SKYFALL Review

by     Posted 1 year, 295 days ago

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The James Bond film franchise has stood for 50 years.  It has lived, died, returned, died some more, returned again, and as the longest-running blockbuster franchise in history, it constantly walks the line between life and death regarding the series’ potency.  There likely will always be another James Bond film, but the character’s relevancy is always in question.  Can the modern audience accept Bond in a world where a grittier spy like Jason Bourne seemingly has more power to engage audiences?  Isn’t James Bond a relic that can’t convincingly survive in a post-9/11 world?  The latest Bond film, Skyfall, explores these question is a fascinating, compelling manner and does so within one of the series’ most exhilarating, perfectly crafted, and absolutely captivating entries to date.

After a jaw-dropping chase across the streets of a Turkish city, James Bond (Daniel Craig) is accidentally shot by his partner Eve (Naomie Harris) after failing to retrieve a drive that reveals the identities of MI-6 agents across the globe.  Bond is presumed dead, but the larger issue of the list’s disappearance looms over the leadership of MI-6′s chief, M (Judi Dench).  After MI-6 headquarters is attacked, Bond comes back from a quiet life living on a beach playing drinking games with scorpions only to find that he’s not quite the same special agent.  “There’s no shame in saying you’ve lost a step,” parliament liaison Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) tells Bond.  But 007 is determined to retrieve the drive and protect M, which brings him into contact with the dangerous, vengeful Silva (Javier Bardem).

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As a spy-action film, Skyfall has everything.  Director Sam Mendes has once again proven himself to be a master of capturing the essence of a genre.  Paired with a strong script by John Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade, Mendes realizes the action thriller to its full potential.  Part of this is due to bringing in top-tier talent like Director of Photography Roger Deakins whose cinematography is unsurprisingly gorgeous but also mesmerizing when it’s applied to the exotic locales the Bond franchise is known for.  Thomas Newman‘s score is propulsive without ever being overbearing, and all of the stunt work is not only mesmerizing, but essential in what Mendes is trying to accomplish in examining the identity of the James Bond franchise.

The James Bond franchise didn’t grow out of mind-blowing special effects.  It grew out of daring stunts where the director had to give up a little control and trust that the scene would play out.  Employing elaborate stunts is part of the film’s constant defiance of modern filmmaking conventions, and yet Skyfall continually acknowledges how the world may have left James Bond behind.  How can a man in a tuxedo and armed with a Walther PPK make a mark when the Cold War is finished and terrorism can be conducted from a laptop?

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Skyfall is constantly looking both backwards and forwards.  The movie feels like a fight for the soul and identity of James Bond to the point where half the lines of dialogue could serve as commentary on the franchise’s place in the current marketplace of action movies, particularly the spy genre.  Casino Royale is a terrific Bond movie, but it feels like Bond playing by Bourne’s rules.  It’s grittier, it’s edgier, and while it has some faithful nods and inclusions, it also has a waiter asking Bond, “Shaken or stirred?” and Bond replying, “I don’t give a damn.”  There was no “Q” in Casino Royale.  There were no flashy gadgets.  Bond had been reinvented and made far more appealing after the flops of Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, and Die Another Day.

Skipping past Quantum of Solace (a movie that will assuredly be forgotten especially since it offers nothing to the franchise other than having been made in between two of the best movies in the series) Skyfall now faces Bond with the choice of reinvention and reestablishment.  If James Bond fails to adapt, will he die?  Can the character survive if he’s stripped down to nothing?  What do we as an audience expect from 007 and his movies?  At his core, who is James Bond?  Is there a personality or simply a collection of accouterments like care, girls, and gadgets?

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Watching Skyfall play with this question is its most rewarding aspect for a film nerd, although the movie eventually reaches the point where its self-commentary becomes a tad overbearing.  Thankfully, the story, characters, and the action are always present to stop the movie from being a dry evaluation.  Bardem plays Silva with a devilish glee, but it’s not simply a matter of chewing the scenery (although never underestimate the power of a competent hairdresser).  His motives are crucial to the subtext, and Bardem, a master of his craft, manages to find both sympathy and dark humor within his monster.  Berenice Marlohe, in by far the largest role of her career, acquits herself well as a Bond girl, although the script makes the wise decision of how best to employ her in relation to the overall story.  Skyfall also marks the return of Q (Ben Whishaw), this time re-imagined as a hip computer whiz rather than a beleaguered R&D workers who hands Bond new toys.  With his snobby but charming performance, Whishaw makes us hope that this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Q.

