Skyfall

In his 50th year of onscreen existence, James Bond proves he is more vibrant and vital than ever by offering an intense, state of the art action film; one that is both pointed and personal. More than any other Bond film to date, it has things to say about security, espionage and intelligence gathering in today’s world, while at the same time revealing more of the history and character of James Bond than ever before.

It’s brimming with car chases, shoot outs, and explosions but it also features well crafted, damaged characters complete with backstories and understandable motivations. “Skyfall” is that rare breed of action film. Full of exciting, pulse pounding set pieces, while also deriving tension from worthwhile dramatic content.

“Skyfall” begins with the loss of an encrypted hard drive.

The drive contains the placements and identities of hundreds of undercover agents not just from MI6, but from other NATO intelligence agencies around the globe. Obviously, the retrieval of such sensitive material is paramount, so secret agent 007 James Bond (Daniel Craig) engages in a high-speed chase after the man who took it… via car, motorcycle and train. The chase has disastrous conclusion however. It culminates in Bond being accidentally shot by a fellow agent, plummeting from an enormous train trestle into a river below, and left for dead.

For a brief time he stays off the grid, recuperating and “enjoying” life. But when the terrorists who seized the hard drive bomb MI6 headquarters, he reports back for active duty. The injuries he sustained, his advancing age, and the layoff he took have diminished his skills, and he has difficulty re-certifying. However shaky he is, he’s put back in the field regardless… but this leaves him vulnerable when he eventually meets the man behind the attack. Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) is a flamboyant criminal mastermind with a very personal ax to grind with M (Judi Dench). Always two steps ahead of MI6, Silva has gone to great lengths in order to exact his revenge, and now it’s up to Bond to stop him and protect M.

In Silva, Bardem has given us inarguably one of the greatest Bond villains of all time. My knee jerk reaction is to proclaim him the best immediately, but perhaps a cooling off period is prudent. He’s flamboyant and colorful in many ways, but decidedly (and wisely) low-key in others. His motivations are better established than any villain in Bond history, and Bardem obviously savors the role. The combination of those two factors will undoubtedly rocket him to the top of the 50-year-old list for many. The long shot where he slowly strolls into the movie, monolguing every step of the way, is simply one of the greatest Bond villain moments of all time.

Also undeniably amongst the best in the franchise’s history are “Skyfall”‘s action sequences. The pre-title chase is one for the ages, mixing a car chase, shoot outs, motorcycle stunt racing, a fist fight, a backhoe and eventually the tension filled sniper sequence. Along the way, they find a way to sprinkle in a Bond signature moment, one where he fixes his cuff after jumping into a destroyed train car. Things certainly don’t let up there, though. This film is Bond’s best showing as a martial artist ever, filled with the type of solid, practical martial arts that a true field agent would be trained in. No spinning reverse crescent kicks here, but tons of solid blocks, punches, takedowns, holds, and debilitating kicks to the legs. There are more major shoot outs, a foot chase through the subways of London, and eventually what amounts to a fiery, all out, small theatre conflict to keep the pulse racing throughout the film’s runtime. Strictly as an action movie, “Skyfall” is the best of the genre to date this year, and yes, I’ve seen “The Avengers”.

Mendes does more than just craft memorable action sequences though. He’s also created one of the most striking Bond films ever visually, as well. There are numerous shots that are so colorful or so dramatic that they beg to be turned into “Skyfall” desktop wallpapers. Even without the benefit of “exotic locales” (this is one of Bond’s least “Travelogue” outings) it really is some of the best cinematography in the entire series. Mendes highlights introspective moments via reflections in car windows, turns toss away transitional shots into memorable ones with neon lighting or the orange glow of a raging fire, and adds drama to poignant passages with some deft camera movement and clever shot angles. In “Skyfall”, the Bond series showcases what it can be with a solid, artistically minded director. And that is… excellent.

As a movie fan, I have no complaints whatsoever. Though it’s not a perfect film (I’d have dialed back some of Bardem’s character’s Oedipal issues a little, avoided a major movie cliché at the end, and maybe even turned down the fan service a notch), “Skyfall” is a first-rate action movie, bound for legendary status in the action genre. It’s well worth the price of admission and easily bound to be one of the best films of the year. As a Bond fan, I’m letting my impressions of the new Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw) settle in, but I’m definitely a big fan of Ralph Fiennes’ Mallory. He was excellent, and the way they worked him in was very well done. My only mild complaint from the Bond fan perspective is that I do wish they would return some of fun to the life of Bond. Craig is the first Bond that I wouldn’t want to BE. Not that I wish the series would return to the campiness of the Roger Moore era, say, but there has to be a compromise zone somewhere where we can keep the great stories, action, and realism of the Craig’s Bond films and find a way to incorporate more of the joie de vivre that Brosnan, Moore and Connery had. Yes, it’s true that a killing machine like Bond probably wouldn’t actually revel in the glamorous high life as much as those Bonds did, and as such, Craig’s Bond is, again, more realistic. But he’s also a little less fun, and I hope the series finds its way to up that fun quotient again somehow.

