Skyfall Review

Skyfall
Directed by: Sam Mendes
Written by: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan
Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Albert Finney, Ben Whishaw

When a movie franchise manages to endure for fifty years, reinvention eventually becomes a requirement. The problem is, how do you appeal to a new generation without alienating all of the existing fans? Somehow EON Productions has been able to keep James Bond relevant after all these years, evolving throughout the decades, recasting the lead role six times and alternating between gritty and goofy tones.

Daniel Craig was clearly chosen with the intention of steering the franchise back into gritty territory, and he proved he was up to the task with Casino Royale. But when Quantum of Solace tried to go even darker, fans recoiled, demanding a return to the fun-loving Bond. Four years later, Sam Mendes has learned from Marc Forster’s mistakes with Skyfall, a visual masterpiece that maintains the bleak edge while also achieving a near-perfect balance of all of the other elements that make 007 so thrilling.

The plot is perhaps the most straightforward we’ve ever seen in a Bond flick. After a hard drive containing the identities of several undercover agents is stolen, James Bond makes an attempt to recover it and is accidentally shot by a fellow MI6 agent. Missing and presumed dead, he eventually returns to active duty after M comes under fire both physically and politically. Unfortunately, he’s a little worse for wear, and to make matters worse, their adversary is someone who happens to know all of MI6′s secrets. For both of them, things are about to get personal.

Believe it or not, the biggest highlight of Skyfall is not the elaborate action sequences, but rather the visuals. Shot by cinematographer Roger Deakins, every frame of this movie looks absolutely gorgeous. The locales seem to have been chosen with the goal of providing unique imagery first and foremost, from the neon-lit skyscrapers of Shanghai to the eerie abandoned concrete buildings of Hashima Island to the foggy Scottish Highlands. Far too often these movies have been handed over to action-oriented directors who simply get the job done, but this proves that an art house director and nine-time Oscar nominated cinematographer can elevate the material to a whole other level.

The performances are also very strong. Daniel Craig is also at the top of his game here and the script arguably gives him more to work with than any previous Bond films ever have. Skyfall delves into Bond’s past without getting too specific and also manages to humanize him by introducing a world weariness and faltering body. Mendes claims that he was inspired by Christopher Nolan’s take on Batman, and although we hear directors saying that all the time now, in this case you can clearly feel the influence. Thomas Newman’s score definitely has echoes of Hans Zimmer, but the Bruce Wayne-esque back story feels even more familiar. It would almost be too similar if it wasn’t actually consistent with Ian Fleming’s books.

Javier Bardem is memorable and unique as cyberterrorist Raoul Silva, and although some may take issue with the fact that he’s not a megalomaniac trying to rule the world, I felt that it made him more unpredictable and dangerous. He talks a lot more than Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men, but he’s almost equally as ruthless. On the other hand, he’s also flamboyant and over the top… but would you have your Bond villains any other way?

Judi Dench makes more than her usual requisite appearance here. For once she has a major role in the film and she also holds her own. Bond defending M makes for an interesting dynamic because he rarely teams up with a woman that he is not romantically involved with. We are also more attached to M than Bond’s love interests because she’s an old friend and we know she is not expendable. If you ask me, it was a brilliant choice to build the story around her.

As you would expect, Skyfall continues to take a more grounded approach to James Bond. Despite the introduction of Ben Whishaw as the new Q, there are no outlandish gadgets here. The action is exciting but mostly within the realm of believability. All of this might make it sound like the movie is far too grim and serious, but that is not the case. There are still some decent quips and Daniel Craig’s wry delivery has a new bite to it given all he has been through. The various chase scenes are riveting and they even find a way to work in an unexpected dose of nostalgia in the final act.

Admittedly, there are a few lulls (it’s essentially a part of the formula by now) and the final act overstays its welcome, but it also feels completely unlike anything we’ve seen in a Bond movie before and for that I admire it. If I do have a complaint, it is just that the plot feels almost too simple. However, with so many Bond movies getting bogged down by complicated and/or nonsensical plot details, I think this may actually be the true secret to Skyfall’s success.

