SKYFALL Blu-Ray Review

     February 12, 2013


We would have been happy with Casino Royale; we really, really would. Daniel Craig’s debut as James Bond was such a revelation – such an infusion of modern cool into 007’s timeless sensibilities – that he could have spent the remainder of his tenure doodling on a napkin and we still would have deemed him a success.  So we accepted the flawed nature of Quantum of Solace without raising much fuss; enjoying its eccentricities and letting its middling status slide with the assumption that Craig’s ride would be more of the same. Little did we know that the best was yet to come: the inestimable Skyfall, which not only affirmed the character’s relevance for the 21st Century, but set a new standard for all future entries in the series.  Best Bond ever?  Goldfinger may edge it by the thinnest of margins, but even then, I’m inclined to give it a little space on the podium.  Hit the jump for the review.

daniel-craig-skyfallThe secret lies in its deft combination of the old and the new: the way it acknowledges 50 years of previous Bond films without simply repeating what came before. We still have Q, for example, and he still seems slightly perturbed by Bond’s arrogance. But Ben Whishaw’s buttoned-down wunderkind feels more at home hacking into Facebook than building supercars like Desmond Llewelyn did so wonderfully for so long.

The villain, too, reflects our brave new world while nodding to the old. Javier Bardhem’s former M16 agent has it in for M (Judi Dench) and the rest of his old chums, but rather than destroying the world in retribution, he’s content to post what he knows about them on the Internet and let the world destroy itself. Bond becomes an unanticipated wild card after a colleague accidentally shoots him and leaves him for dead. MI6 may tumble down, but 007 is still on the job… even if he looks like he spent the last two months sleeping in a sewage drain.

sam-mendes-judi-dench-skyfallDirector Sam Mendes approaches the project with the ideal attitude, full of love and respect for the old Bond, but daring enough to put his own stamp on the character. Even more tellingly, he treats Skyfall like the conclusion to a trilogy, turning the Craig era into a reboot as much as a continuation. To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, Bond roams far and wide here, only to arrive back where he started and know the place for the first time. All the expected tropes take on revelatory depths here that might have always existed had we but looked at them with Mendes’ eyes. Can anyone deny the implied homoerotic charge between a captured Bond and his various gloating nemeses… suddenly made explicit by Bardhem’s fey madman?  Haven’t we yearned to believe in all those exotic super-fortresses, brought to life here in chillingly plausible terms? And after having to somehow choose between the scores of extraordinary Bond girls over the years, who but Dench could finally stand at the top of the heap?

Skyfall delivers these revelations in a glorious action-filled package, crammed with the exotic locales and innovative stunts we’ve come to expect from the franchise. But as with everything else, they never sink to the perfunctory. We see it all the way we did our very first Bond film, whether it be Dr. No, Quantum of Solace or anything in between. Skyfall captures that revelatory essence, that thrill of discovering something new and different that we’d never witnessed before. It then shakes (not stirs, if you’ll forgive the pun) all those elements up, and hands them back to our jaded older selves in a way that reminds us why we fell in love with this franchise in the first place. I’m pissed beyond words that the Academy left its tenth Best Picture nomination blank this year rather than sliding 007 into it. Then again, that assumes he ever needed the Oscars to prove his cinematic relevance. The omission is their shortcoming, not his. Skyfall serves notice that 50 years is only the beginning… and that this old war horse of a franchise may bury us all before it’s said and done.

skyfall roger deakinsThe Blu-ray is a must-buy of course, though Bond fans who purchased the recent boxed set (with the convenient slot for this entry) may be slightly frustrated by its surface deviations from the other discs. That said, it packs a fair amount of pang into a comparatively small buck, with a single, very insightful documentary and a pair of terrific audio commentaries (one from Mendes and the other featuring two producers and the production designer.) There isn’t much else – just the trailer and a four-minute clip covering the premiere – but there really doesn’t need to be. Sound and picture quality are extraordinary, as one would expect from a release of this magnitude. Sure, it doesn’t quite match the rest of the pack, but then again, that was kind of the point all along.


  • Gambit

    I’m sorry, but this movie is a beautifully polished turd.

    • blake

      Wow so clever and insightful, that most have taken ages to think up!
      Not sure what film you saw but i saw a British film showing Hollywood how to do an action film. It was visual feast (the neon scene and the Highlands one), by a mature director with a stunning cast. Sure the script could of been different, or some would say better. But film isnt all about story. Still better than anything Michael Bay has ever given us and Danial Craig has more screen presence in this film than every film Tom Cruise has ever made.

    • Chris

      Beautifully polished indeed, and not much else. The only interesting elements were Bardem, Wishaw and Dame Judi. Bardem has created lots of way more interesting characters during his 25 years of movie making. Dame Judi always an extremely talented actress should have been given a bigger role to compensate for Craig’s lame acting. Ben Wishaw gave a really spicy presence in the few scenes he had.

      But it’s a Bond movie, 007 is a very stereotypical character.

  • Eric

    You gotta pay the troll toll to get into this boy’s soul, Gambit.

    Best film of the year. Argo may have given it a run for it’s money, but there was just something undoubtedly special about this one. Experienced it 3 times in IMAX and will happily do so again this evening.

    • jackjack

      I agree with Gabmit on that. One good thing about this movie is the cinematography, besides that “Skyfall” has no real substance. Its boringly structured, does not respect the characters, in addition to that the plot points, the music, locations and certain scenes are directly or indirectly ripped-of (Mission Impossible, Inception, TDK). That’s why for all the good stuff you need to give the credit to Deakins, because from his eye comes an only value of “Skyfall” – it’s aesthetic. Eventualy, this movie was conceived as a pit stop for the franchise and the reek of that kind of approach carries in the plot… it’s Broccoli & Wilson movie, rarely you see a blockbuster when this “behind the curtain” machinations are so much apparent. Shortly speaking, “Skyfall” is purely the producer’s intentions mold into a mash-up script which was shot by an artist.

      • JumpingJakesFlesh

        LOL No.

  • DoesItMatter

    Am I the only one who did not think that Skyfall was all that great? It was good. Don’t get me wrong. It was visually stunning. The story was better than most Bond stories. But I still think Casino Royale takes the cake. And for what its worth, I thought QoS was a nice sequel and I would like to see more movies on that story arc.

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