Or other characters, for that matter.  Most, if not all, of the Bond movies have “James Bond will return…” in the credits, but Skyfall has its eye on the future in a more concrete fashion.  Until this movie, the Bond franchise has always had an element of looking back as it seeks to find its next Sean Connery. Skyfall eschews this pattern by choosing to look past the actor, and instead examine the character and his world.  It’s a wise decision because Daniel Craig is not Sean Connery, and we should be grateful for that.  Craig was an unexpected choice for Bond when he was announced to play the character in 2005.  He’s blond, lacks the softer features of previous Bond actors, and has an underlying intensity to the point where we’re left to wonder if the character can have fun.  Thankfully, Craig has had the range to make the character playful when need be, but Skyfall works to establish a new Bond rather than an anti-Bond.  We know that Daniel Craig’s Bond is almost the polar opposite of Pierce Brosnan‘s Bond, but a strong character can’t exist simply as a commentary on other characters or other franchises.  Bond can’t find his own voice if his words are dictated by others.

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Skyfall is an attempt to be the final word on James Bond of the Daniel Craig era.  It points definitively to what the series should achieve and what it needs to leave behind.  It is not simply a matter of reinvention versus reestablishment, but trying to find the balance between the two.  The other spy franchises will keep coming.  Bring them on.  James Bond has been around for fifty years, and Skyfall is a miracle of taking the franchise’s seniority and making it feel fresh without ever going retro.  By looking to James Bond’s past and his present, Skyfall has made a powerful case for 007′s future.

Rating: A-

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  • Strong Enough

    Thank You Based Nolan

    • Nerdgasm

      Nolan is trash.

      • Trolls on the internet.

        Go home Rain Man.

      • Jordan

        You are trash

      • Nerdgasm

        I wish…yeaaahhh i wish i could go home. that i could go home. still at worrrk yup still at work

    • DREDD

      I like what Nolan did for TDK and Begins, and some of TDKR. But I fail to see how Nolanites can not see the horrible flaws and mistakes and cheesy dialogue and action scenes and bad editing choices. He has great concepts, and great approaches but some very poor execution, in the Bat films at least. He also made them kinda dull on repeat viewings. … I wince when people say they want him to direct Star Wars-7. My god! Uwe Boll could only do it worse! Same for Bond, he has an approach that would suit Bond as a character, but they would be so sterile that it would look more like a Bourne film.

      • Mickdaddem

        Batman Begins had good direction mostly. I think people undervalue Nolans intention with his fast paced cutting – I actually appreciated it. The Dark Knight was just pure genius in story and script, except after seeing it nine times, the editing problems are GLARING. And TDKR just lacked all stakes and intensity for me. Nothing really new or shocking, but it was more well executed than TDK was, even if it lacked in story.

  • DREDD

    Indeed it was a fantastic film, great Bond film, great thriller and great acting. Was it the best Bond film? probably not, though its up there. Great final act, but I found the middle to be a bit sagging, the opening credits were brilliant, had some great tension etc.. But there was something missing that I enjoyed more about casino Royale, though I’m not sure what it was that was missing. I would see Skyfall again on dvd but only once more i think. Like TDKR, it was great but i think second viewing the surprises will have been spent. A tense thriller but second time round it may be a bit boring. I think Casino Royale seemed shorter and faster paced and ultimately more rewatchable.

    Skyfall is the Bond film you have to see, great on the big screen, but maybe only one viewing. Still, the sequels will be more Bond like due to Skyfalls great setup. Still not a patch on some of Connerys films. But damn close.

  • Mark

    I think they wasted Silva as a villain, the Casino Royale villain was ok but not a multi-film guy, noone even remembers what the hell happened in QoS beyond it existing and Bond not dying in it. Silva was a pretty decent villain with a lot of character and they should have found a way for him t o live for future encounters.