Overall, this is easily the best of Daniel Craig’s Bond movies and I feel comfortable saying it ranks as one of the all-time best James Bond flicks. Keep in mind, this is coming from someone who didn’t love Casino Royale as much as everyone else, so your mileage may vary. However, the one thing you cannot deny is just how amazing the movie looks. Skyfall offers a fresh new take while simultaneously paying tribute to all that has come before. If that’s not the very definition of what a 50th Anniversary Bond movie should be, then I don’t know what is. — Sean

SCORE: 4 stars



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  • Steve

    Had no idea Roger Deakins shot this. My excitement just ratcheted up about 10 notches.

  • Bas

    Saw it yesterday: it certainly looks good and Craig is in form. But that last act was terrible and went on for ever. For my audience most of the jokes fell flat while there were at least five ‘serious’ moments that got more laughs than the actual jokes. And it also bothered me that M wasn’t written as the intelligent character that she should be (given her position within MI6). So for me: 2.5 out of 4

  • La Menthe

    I completely agree with you about the cinematography. The entire scene of James Bond following the assassin from the Shanghai airport to Bond fighting him in the building is amazing (especially the last part, with the blue advertisement). But there are also weak parts: the intro is not exciting at all, and some shots are pretty terribly shot on blue screen.

    I also like how Mendes proves that you can include all the typical Bond elements (gadgets, Moneypenny, Q, cheeky lines, one-dimensional villain), and still make a good film.

    4 stars though? I don’t think so. I just rewatched Casino Royale (like you, I didn’t like the film either the first, or even the second, time i saw it. But the third time I loved it), and it still is the superior Bond film; it has got amazing action scenes (the guy who did the coreography should have been chosen for the last two Bond films), a good and smart story, a great Bond girl, and intelligent dialogue. Bond’s cool style in terms of fashion and behaviour is also good in the film – only outdone by Skyfall. Another thing Skyfall was better at was the villain.

    PS: Again you go with the “Academy Award nomination” as a qualification for someone’s talent. Please stop that. Academy Award doesn’t mean shit.

    PSS:@Bas, Craig most certainly isn’t in form. He obviously is a bit big around his belly, and you can see how they drag his form on the picture to make it look thinner. In certain scenes he is a bit round, while he in others is thin.

  • La Menthe

    Another negative thing i forgot to mention: Craig has already been in 3 films, and they still are introducing him and other new elements in the film, as if it was the first Bond film. It really is starting to get annoying at this point.

  • Bryan

    Not to hijack this thread, but the entire Criterion Collection is 50% of at Barnes & Noble through November 19th, both online and at stores. 3======>—

    http://www.barnesandnoble.com/u/Criterion-Collection-Blu-ray-Disc-DVD-Special-Editions/379003202

  • Dirty James

    I can’t believe you gave this 4 stars Sean ! I thought focusing on M was a terrible idea !!! She brings absolutely nothing to the screen. Only annoyance.

    I think you’re absolutely wrong in wanting a different take on Bond ! Mendes should have stuck to the traditional Bond formula, that’s what everybody wants from a Bond movie.

    This film was terrible. First time I say that about a Bond movie. I can actually say I liked Quantum of Solace better !

  • Dirty James

    Another thing I hated, everyone calling M “Mum” …

  • anton

    I agree that this Bond was quite unique.
    But I really was not interested in M or in Bonds childhood problems. While I was very excited through out the first half, last act was so slow and dealing with such a boring issues I barely kept myself awake.

  • http://twitter.com/ndf piggystardust

    I haven’t read the review yet for fear of spoilers, but tell me, do I need to remember what happened in Quantum of Solace in order to understand this?

  • Scott

    Looking forward to seeing this with my dad just for the cinematography. Was REALLY disappointed in the last one. MGM deserved to go bankrupt.

    Scott
    Creativity is the greatest rebellion in existence. – Osho * ?ry issue #1 FREE @ http://www.comixology.com/Barbarian/comics-series/5516

  • http://www.twitter.com/auraldissonance milath

    I expected a lot when I saw Sam Mendes attached to this. This sounds like he delivered. Can’t wait to check it out.

