James Bond Retrospective: Finally…. my review of SKYFALL

Well… I made it.  I reviewed all the James Bond movies.  There were some great ones, and quite a few bad ones.  But still, the whole overall idea and vibe of 007 is something a film geek like me grasps onto.  It’s a character that makes me excited.  All of these films I’ve re-watched and all of the reviews I have done of the Bond series have all been leading up to this moment.  The release of Daniel Craig’s third 007 feature…. SKYFALL!  With CASINO ROYALE being my favorite, and QUANTUM OF SOLACE being just a bad-ass film (though not as high quality as the previous one), I had huge anticipations for this one.  Now, that may be a bit unfair, but I couldn’t help it.  All of the press, advertising, and watching all of the Bond films in chronological order has made me all the more pumped.  So… now…. here is my review of SKYFALL…..

When a mission goes very wrong, Bond is shot (by a fellow agent, accidentally) due to a decision made by M.  After lying low for a while, Bond returns to duty, though he discovers that he has lost his edge, not to mention his performance is less than adequate.  MI:6 is under attack, with not only M’s life being threatened, but the security of every agent working for her.  Bond is sent into investigate and discovers that a former agent named Silva has a personal vendetta against M.  Not only will this prove to be 007′s most important mission to date, but for M as well.

The pre-title sequence is, like the last two, fantastic!  The opening shot is of an unfocused figure moving towards the camera, once it gets close enough, we see that Daniel Craig as Bond has come into focus.  This may be one of the most iconic shots in Bond history.  He’s chasing a man down who has a copy of the list of MI:6 agents.  It starts off as a good chase, but then they find some motorcycles as they race their way on top of rooftops in Istanbul.  Then the fight moves to on top of a train.  It’s a very thrilling fight as the two brutally go at each other while constantly ducking as the train goes through dark tunnels.  Also helping in this sequence is an agent named Eve, who is nearby with her sniper rifle.  She is trying to shoot the bad guy, but Bond is constantly getting in the way.  Regardless, M orders her to take the shot and Bond is hit, falling off the train and into the water below.  Then we get the title track sung by Adele.  It’s been awhile since we’ve gotten a haunting ballad like this one in the series.  This song is so good that I wouldn’t be surprised if Adele is going to be the second artist to sing multiple Bond tunes (like Shirley Bassey).  Again, the opening is a perfect way to set up the vibe for the rest of the film.

To be honest, it took me about a half hour or so to find out just how much I was digging the movie.  It’s not that I wasn’t enjoying the movie at first, on the contrary, it’s terrific.  I was just taking it all in, trying to figure out what the movie was going for.  And once I figured that out, it proved to be one of the best times I’ve had in theaters so far this year.  SKYFALL is amazing.  I can’t believe that the filmmakers have found a way to keep the Bond series (particularly the Craig movies) this consistent for so long.  The problem with the series in the past was that the tone and quality from picture to picture was often radically different.  But these last three have managed to keep the same stripped down primal nature and tone throughout Craig’s run as 007.  That is no small feat.

The first portion is really interesting.  It’s the first time we’ve seen Bond vulnerable, physically.  He’s not as good of a shot as he was, he’s getting older and his natural instincts have seemed to diminished.  There may be some Bond fanatics that don’t want to see this side of their favorite secret agent, but for me it really humanized him.  I loved the addition of Eve.  She’s a great character that has great chemistry with Bond.  They just click well together.  Love the scene when she is shaving his face with a straight razor, which really brought those two characters together for me.  There’s also a great, one-shot action scene in which Bond is fighting a bad guy and all you can see is their silhouettes as the camera slowly dollies in on them.  It’s this kind of artistic integrity that is really making these Craig films special.  The filmmaking is actually good!  We also get a fun, more Bond-like action moment involving Komodo dragons.  That was fun!

The villain isn’t introduced until exactly one hour and ten minutes into the movie (I timed it!).  And what an entrance.  Bond is tied to a chair and Silva enters the room from an elevator.  The shot is static, from behind Bond, while Silva walks slowly towards him delivering a villanous speech.  The shot begins as a mastershot but ends in a close-up of Silva.  It made this little film geek fill his pants.  Their exchanges here are brilliant, especially when it borderlines turning into a sexual advance, and Bond’s response to this is priceless (not to mention revealing).  I don’t want to say too much about the rest of the film as there are some neat little twists.  But there’s a great action set piece involving a prison escape and a crashing subway train, and the finale is an old-fashioned showdown that had to be an homage to Peckinpah’s STRAW DOGS.

Daniel Craig is absolutely flawless as Bond.  He’s really fit into the role nicely.  So good in fact, that when he’s finished with this series, people are going to be calling him the greatest Bond of all time.  Yes… even over Connery.  Judi Dench gives what may be her best performance as M.  She’s more exposed this time, and Dench hits all the right notes.  Javier Bardem is going to go down as one of the best Bond Villains of all time.  He’s wonderfully evil in this.  Bardem relishes in every little syllable he spouts out of his deformed mouth.  His performance is deliciously precise, right down to every little facial tick.  It’s the first time that I think a Bond villain should be nominated for best supporting actor.  Naomie Harris is wonderful as Eve.  As I said above, her character is essential to the franchise. I hope she returns.  Ralph Fiennes plays a man who wants to replace M.  Lately, Fiennes has been phoning some of his performances in (WRATH OF THE TITANS), but that’s not the case here.  This easily could have been a one-note character, but the actor gives it class.  Ben Whishaw plays Q.  Man, is it good having this character back in the franchise.  Now, it’s a completely different take on the role, but Whishaw makes it his own.  I like it that he’s this mousey little computer nerd.  Berenice Marlohe puts in good work as Silva’s girl.  There’s a really intense scene involving her being used for target practice, and the emotions she conveys are heartbreaking. And what a pleasure it is to see Albert Finney blasting a shotgun.  He plays a relative of Bond’s and brings a lot of fun to the proceedings as a craggy old man.

