The nominations: Cinematography, Original Score, Original Song, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing
The film: During a mission in Turkey, titular MI6 agent James Bond (Daniel Craig), who while pursuing a mercenary that had stolen a computer drive containing the identities of undercover agents, is inadvertently shot by a fellow agent; the mercenary escapes and Bond is presumed dead by his boss M (Judi Dench) and the rest of the agency. Some time later, M is still juggling the mayhem that was caused from the stealing of the drive. After being told she will retire by Intelligence and Security Chairman Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), M receives a horrifying taunt via her computer. As the message is being sent from her office computer, she frantically tries to return to MI6 headquarters only to watch it be bombed in front of her killing many people.
When he hears of the attacks, Bond emerges from exile and returns to duty. Though he unwittingly fails all of his psychological and physical examinations, M declares him fit for duty, sending him off to Shanghai to track down the mercenary that escaped him before, find the stolen drive, and discover the man’s employer. Bond tracks the man down while on a hit missions, engaging in a fight after watching him snipe a bystander in an adjacent skyscraper and pushing him out of an open window before he finds the drive or the employer. He follows a clue to a casino in Macau, where he meets Sévérine, an accomplice of the mercenary’s hit, and asks to meet her employer. After warning him of the danger, which Bond ignores, they sail to an abandoned island, where Bond is captured. There he meets the notorious Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), formerly of MI6 and now an elite cyberterrorist, who orchestrated the attack on M and MI6. Silva toys with Bond, killing Sévérine in front of him, but is soon surrounded and captured as his henchman neglected to discover Bond’s hidden radio.
Back at MI6’s new underground headquarters, the young quartermaster (Ben Whishaw), or Q as Bond calls him, tries to decrypt Silva’s computer, not knowing it has given Silva access to MI6 computers, allowing him to escape custody. Bond chases Silva through the London subway to where he attacks M during a public government inquiry. After all the cat and mouse games, Silva has made it clear M, his former boss who gave him up for information, is his true target. After foiling Silva’s attack, Bond takes M to Scotland to his boyhood home to await Silva, in a place devoid of technology, to level the playing field and settle the score.
The odds: With all of the sharply satirical and gritty makeovers that classic pop-culture characters are receiving nowadays, the increasingly vulnerable and complex new age James Bond is in good company though still in an odd limbo with the fans who love and laud the character as that slick, sports-car-driving lothario super secret agent who drinks Martinis and always gets the girl. But for those who had any trepidation about zeitgeist-realism track that Daniel Craig’s flaxen-haired, soft-heart-with-a hard-shell James Bond is on would have a hard time arguing that Skyfall, the newest installment in a long line of 007 films newly helmed by the incredibly capable director Sam Mendes, doesn’t pay homage to both modern and classic sensibilities. The new-school-meets-old-school approach to this film is fresh and simple, diverging from the often overly complex plots of contemporary highbrow action movies while almost completely erasing all bad taste left over from the exceedingly confusing and frustrating Quantum of Solace. It’s the grace of this movie and the artistry of Sam Mendes that likely gave it the edge over other big commercial fare, like The Dark Knight Rises, with Academy voters. It’s easy to tell this movie was happily and lovingly made. It’s always hard to tell how voters will lean when it comes to technical categories, and being no expert in sound mixing or sound editing, I’m glad they only let voters who are in the same line of work vote for those awards. As for cinematography, it would hard for me to see Skyfall taking away the award as all of the other nominated movies boast a greater spectacle, which gives them all an edge. Music, though, is where the strength and promise lies. Thomas Newman’s score is infinitely interesting though not overpowering – it isn’t a grand showpiece like Dario Marianelli’s Anna Karenina score and it isn’t from the mind of the legendary John Williams, but I still have faith and hope that Newman’s genius in music might finally be recognized. But if Skyfall wins anything, it will be the original song of the same name written by powerhouse songstress Adele; as she has been winning every award the song has been nominated for, her win is all but written in stone.