SKYFALL (2012, Sam Mendes): 7/10
From so many Coen Brothers films to THE HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG and THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD and THE VILLAGE, cinematographer Roger Deakins has had a hard-on for silhouettes. Just as we can associate hot white top lights as a signature of Bob Richardson, and overexposed sunlight-through-windows as that of Janusz Kaminski, we can now say the King of Silhouette is Deakins. What he does from scene to scene here, using Daniel Craig’s barrel-chested, rugby-shaped figure as a darkened shadow — aided and blocked by the visually gifted ROAD TO PERDITION director Sam Mendes (whose best film, AWAY WE GO, couldn’t be further from a Bond film if it tried) — is a marvel. It’s like they turned Bond into Batman played by Jason Bourne.
And it’s really the visuals that take this film out of average territory and turn it into a solidly good action movie. There are still several typical Bond-movie staples: the globetrotting (Istanbul, Shanghai, Macau, Scotland, etc.), the doomed hot babe (though Berenice Marlohe gets barely a few minutes of screen time), the Aston Martin, the martini (using a visual and a quick “that’s good” line from Bond to indicate it’s shaken and not stirred), and of course M, Q, and Moneypenny. But of course they’re updated and twisted for the modern era in ways fans of the franchise may appreciate (I wouldn’t really know — I’m not really that big a fan of these movies and have only really enjoyed a handful; and not the ones other people seem to like). And there’s a top shelf villain: Javier Bardem is the most gleeful and seductive bad guy since Christopher Walken in A VIEW TO A KILL. But it just looks cool, and thanks to a serviceable script, a nice pace, and impressive effects, the movie overcomes whatever silly plot holes it has to deliver an entertaining popcorn flick with a healthy dose of darkness for 2012.