James Bond Goes Art House? Watch the New Trailer for Skyfall

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May 21 2012 6:23 PM

Trailer Critic: James Bond in Skyfall

Skyfall_still_Craig
James Bond tries word association in the trailer for Skyfall.

Still of Daniel Craig in the trailer for Skyfall.

The trailer for the new James Bond film doesn’t look all that much like a James Bond film—and, to my mind, that’s a good thing. While Bond films are nearly always a good time, too much of that fun, for my taste, derives from pleasant familiarity: gadgets, babes, tuxedoes. Beginning with an explosive action sequence, and going out with a bang of a different kind.

Daniel Craig brought in a moodier, more psychological Bond with Casino Royale, and Sam Mendes, who’s directing the upcoming Skyfall, looks poised to take that one step further:

Where does that one step take us? Usually either into or out of a shadow: What Mendes (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road, Road to Perdition) has given us here looks less like a spy actioner than a film noir. No one can be trusted, everyone is partly hidden. What does Bond associate with the word “agent”? “Provocateur,” which could mean someone who provokes others to doom themselves, or just lingerie, or both—a classic noir femme fatale.

That new noir look looks great on Bond—especially on the wide and weary-looking shoulders of Daniel Craig, who is no stranger to the genre . Much of that is due to the expert lens of Roger Deakins, the cinematographer and frequent Coen Brothers collaborator who has shot many of the most handsome movies of the last decade and more. (Mendes has worked often with Deakins and, before his death in 2003, another great cinematographer, Conrad Hall.)

But while the imagery is the real star here, the storytelling, too, is economical—even witty. Craig’s best moment in his first Bond film came when a bartender asked if he wanted his vodka martini shaken or stirred, and he replied, “Do I look like I give a damn?” Here Bond seems to give so little of a damn that MI6 ordered him some therapy. Perhaps his best moment in these 90 seconds comes when he sums up what I imagine is more or less the plot of the movie: “Some men are coming to kill us. We're gonna kill them first.” The terse irreverence towards Bond tradition is once again welcome and refreshing.

Still left in the shadows at the end of the trailer is Javier Bardem, the very promising choice to play this movie’s villain. The trailer makes the equally good choice to leave some mystery. The rest of the cast is also top-notch: Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney, Judi Dench, and—in an apparent attempt to reboot Q—Bright Star actor Ben Whishaw. By the time the electronic remix of the classic surf-rock James Bond theme comes in—another lightly irreverent touch—I found myself more excited than I’ve been for a Bond film in years.

Grade: A-

Previously from the Trailer Critic
Bill Murray as FDR in Hyde Park on Hudson
Gangster Squad
Lawless
Ben Affleck's Argo
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Ferrell vs. Galifianakis in The Campaign
The Dark Knight Rises
Judd Apatow’s This Is 40

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer. 

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