    • dad

      an “ok” villain in Casino Royale???? Bit of an insult to one of the greatest villains. The “ok” villain was the one in Quantum of Solace.

  • RorshachLives!

    Those three Pierce Brosnan films mentioned were anything but flops, they scored big at the box-office whether you liked them or not, and you were totally unfair to ‘Quantum of Solace’, it may be flawed, but it’s a worthy coda to the magnificent ‘Casino Royale’, a first-rate action film in it’s own right, and will be both re-appraised and vindicated in future just as ‘OHMSS’ was…

    • Yeti Murphy

      OHMSS SUX

    • matt

      I agree with you about Quantum of Solace. I think like OHMSS it was not what people were expecting. It will likely continue to be seen as the little brother of the Craig era, similar to how OHMSS is seen as the black sheep of the entire franchise, but I hope more people will give it a chance in the future and appreciate it.

  • Jones

    While i enjoyed this movie in the cinema last week, i realised there where many flaws and wrongs after. This is a good movie, but not the one i hoped for. I am going to comment some of your statements in your review:
    “As a spy-action film, Skyfall has everything.” Meeh. This wasn’t a Spy-Action film, more a drama-thriller. The bond we know goes on secret undercover missions (agent), in this movie he is used as a hitman/assasin to only fight and shoot the bad guys. And for the Drama – I wont give spoilers away, but this movie is way to emotional.
    “Casino Royale is a terrific Bond movie, but it feels like Bond playing by Bourne’s rules.” WHAT? This one feels like the Boune rules. Though i enjoyed the movie, this wasnt Bond! James bond drives cool cars, scores hot ladies, has cool gadgets (yeah, he had 1 in this movie, but never used it…), IS ALWAYS SHAVED, seriously, he had a beard for 1/3 of this movie.. in every Bond movie there are 1 or 2 “Bond Girls”. In this movie, the closest thing we have to a Bond girl is his Boss, M… -.- Every 22 Bond movies so far, James Bond has been on a mission to save THE WORLD from Russians, Chinese, terrostists, not to save 1 lady from revenge..
    I guess i had this on my mind for some time.. Have a nice day :)

    • Felipe AC

      You must have slept during half of the movie to miss all the pussy bond was getting in this film…

  • Jones

    And dont get me started on all the plot holes… Omg there were many…

    • Jones

      Argh i think i posted my own long review here but the comment system deleted it… -_- ffs i hate this ……. nvm then… good film, just not the bond i know and love. Maybe i will try and write it again later..

  • Shawn

    In a parallel universe the reality streams of James Bond and Doctor who have finally converged. James Bond stops the long denial that he is indeed a time lord and the Doctor realizes he can kick ass with the best of them in hand to hand combat and can have sex with his co-stars. What you get is a tagline which reads: Doctor Who? Doctor Bond. Doctor James Bond.

    He has a really long scarf (you really need to bring back the scarf, a really, really, long scarf. Heck, it can even be Hermes if you want it to fit with the Bond cannon) that doubles as a deadly choking weapon and he does indeed eff’ the hottie assistant in the Tardis, at the bottom of the ocean, while awaiting rescue.

    BOOOM! I just made Hollywood a bazillion dollars….AHhahahahaha!

  • Sam

    “without ever going retro” Oh it does plenty of that, not that is bad thing.

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  • Junierizzle

    I like how Goldberg let all the same problems that TDKR has out of the review.

  • Bhaskar

    I never expected a James Bond movie such worst. Not great technology, bore movie, simply shooting with guns each other and no much romance, not great girls.

    Unnecessarily killed ‘M’

  • Jimmy

    In my point of view Quantum of Solace wasn’t enough bad too the best Bond (Daniel Craig) made it a decent movie. But really you can’t go wrong with Skyfall all things were perfect the ideal Bond superb story line up amazing direction of scenes by Mendis and who can actually forget magnificent M. Despite to see again the combination of Craig and Mendis again. Can wait!!

    Jimmy from Affordable Midnight Blue Tuxedo

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