  • La Menthe

    @Dirty

    So you’re complaining that Skyfall isn’t Bond enough to you, and then you say you enjoyed Quantum better?

    Of the last 3 films, Skyfall is obviously most “Bond” of them all. To say that it is a different take on the agent is wrong.

  • La Menthe

    @Dirty

    How well do you know the English language? They called her ma’am (as they have done since Dench’s first apperance in Goldeneye). The only one referring to her as a mother was Bardem’s character.

  • Bas

    @La Menthe

    Of course I’m not talking about his physique, obviously he is getting older and they smartly incorporated that into the story. I meant he brought his A-game, acting-wise.

  • Bas

    Without spoiling, there was a minor thing in the first scene that annoyed the hell out of me. Bond, exiting a building where a target had been maybe 10 minutes earlier, steps into a colleague’s car and IMMEDIATELY they are driving behind the target! As if both cars were waiting for Bond to get in!

    I have no problem with ‘silly’ (and there’s enough silly to go around in this movie), but that’s not silly, that’s lazy writing. And there are too many moments like those, where the audience AND the characters are treated like children.

  • http://www.seandwyer.net Sean

    piggystardust: You don’t need to remember Quantum of Solace to enjoy the film.

    Bas: I think you can nitpick any Bond movie to death, as far as I’m concerned they all involve major leaps of logic. Maybe this one deserves to be criticized more for those things just because it tries to be a little more realistic, but I think the other stuff that it brings to the table outweighs those issues.

  • La Menthe

    Skyfall doesn’t have any relation to Quantum of Solace, or even Casino Royale, whatsoever. The film stands on its own.

  • Bas

    I don’t feel like I’m nitpicking – I wasn’t actively looking for faults. And (imo) Casino & Quantum don’t have any of these ‘leaps of logic’. Those movies set the tone that Skyfall, for some reason, decided to break with.

  • UKMark

    I wrote a lengthy review of this movie on another site, I am a massive bond fan, but this just didn’t feel or even look like a Bond movie, I could write on forever about this yawn of a film. CGI Stunts equals no thrill of danger. Gag a minute is and why we loathe parts of Roger Moores Bond. You are also so wrong about Quantum of Solace, the story is simple, water rights. But at least Q.O.S had real affects and stunts. I love Sam Mendes’s other films but this is so filled with melancholia I thought Lars Von Trier directed it. I left the cinema a very disappointed man.

  • http://www.seandwyer.net Sean

    Actually now that you mention it, I remember liking the fact that Quantum of Solace was also fairly simple and straightforward. But everyone seemed to hate it at the time. I am shocked that people are actually saying they enjoyed QoS more than Skyfall. There are so many other Bond movies that are much more a “yawn of a film”.

  • La Menthe

    >”But at least Q.O.S had real affects and stunts.”

    Are you fucking kidding me? There is a scene in the beginning where they are obviously using CGI (when Bond and the bad guy fall through a glass window). The problem with Quantum of Solace isn’t the story (which in no way is amazing – rather mediocre), but the action. The film is filled with action sequences, but all of them are so awfully shot, that you don’t get anything out of them. It’s a huge mess.

  • La Menthe

    I’m also amazed how people are complaining about leaps of logic in the story in a Bond film. If that is your complaint, then don’t watch Bond films at all. I can’t really think of any Bond film (not even Casino Royale, which is the most realistic of them all) that doesn’t contain a huge number of ‘leaps of logic’, both technically and story-wise.

    People should stop childishly picking this film apart and watch it as it is. It is, along with Casino Royale, one of the best Bond films.

  • http://twitter.com/ndf piggystardust

    I’ve only seen QoS once and that was when it first came out, but I remember thinking it was just trying to be Bourne.