That “Bond Geek” footnote aside, “Skyfall” is an intense, well written, well acted, well directed action movie that’s sure to please general audiences and Bond purists alike. It’s an intense and solidly dramatic film. An instant entrant to my 2012 top ten and a strong contender for movie of the year. The action genre is spilling over with the movie refuse of substandard plots, characters and generic direction. To find one as artfully crafted as this should be cause for celebration amongst all movie fans, not just the Bond faithful.

A++

114 thoughts on “Skyfall

  1. I loved Casino Royale, but I think what made this Bond even better was the style of it all. Sam Mendes’ direction is clean and crisp and the cinematography by Roger Deakins is incredible. Love your review.

    • Thanks Mark! :D

      You’re right, the style here was incredible. This is easily the most artfully done Bond. It makes the others seem like just… onscreen stories in comparison. LOL. I hope to see Deakins and Mendes back for #24!

  2. Another great review! I am pumped to see this as soon as possible. I read all these posts and feel inadequate at times. I too want to know everything about this movie and analyze it’s effect on me.

    You have now seen it twice and are planning a third visit, I wonder if this need to revisit the film is going to build up the admiration and move it up your best list. Did you do this with CR or QoS? This movie sounds great, has some thought provoking scenes, and shows potential for further quality Bond evolution. I saw DC on Jimmy Kimbal and he said he has signed up for 2 more bond films. Is this news?

    • It IS news, yes. Not to me though, LOL. I had heard that, yes. So its good though, its good news. We get to keep the Craig era alive, that’s a good thing…

      It’s battling with Casino Royale and Goldfinger as we speak. Seriously! It’s difficult though. Goldfinger is classic. It’s so classic its become iconic. You could take half a dozen images from that movie, show them to someone who’s never even seen it, and 50 years later they’ll still be able to name it. Sight unseen! Now though, it’s up against a modern action spectacular, you know? Its almost like comparing apples and oranges. That’s pretty difficult. I’m not sure that the reviewing isnt what I need to decide… it’s just more time and thought.

      I think I’m leaning towards Casino Royale staying number one though, because it’s also a great modern action film, but it has a much lighter tone. Even though Skyfall boasts a much better villain. GAHAGAHAAHHHH!!!! LOL I dont know!!!!!! :D

      Pretty sure I saw Casino Royale three times in the theatre. Maybe only two though. Definitely only saw QoS once though. LOL. :(

  3. Awesome review :D And you don’t need me to say here again that I totally agree with you :D

    The visual appeal of this film is astounding. Mendes has a way of giving his films almost a colour scheme. Revolutionary Road was very muted, beige colours. Road to Perdition was most definitely a greenish hue. While here Skyfall, he’s gone for a big spectrum! Love it.

    Bardem’s plays a great villain here. He’s got dimensions and you believe his motive.

    Hope you enjoyed your second viewing!

    • I did, actually, thank you. :D

      And yes, I know you’re a big fan of this too. I think that’s when my anticipation shifted into overdrive, actually, Jaina. When I saw your 5/5 I was like DAMMMMMMMIITTTTT I need to SEEEEEEE ITTTT!! LOL :D

      The use of color here was fantastic. Everyone is talking about it. This is about as major a home run as we could hope for. :D

      Still actually waiting to find our first hater… Everyone loves it to one degree or another.

  4. Mr Fogs, I can see that you had fun with this one ;-) Great write-up bro. I think you know where I stand on it but I totally agree on Bardem’s Oedipul issues needing some restraint and the cliched ending. Speaking of which, the ending was a bit of a letdown for me.

    • The end has been drawing some criticism… I’ve been around to a number of other reviews, and just did a Lambcast, and the third act is the subject of complaint for a lot of people. Personally, I didnt know what to make of it the first time around, but after a second viewing I realize how unique it is in the Bond canon… for the first time, he’s on DEFENSE for the finale of a film. Plus its an extrememly well shot, intense sequence, so… I enjoy it.