What a great idea it was to hire a true artist behind the camera like Sam Mendes.  He doesn’t make “movies”.  He makes “films”.  So it was really neat seeing a true “Auteur” making a “movie”.  Now, he had the good sense not to make a “Sam Mendes” film.   His goal here was to make a “true” Bond film.  And he succeeds enormously.  He does bring his film esthetic to the project, though, which only elevates the quality of the film.  It’s beautifully shot (thanks to cinematographer Roger Deakins), which most Bond films can’t boast.  The action sequences are superbly constructed and edited.  I know some people were complaining about the action scenes in QUANTUM because of how quickly edited they were.  Well, that’s not the case here.  They are presented in a visually astounding and straight-forward manner.

The script is probably the one of the best of any Bond film.  The characterizations here are deeper than anything that we’ve seen before in the series.  Everything comes together in a precisely planned way.  This is a true re-invention of 007, and the perfect ending is going to make bond fans go bonkers.  I was a little worried when I found out that David Arnold wasn’t brought back on board to do the score.  Honestly, his scores are among the best in the series, and I really didn’t want to see him go.  Because Mendes was directing, I assume it was his decision to bring on his regular composer, Thomas Newman.  That frightened me, because though I think he’s talented, nothing he’s done before made me think that he could pull off what Arnold has.  Boy was I wrong.  Newman pretty much changed his style completely, and emulates the Bond themes and atmosphere in the same epic way that Arnold did.  It sounds different, but still has that Bond feel.  Thank God!

The casual filmgoer is going to love this movie for its exhilarating action and thrilling story.  Bond fans are going to love it even more.  There are plenty of homages to previous films. I seriously flipped out when a certain car made an appearance (and Newman’s rendition of the classic Bond theme as this particular moment made it even more special).  And I was totally not prepared for the final minute of the movie.  I won’t say anything more about it, but as a film geek who has grown up with the franchise, I can honestly say that I got more excited about that last sequence than most films I’ve ever seen.  I didn’t see it coming.  It’s truly iconic.  If there’s one gripe I had with the movie is this:  Would it kill the filmmakers to put the gun barrel sequence at the start of the film?!?  They have it after the movie, but for me, nothing sets up a Bond film better than that gun barrel.  Just had to throw that out there.

Sam Mendes has made a perfect Bond film.  It has expertly crafted action, a supensefully compelling storyline, exciting homages to previous films, the best Bond villain in decades, and an ending that will make 007 junkies stand up applauding.   I can’t quite say that this is my favorite Bond film yet.  CASINO ROYALE is my favorite at the moment, but that wasn’t my favorite when I first saw it either, as I grew to love it the more I saw it.  That might be the case here.  I’ve only seen SKYFALL once, and it very well may become my favorite Bond film the more I see it.  Only time will tell.  But  for now, I will say that it’s one of the best films of the year (if not THE best) and I can’t wait to experience it again.  ★★★★ (out of ★★★★)

- Rated PG-13 for intense violent sequences throughout, some sexuality, language and smoking.

- Running time: 2hrs 22min.

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Categories: Austin Kennedy, Reviews

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5 replies

  1. I pretty much hate Craig as Bond and all the Craig movies so far especially Skyfall, with all its numerous plotholes is among the dumbest Bond films ever made . . . Silva’s standing on the ladder and Bond stops shooting and talks to him? Q puts the virus-laden software into the CITY MAINFRAME? REALLY? what is the Goldfinger car doing in Skyfall since it has no logical connection to the Craig/007 reboot? were they attempting to sucker back in those discerning few who just don’t like Craig? Since the Craig update is obviously modern, how can you squint and pretend Craig was somehow the Bond driving the car in the Goldfinger adventure in which Bond disparages the Beatles. I know Bond-watchers aren’t supposed to think, but y’all are claiming Craig is the thinking-man’s Bond. For Craig to be age-appropriate for both Goldfinger and Skyfall Craig would have to be Connery or Moore’s age (Craig was born in 1968). . . so why not bring back Connery or Moore hahaha . . . Sure the producers are proud (they seem to be no longer proud of their pre-Craig efforts, maybe Barbara Broccoli has daddy issues?) to say they are “going back to Fleming” (as they have said many times in the past) but Fleming’s Bond wasn’t humorless or oafish as he is currently being played . .. and in fact I think Craig may have had enough of the humorlessness and oafishness, as he once said he wished they could get back to the old Bond formula . . . and between Quantum and Skyfall he made noises about quitting and that he should never have taken the role in the first place . . .I think he thought Skyfall was going to be as bad as Quantum . . . of course a billion undiscerning dollars later he has changed his mind . . . I do seem to remember him trying to wrap his mouth around a couple of one-liners in Skyfall . . . I thought after a few films I would get used to Craig, but it’s just not happening, he doesn’t look like a Bond, and every time I see a Craig film I feel like I’m not watching a Bond at all. . . in fact he gets stranger-looking with every film, like he should be in a Hobbit movie and not 007

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