  • UKMark

    But Bourne is Bond….Effects BTW sorry guys for the spelling mistake. In the UK we had a puppet fox that would always follow a punch line with ‘Boom Boom’, the constant pathetic quips made me say that after every joke..’Ooh his in a hurry’ BOOM BOOM. ‘Health and Safety’ BOOM BOOM. A reboot ending! maybe it should of been called Reboot actually. @ Sean, we are talking about Skyfall, not past Bonds, but most Bonds I was a much younger and less cynical man. As for realistic..’wheres the bad guys, oh yeah 10 meters away in the Black Audi, let’s plug my lap top into the main frame! D’oh! Also QOS had a kick ass opening non cgi car chase, Skybore had cgi Daniel Craig on a motorbike. Not for me, we each have our opinions. BTW I have over 200 James Bond Cars lol

  • UKMark

    He’s, shittest grammar! Love the show guys.

  • UKMark

    Javier Bardem was (as always) the stand out in Skybore, Boom Boom.

  • Dirty James

    Haha Skybore…

    How someone can like this film blows my mind

  • Dirty James

    How anyone*

  • James

    Everyone on this entire poll. It is called stepping aside and just enjoying a film. It is nice to finally see a director take the character of Bond and make him a character and not just a caricature, which is what James was becoming before the Daniel Craig era. Finally the films aren’t just another random mission and story where the hero has to save the day, which is what all the other Bond movies were essentially. Bond movies have always been a formula and after 20 some movies it gets a little old. This is coming from a Bond fan by the way. Maybe it is because I like a little depth to my storytelling as well. Finally with Casino Royale and Skyfall I can start understanding the character of James Bond and not just wanting to be the character of James Bond. I have read a good deal of the original novels so someone save me the whole, if you want the real Bond read the novels. I have. Reading most of these comments it seems that everyone hates Skyfall for breaking tradition and formula, well my friends. In my opinion that is the real bore. Times are a changing. Casino Royale and Skyfall are really the only Bond flicks that do stand on their own as great/good films and not just a decent/good film in a franchise.

  • Bas

    @La Menthe: so you’re saying we shouldn’t be discussing movies (or as you call it: “childishly picking apart”)? I’ll give my opinion just like you’re giving yours.

  • Fredrik

    I loved Skyfall, and rank it as one of the best Bond films to date (along with Goldfinger, OHMSS & Casino Royale). I’ve talken with several friends, all hard-core Bond fans (including the books) and they all agree with me on this.

    For some reason, most of the complaints I’ve heard about the movie is about the lack of gadgets, exotic scenery, and that Craig is blonde. Go figure. Can’t help but wonder if the ones most complaining are the ones who see the Moore movies as the ultimate Bonds.

  • Bas

    Well, nobody HERE has mentioned lack of gadgets, exotic scenery or Craig’s coupe, so you can scrap that theory. If anything, I’d say Skyfall is ‘sillier’ than the last two movies so it should please the Moore-lover (if such a species exists).

  • James

    With Moore and even with Brosnan the gadgets were getting too far fetched. Everything was becoming too camp. You can only have so much camp. Daniel Craig’s new Bond was a much needed change for the franchise or even I, and I am or consider myself a fan of James Bond would be less interested in the series. Craig’s character is the closest yet to the Bond in the novels. Appearance wise? No. Not Ian Flemming had in mind when writing the character, but his personality portrayed through Craig is the most spot on. Any Bond fan who just wants to sit back and watch the series remain campy and comedic are in my opinion, lazy Bond fans. It was getting to the point of rating a Bond flick by how many gadgets, how bizarre or cool they are, or how many Bond chicks Bond gets to bone. I feel finally with Daniel Craig the filmmakers are really taking Bond serious again as a contender for all around great flicks, just as the series started with Dr. No. I love Roger Moores depiction none the less. Its great fun. Great mediocre fun. Hes hilarious as Bond. Not really in a bad way, or a great way. In the end. I am a fan of good movies. Good well made movies. Ones that make me think. Casino Royale was one of the first Bond movies in a long while I thought long and hard about after the credits rolled. Sorry to say, but even I will admit that the Bond series is filled with more mediocre or bad films than there are the good ones.

  • La Menthe

    @ Bas

    It’s not about discussing the film, but about introducing good, solid arguments.

