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SKYFALL: Review - The Best Modern Bond (Spoiler Free)

Skyfall starts with an opening musical flourish that ends quickly. James Bond in silhouette steps forward. Only his eyes, resolute and stern, are visible. Without a single explosion, gun fired, or femme fatale, director Sam Mendes has hooked me; and Daniel Craig is an absolute bad ass.

Of all the previous Bond films my favorites are Goldfinger, Thunderball, and Golden Eye. I've seen all 23 films and I love the classic films the most because of how the've encapsulated their time period. The old films relied heavily on exotic locations, massive evil bases, and multiple Bond girls. Skyfall is the inverse; most of it is in the United Kingdom, the bad guy only has one base, and there are only 2 Bond girls.

Bond movies, at one time, were the pinnacle of large action sequences. But in a post Bourne, Avatar, Avengers, and Transformers world, how does 007 evolve? Again, Skyfall takes the alternate route, it's more intimate and focused. The action set pieces have a thrilling character-driven tempo that are damn clever.

This marks the first Bond film to be shot digitally using ARRI ALEXA cameras. Cinematographer Roger Deakins does award worthy work. Mendes and Deakins have said that they used, at most, 2 cameras at a time. Which is why the action feels so tight and methodical, the shot sequences flow naturally because everything was planned -- not just created in editing afterward.

A great a example of expert filmmaking is the sequence in Shanghai which displays Bond's new physical vulnerabilities. Who knew elevators, doorways, neon reflections, and near absolute slience could be so riveting? 

The tone of the film is far more personal and emotional than we've ever seen in a previous Bond film before. The story is smart in its setups; small details have a rippling effect throughout the movie.

The interplay between Javier Bardem as Silva and Craig is as an absolute pleasure to watch. Bardem is calculating and delivers the best Bond villain monologue ever.

007's "hobby" of resurrection has been what keeps him relevant, which is why Skyfall's look back to the previous canon is so interesting for long time fans of the series. Bringing back the '63 Aston Martin DB5, the reintroduction of long established characters, and even a twist on the Walther PPK, make the film stronger. Looking back and stepping forward is normally a bad idea, but Mendes balances things perfectly.

This is my favorite Bond film of the last 20 years, and it's an absolute must watch. One thing I will say is stay away from trailers and TV spots. You'll enjoy the film more if you don't know what's coming next. 

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