Stream it or skip it?
Skyfall from 2012 (Netflix), Sam Mendes’ 23rd entry in the James Bond film series and the third to star Daniel Craig as Bond, was a worldwide hit, earning over a billion box office receipts as well as an Oscar for Adele in the Best Original Song Category and a well-deserved nomination for cinematographer Roger Deakins. Is Bond over the hill? Are the Bond films themselves? not so celestial fall had something to say about it.
FALL FROM THE SKY: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The essential: With a touch of the film series’ classic opening sequences, James Bond (Daniel Craig) emerges from the silhouette, his Walther PPK/S drawn, as he sets off in pursuit of the assassin who has fled with a hard drive containing the names of every NATO agent. embedded in terrorist cells across the earth. With MI6 agent Eve (Naomie Harris, assuming the role of Moneypenny) as their driver, the pair traverse the chaotic, sunny streets of Istanbul, Turkey, in pursuit of their careers. The chase is a real thrill, ultimately involving dirt bikes soaring over the rooftops of the Grand Bazaar and Bond engaging the assassin in hand-to-hand combat atop a moving train. Pretty typical for a Bond actor, that is, until a bit of friendly fire eliminates 007, who falls injured from the train into a deep ravine. Agent down, presumed dead. And the list is in the wind.
Back in London, M (Judi Dench), director of MI6, has a firestorm on her hands. The Istanbul fiasco is a nightmare for the intelligence community. In addition, we must worry about the civilian in charge of surveillance, Mallory (Ralph Fiennes). He is leaning on the longtime director of MI6 to retire with dignity. “Oh to hell with dignity,” M spits back. “I will leave when the job is done.” But his pride can’t stop what’s happening, and when MI6 HQ blows up, it all comes back to Istanbul, the list and the dirty business of international espionage.
Naturally, James Bond isn’t dead, and naturally he’s coming back to help M catch whoever is orchestrating it all. But James hit the bottle and remains plagued by childhood trauma. He also rips bullet shards from his biceps. Some think Bond and the whole 00 program are over the hill and out of touch. Nonetheless, Bond travels to Shanghai and then Macau, exotic locations that lead him straight to a deserted industrial island controlled by a mercenary hacker called Raoul Silva (menacing and flamboyant Javier Bardem). Silva’s ties to Bond and M run deeper than your day-to-day supercriminal posturing, and in the rousing final hour of celestial fall, Silva further devastates MI6 and heads north-west to Britain in pursuit of a twisted revenge. The rampaging destruction tests the mettle of the aging Bond, but also strengthens his relationship with M, the only authority figure and voice of reason he has ever truly respected.
What movies will this remind you of? This third outing by Craig of the Bond character recalled the Thick headed-isms from his previous appearances – well received, well worth it Casino Royale and Quantum of Comfort – while taking into account his physique and his talent for the shooting game. But celestial fall has also become more elemental with Bond Movie signifiers, artfully linking the superspy’s signature drink, its intro line and even its most iconic vehicle, the silver birch Aston Martin DB5. (Complete with machine guns behind the headlights, of course.) Things are exploding at an alarming rate in celestial fall; this movie is often rush action, pure adrenaline. But it’s the way the film explodes and reconstructs the Bond mystique itself that makes the biggest splash.
Performance to watch: Dame Judi Dench, CH DBE FRSA gets the nod here. The Oscar-winning actress was 77 celestial fall, and takes on the biggest presence of M in any Bond film to date. Sure, she’s at home taking on Fiennes and government minions in the halls of power, but she’s equally comfortable going on the loose with James, riding a shotgun as they set a trap for Bardem’s villainous Silva. And all the while, Dench mixes steely determination with deft touches of emotion and a deliciously forked tongue.
Memorable dialogue: Yes, that was the swap featured in the original movie trailer. So be it. “What are you doing here?” asks Kincade, the wizened game warden of Skyfall Manor (Albert Finney, the legend, in his latest role). “Some men are coming to kill us,” James Bond replies with a determined gleam in his eye. “But we will kill them first.” Kincade winks at M. “Well, we better get ready.” And it’s off to Skyfall in its fun battle preparation sequence. (Just Dench making IEDs out of crushed light bulbs and shotgun shells, that’s okay.)
Sex and skin: It wouldn’t be a Bond without a date or two, and James finds himself in the arms and steamy shower of the superyacht of Severine (Berenice Marlohe), the beautiful associate of criminal mastermind Silva.
Our opinion : Heartbreaking action sequences that spawn their own internal action sequences, whiz-bang gimmicks that here most often take the form of dazzling computer magic (except when it’s not, like with a simple radio frequency transmitter), distant, high-concept location shoots and many exquisitely cut Savile Row costumes – celestial fall scores big points in every Bond Film category you can think of. In the hands of Sam Mendes, this entry in the series also ripples around its share of rubble and destruction – at one point, a train crossing the London Underground is sent heavily through an underground blast hole and straight into one of Winston Churchill’s old bombs. bunkers – but it’s also adept at exploring the significance of the character of Bond, both as vanity and as an individual. James is told he should go out to pasture more than once, and each time he proves the enemies wrong, whether it’s with his fist or a trusty handgun. But you can tell it weighs on him, this cycle of violence, just like the changing face of contemporary espionage. “Our world is not more transparent. It’s more opaque. It’s in the shadows,” M told a government hectoral subcommittee. And in a wondrous turn, celestial fall shrinks to a game of two as she and her most valuable agent try to outsmart or outright kill their injured, most likely insane opponent.
Craig and Dench are in great shape in celestial fall, their witty lines reminiscent of old Bond scripts. Bardem comes to life whenever his main villain gets a chance to stretch out, rant-style, and what’s a Bond villain without long rants? There’s some good supporting work here, too, with clever reboots of the character of Moneypenny (a perfectly cast Harris) and even Q, played with a mischievous wit by Ben Whishaw. Fiennes is also a fine addition to the Bond universe. Mendes went on to lead the 2015s Spectrumwho has not quite reached the heights celestial fall together, despite delving deeply and satisfyingly into Bond’s traumatic past.
(Note that Craig returned in the COVID-delayed no time to diebut the future of the James Bond franchise is currently up in the air.)
Our call: SPREAD IT. This is for Bond completists, of course – character callbacks and specific signifiers are dynamite. But celestial fall is also a heartbreaking action flick, with elite direction, terrific lighting and editing, and solid work from a talented cast.
Johnny Loftus is a freelance writer and editor living in Chicagoland. Her work has appeared in The Village Voice, All Music Guide, Pitchfork Media and Nicki Swift. Follow him on Twitter: @glenganges
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