Skyfall – Movie Review

This is the end. Hold your breath and count to ten, Adele croons as Skyfall’s breathtaking opening scene comes to an end. A car-turned motorbike-turned train chase in the busy streets of Istanbul is as big of an adrenaline rush as you can get. The one-two hit of Skyfall‘s opening ten minutes is more than enough to keep you hooked in your seat for the ride that is going to unfold.

James Bond is assumed dead. MI6 is threatened, right in its heart. And M is taking all the blame for it. But she is resilient and set to find out who’s the player in the shadows causing all this mayhem – after all, it can’t but be someone she has worked with before, someone who knows MI6 as well as she does. Could M and James Bond finally meet their match in the series’ most unhinged villain, so reminiscent of The Dark Knight‘s “The Joker” in its complexity?

Daniel Craig’s greatest legacy as James Bond is bringing humanity back to the character. Long gone are the gimmicks, the overt supernatural technologies that filled installments such as “Die Another Day.” Long gone are the days of James Bond being near indestructible, near invincible. Long gone are the days where James Bond doesn’t show his emotional side. Long gone are the days where James Bond is just a killing machine that doesn’t fail physical tests, doesn’t get shot. Long gone are the days where James Bond is anything but weak. We had gotten a glimpse of that with Casino Royale. It slipped in the horrid Quantum of Solace. But Skyfall is a great return to form for the character and the actor.

Judy Dench as M is captivating as the wounded agent who has given her life for the agency that’s now crumbling before her eyes, trying so hard to cling to the only thing she’s ever done well and terrified at the prospect of having everything she knows change.

The new additions to the roster such as Ralph Fiennes and Javier Bardem do exceptionally in their corresponding roles. Skyfall boasts a terrific British cast that knows what they’re doing every second they are on screen.

Sam Mendes, the director of this installment, has to be credited for breathing new life into a series that seemed to be nearing its final breath with Quantum of Solace, a movie that threatened to bring the reboot to its knees. His take on the franchise roots it in the real world than any other 007 entry, making Skyfall oddly relatable and passionate for a movie about a spy agent.

Skyfall is definitely an addition to the 007 series to be proud of. It is a movie that will make you stand tall after it’s done and as everything crumbles around our favorite agent. The lengthy run time of over two hours will feel surprisingly short as you’re immersed into their oddly familiar world. I believe it is one of the best 007 movies of the entire series. And as the movie reaches its climax, you realize that Skyfall is where it ends. Skyfall is also where it begins again. So hold your breath. And count to ten.

9/10

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The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – Movie Review

Based on the bestselling book by Stieg Larsson, which I reviewed last summer (read my review), The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is the second movie based on the aforementioned novel, the first being a critically acclaimed Swedish drama.

Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is a top Swedish journalist whose world is crashing around him. He just lost a court battle during which he was accused of libel against a top Swedish businessman, his credibility is in ruins and his magazine is struggling. Amid all the chaos, he gets a peculiar job offer from Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), the head of Vanger corporations, to write a biography about his family as a cover to a journalistic investigation into the disappearance of Vanger’s niece some forty years prior.

As Blomkvist begins to make advances in the case the likes of which he didn’t think he would be able to do, he is faced with the possibility of a Swedish serial killer of women being on the loose. The killings are biblical, based on Leviticus verses. But he needs help, which comes in the form of Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), an emotionally reclusive, mentally challenging and emotionally unstable hacker.

One cannot talk about The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo as a movie without talking about the reason it has such a title: the character of Lisbeth Salander. To say that girl is one of the most interesting characters to recently grace literature and now cinema would be a gross understatement. There’s just something about the fire in Lisbeth’s eyes, whether you’re reading her off a page or watching her on screen, covering a dark emptiness inside that is very unraveling, very dark and very fascinating. Therefore, the need of great acting skills to be able to interprete such a multi-layered character is in need. To be blunt, Rooney Mara excels.

