched at large screen cinema. I know this review is late, but I am just writing this for my own enjoyment. Thanks in large part to the director: Sam Mendes, the music by Thomas Newman and of course the huge following from the name James Bond brings to it. To make it simply, the success of Skyfall, which grossed over a 1 billion dollars lies with the director, the music and the name James Bond. I know many critics out there would not agree with me. But this is my personal view, and interestingly I find Skyfall extremely accessible to follow the simple story plotlines. Sam Mendes is extremely good with the introduction. Thomas Newman is fantastic with his transitions. And of course the producers Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli are great at reinvigorating the franchise again and again with each new James Bond movie. Great work! Let's start first with..

Simple Plot
It's very simple. Our hero secret agent James Bond played by the handsome Daniel Craig appeared on the first shot of the movie in a blurred focus screen, but the sudden loud music (trumpets I suspect?) announces his emergence onto the screen. Then he walks towards the camera where finally his devilishly good looks appeared visibly only his eyes while the top and lower part of his head is covered in shadows - a beautiful way to introduce the super spy in such classic noir fashion. That short prelude is enough to get the audience in the cinema excited, and proceeded with a tinge of suspence, we are in a room with Ronson slouched on the arm chair with a gun shot wound. The scene  in the room serves to establish the mid-point crisis faced by James Bond and his superior M - where they have to recover the list of agents stolen by a mysterious killer. Fast forward with the beautiful car chase through the streets of Turkey and on the motorbikes rooftop chase of the busy bazaar, the action is fast without seemingly too haphazard, and so easy to follow right to the climatic train chase-and-fight sequence.

Of course finally, the story puts our hero in liquid death, and there comes the music montage where Adele sang her Oscar-winning song. The story actually started with James Bond "death" in the first act, his resurrection the second act and finally the renewal of the hero. I'm sure the writers of the movie: John Logan, Robert Wade, Neal Purvis and Ian Fleming (of course, for he's the genesis of the story) really thought through in terms of visual and words - finding that perfect balance so the audience is able to put them together mentally in such cohesive manner and sometimes funny moments such as when James first approached M in her appartment uttering "Enjoying death" which is basically to end the first act of the movie.

Transitions of Scenes and Sounds
The second act is the best and I loved the most so far. It's really nice to experience the tactile transition into the second act when James after being briefed by Q announced "Brave new world", and the breathtaking scene of ultra-modern Shanghai opens up with a sky view of the tall, glittery, LED laser lights cascading through the city. Beautiful. And add that transition with the loud orchestra led by Thomas Newman, it almost feels like this is a "sound film". The music comes in really at the precise moment, either driven by the story plot in the first act when James Bond fell into the river of his "death", then cut into the sound-driven sequence of the rain drops tapping gently on the windows of the MI6 office building slowly transitioning into a more muscular rippling of the rushing river bed where our hero is sinking into his "end". You can really feel the audience is slowly pulled into the water with our hero, hence began the journey of the movie.

I notice the little musical themes composition designed, specifically or maybe not, for each of the main character of the movie. Most noticeably of course at the start is our hero, Then the hired killer Patrice, when he first appeared at the Shanghai airport, the music sounds like electronica right up until he made his kill at the tower. From there, I heard the sweeping romantic strings to introduce the seductive and dark Bond Girl Severine at the edge of the broken window looking for our hero that disappears into the dark after killing Patrice. The music plays such important role to enhance these characters and meant to illicit an emotional response from the audience. For James Bond, it's the great anticipation of a hero's presence. For Patrice, it's the cool, sophisticated and precise hit of electronic notes to punctuate the precised target hits of a hired killer. For Severine, it's the romantic damsel awaiting for her tragic end.

Bond Girl
I feel Severine's purpose in the movie is more perfunctory, but each scene with her is extremely beautifully photographed by the cinematographer Roger Deakins. The warm, yellowish golden tones at the Macau casino really brings out Severine's best features. Her backless dress and extremely long neck is enhanced through the shots. When a character's tenure in the movie is short, make sure each shot is perfect, and it was indeed shot beautifully. The shot in the shower where Severine is approached by the dashing James Bond is where another perfect balance meet. It's not graphically sexual, thanks to the moistured and watered shower glass door that "covers" the naked bodies (and naughty parts) of our hunky thespian and ultra slim beauty. But it's very sexual too at the same time, thanks to the atmospheric music and romantic body movements by James Bond in enveloping his muscular body gently to turn Severine around to him and finally they kissed passionately....

Lets the Audience Breathes
When the second part is about to end, we are taken on a sail boat to meet the villain Silva. It's always the anticipation that gives room for the audience to breathe before they are thrown into another frenzy of concentration of words and drama. The sky shot of the vast sea and the speeding boat is truly cinematic and has to be watched in the cinema again and again, wow! I truly commend the director Sam Mendes for these cinematic, wide-open spaced shots, for really, I only have one brain and one concentration. After all the thrilling passion, I need to breathe in some refreshing sea air, and this is what he provided so well - room to breathe before the next dramatic action. It's always these little, little thoughts from the film director that keeps an audience like me appreciative of the art. The placement of Severine at the front threshold of the speeding boat is almost like both her feet is anchored separately, like she is preparing herself what she would ultimately face - her death. The shot is still, a Sam Mendes' signature and also his favourite technique.

Finally the villain Silva is introduced but only when our hero is tied to a chair. Here you have Silva monologuing after making an awkwardly unique and comic "entrance into the movie" of coming out from a dirty lift. The long monologue is actually about his own end and how his grandmother deals with rats - all done in a single shot. Horrid canabalistic savagery put into words only. But a good listening audience would be able to imagine the rest of the nightmare as a rat. Classic story-telling, almost radio-like moment where pictures of rats are superfluous, only the play of sounds and words from Silva's dirty "acidic" mouth are all that's needed. I noticed how round the ears of Daniel Craig's really are, and it's really cute and round as buttons when he answered back at Silva with only one word: "Resurrection" - signifies the start of the final third act of the movie. Silva truly sheds a light to the more exciting side of James Bond in a brief shot when he opens up his thighs with a slight but powerful impression on the audiences' mind of our hero's covered phallic erection? Big things to come....surely, for the next instalment in 2015. Resur-rection, indeed. Amen.