    Here is some of the arguments presented under this article:

    1: This film doesn’t stick to the Bond formula.

    THE TRUTH: This film is much more Bond than the last two films, in that it includes Moneypenny, Q, a lot more one-liners, a one-dimensional villain and gadgets. It also has an intro-theme that is much more in line with the traditional Bond-films than the last 6-7 Bond films.

    2: Quantum of Solace is better [from the same guy who came with the statement above].

    THE TRUTH: QoS is a film that could have been attached to anything else than Bond, as it contains almost no Bond-elements at all. This is probably the Bond film with as few elements as possible from the series’ formula.

    3: Everybody called M for “Mum”. This is bad.

    THE TRUTH: Now this assertion is nothing more than pure nonsense. So because of a nickname the film itself becomes bad?
    What if we took the argument seriously? What then? Well, as we know, this argument is based on incorrect information. It’s not “mum”, but “ma’am”, they call her in this movie (which they have done since Dench’s first performance in Goldeneye). The only one referring to her as a mother is Bardem’s character.

    4: The film has leaps of logic in the story.

    THE TRUTH: all Bond films have leaps of logic in the story – especially when Bond is investigating a case or when action takes place. Skyfall does in no way stand out when it comes to this.

    We also have to remember that this is a film, and that it must be allowed to do whatever it wants to take us wherever it wants to. One example that is mentioned is that Bond steps into a colleague’s car and he is immediately driving behind the target. The scene is formed that way to get us from point A to point B without 5 minutes of avoidable clarification of how he got behind the target.

  • Bas

    @ La Menthe

    1&2: I agree with you.
    3: Not really an ‘argument presented’. Like you said, Dirty James probably just mistook Ma’am for Mum.
    4: I contend that CR took less ‘leaps’, and I liked it better for it.

    You’re capitalizing ‘the truth’, but we’re talking about opinions here!

  • La Menthe

    CR had lesser leaps, yes, but the point I was trying to make is that the Bond films are full of them.

  • UKMark

    My problem (like who gives a f) is that the acting is so second rate, it plays like TV acting. Bond has and always should be, a man apart not a team GB player. And when are the producers going to stop being pussies and get back to LAZOORS! and Shagtastic bond?!!! Stop pandering to fucking critics and give people our comic book hero back! Fuck JB Jason Bourne, I want Bond back! Bond was escapism not trend setting like it keeps rebooting and trying to be something it’s not..>Even the Shittest Bonds made money, whats the worst that could happen? Michael Fasbender for Bond! The revolt starts here. Daniel Craig is trying to be funny and it does not work, he can’t do comedy. Fasbender showed us what Bond he can do in X-Men First Class(the Tooth scene wearinf Connery’s suite btw)

  • John

    I saw Skyfall this weekend and was super pumped going in. I enjoyed the movie up until the halfway point. Let’s forget that the plot was a rip off of MI1 (Remember that the MI team had to recover the NOC list?) I was willing to give some leeway to that.
    The movie had me up until the casino scene. I was guessing who the villain was, who would be on what side..but then Javier Bardem showed up and it went downhill from there. The sexy bond girl is erased from the storyline and replaced with M.

    And then the most annoying shift happened in the movie the original plot is rendered useless and swapped for a simple “I’m gonna get you” plot. Overall the whole plot seemed so pedestrian.

    I had such high hopes when Bond attacked the assassin, thinking the assignation and the girl along with the target would draw out a subplot but no instead we shift to what felt like a haunted mansion tale (Dream House?) in the last act.

    The rest of the movie felt like more of a setup movie but this was Craig’s third movie so in a way it felt like a reset of the franchise to introduce the new M, Q and Moneypenny.

    One final note about Q and the gadgets. I was disappointed here because in this day and age of technology I want to see future technology. Your telling me in this day and age agents don’t get cool gadgets? Hello this is a perfect place for a placement from Apple, Android etc. Show us what Q branch could do with a tablet and GPS. Instead he’s given a gun which seems to be given all of this prominence and then he looses it?

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