Not only does she get you to feel compassion with her character’s moments of weakness, she also gets you to root for her in her moments of triumph. Rooney Mara is fascinating, down to the very basic articulations of the Meryl Streep-esque accent she has formulated for her character. She literally doesn’t shy away from giving the viewers of the movie everything she has to offer and she shines doing so.

Daniel Craig is great as Mikael Blomkvist. As I read the book, I didn’t really picture a character in my head for Blomkvist. But Craig manages to fill in the “blanks” I had after three books of reading Blomkvist’s pursuits. His performance is nuanced and is beautifully complemented and elevated by the previously mentioned stellar performance by Rooney Mara. However, what works against Craig in this movie is the fact that his character is nowhere near as interesting as Mara’s Lisbeth. But the biggest evidence to how greatly these two actors’ performances complement each other is the fact that the movie doesn’t really take off until you get both Lisbeth and Mikael in the same frame.

Another brilliant part of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is the superb electronic music present in it, which has sort of become correlated in my head with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, whose previous works include last year’s The Social Network (My review). The darkest scenes in the movie are taken a step further in darkness by the score that Reznor and Ross envisioned for the movie.  Moreover, the cinematography in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is top-notch as well. On top of being very pleasing to listen to, it is a beautiful movie to look at – despite its very violent moments, some of which are among the most brutal I have watched on screen yet.

David Fincher, who also directed on last year’s The Social Network, manages to craft this Swedish noir novel into a movie that is very pleasing to the fans of the book. He manages to preserve the dark essence of the book and transfer it on screen with minimal changes to the material presented in the novel. Stieg Larsson would have been, in my humble opinion, very pleased to see his work presented this way on screen.

On the overall, the crew that worked on this movie managed to a dark and mysterious world full of family secrets, corruption, sexual perversity and redemption. The beautiful thing about The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is that all the pieces fall together in a synchronized manner to deliver a truly brilliant cinematic experience, albeit being a movie of extensive duration, due to the book’s thick spine. At the end of the day, however, this is simply Rooney Mara’s movie. And with books two and three of The Millenium trilogy featuring Salander more and more in the spotlight, I can’t wait to see what she has up her sleeve. But let me tell you, this is epic and the next two will be epic, indeed.

9/10

Upcoming 2011 Movies To Be Excited About

I’ve come up with a list of ten movies coming up in 2011 that you should definitely be excited about:

10 – Larry Crowne:

Don’t judge me but I can’t help but be excited about a movie that has Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks.

9 – Transformers 3: Dark Side Of The Moon

Sure, it’s already a financial hit, a week before its release, but as someone who was thouroughly entertained by the first two Transformers movies and even though Megan Fox will not be present in this one (sadness), I expect this to be one of the biggest movies of 2011, at least financially. And if you’ve liked the first two, this one should be a no-brainer for you to go watch.

8 – Crazy Stupid Love:

Emma Stone: “Damn, it’s like you’re photoshopped” *insert lots of laughter* —> *googles release date*

7 – Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows

I have really enjoyed the first Sherlock Holmes movie and hopefully the sequel delivers as well.

6 – One Day:

Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess spend the night of their college graduation together and throughout the years, they revisit each other to see where they are in their lives. Based on the trailer, this looks like it’ll be a very interesting movie.

5  – The Tree Of Life:

This movie has been very polarizing. So I have no idea what to make of it. But it was one the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Festival, so it must be good enough, no?

4 – Where Do We Go Now?

The new Nadine Labaki Lebanese movie. Set for a September 22nd release in Lebanon, this is probably one of the most hyped about Lebanese movies this year. It doesn’t hurt that some of it was filmed in my hometown.

3 – A Dangerous Method:

A movie with Keira Knightley, Vigo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender about Freud? I’m there. Just watch the trailer. The movie looks brilliant!

2 – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo:

Just finished the book upon which this movie is based and it’s a highly entertaining read. Set for a late 2011 release, the movie stars Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara and, even though no trailer has been released yet, judging by the movie’s poster, this will be great.

1 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

This should be a no brainer. Epic trailer. The movie is based on an epic book and it’s the conclusion of the series that was an important part of the upbringing of millions.