      I think I’d have scaled back the “Mommy Issues” just a tad still though. LOL :D

  5. Glad to hear you enjoyed it so much man and a great write up as always. I agree with you on the lack of fun Craig’s Bond brings. He has a much dryer sense of humour and his films feel very much like more straight up action films. I think this is in part due to the flack Brosnan’s last couple of films got and also the influence of the Bourne series and Nolan’s Batman trilogy.

    • Absolutely is due to those factors. Especially the fact that the Brosnan Bonds devolved into ridiculousness… they had to bounce back hard in this direction.

      I just wonder if the next Bond will try to change pace and go back the other way….

      • Yeah, I’m actually of the mindset that this is going to be the first Bond film to get a nomination for Best picture. The field is ten now. Last year they didnt even fill it. The movies they chose still had weak spots (Extremely, Incredibly, etc) so there’s plenty of room to at least NOMINATE this movie.

        My money’s on Bond getting a nom. For realz.

  6. Completely raises the bar for Bond movies. Top notch directing, top notch acting. The script ripped off just enough from Dark Knight to make me comfortable, but the characterization was the best of any Bond film to date.

    I don’t know yet if I put Skyfall just in front of Casino Royale or right behind, but those two plus the first four Connery films are really when you get down to it the only great Bond films. It will be hard for them to keep it up.

    • Oh, I hope it wont be hard… I mean, its true they followed up Casino with Quantum… but now this makes two out of three Craig films that have been great Bonds. I’m hoping theyre just onto something really good and they stay the coure!

      I still have it trailing CR, personally, but I can see how someone might put it ahead of it.

      I suppose the whole “Get captured on purpose” bit did feel a little Dark Knight-ish. I gave it only the briefest thought though as I watched.

      • It must be a good movie, because I keep thinking about it.

        Thematically, Skyfall is a bit like the novel version of You Only Live Twice. The novel heavily had the themes of death and rebirth, as you see with Bond here. I like the idea of taking ideas and themes from the Fleming novels, but not actually remaking the old movies.

      • Oh god, totally. I hope they never remake those! Especially when the new content is so high quality.

        And you’re right, man, I haven’t been able to “shake it”, either. Scenes and such keep popping into my mind too! :D

        Great flick. It seriously is…

  7. Great to hear this fulfilled your expectations, Fogs. I missed it over the weekend but certainly saw the long lines at the theater. Can’t wait to catch it this week!

  8. Great review. Totally agree with your assessment of Bardem (“He’s flamboyant and colorful in many ways, but decidedly and wisely low-key in others…Bardem obviously savors the role) and the awesome actions scenes, especially the first one.

  9. Had the pleasure of seeing this yesterday (after watching Casino Royale and Quantum in quick succession) and loved it. Right from the opening sequence, I think what struck me the most about this film was how dark it was. Bond is no longer an unstoppable force – he’s injured both emotionally and physically – nor are M or MI6.

    Totally agree about the way this film was shot. So many of the moments are breathtaking, with the trip to Shanghai being jaw dropping for me.

    This movie had style, but it also had substance – seeing Bond’s past, seeing M fight for her job against people who have no idea how much danger MI6 protects them from, the beginnings of Bond’s relationship with Moneypenny, etc.

    I’ll admit that I’m not well-versed in the Bond universe. I’ve only see a few of the earlier iterations, but have been a huge fan of the films with Daniel Craig. To me they aren’t just films bolstered to blockbuster status by the mere fact that they’re Bond films, but a grouping of movies that are smart and worthwhile on their own merits. They’ve blended action with emotion and genuine storytelling, and I’ve loved seeing these new films unfold. I know it’s a bit early, but I can’t see where they take Bond next.

    • The Craig triple feature, huh Shelby? Nice!

      Its great to hear that about the fact that Craig is making the series attractive to you even though you’re not all that familiar with the prior films. Bond is gaining new legions of fans, for sure. It bodes well for the health of the franchise going forward! Hopefully they’ll find a way to end the Craig era gracefully, seeing as Connery, Moore and Brosnan all ended with disastrous films for the finale. LOL
      :(

      Glad we agree on this flick, I think its a lock to be widely considered one of the year’s best! :D

  10. I’m trying to start watching the older films in order. I’ve got Dr. No in now.

    I’m just picturing 1960s movie execs being like, “Ok, how can we blow people away with this movie’s opening sequence? Multi-coloured circles? Yes!” and then every viewer just having their mind boggled by the crazy special effects.

    • HAHAHAHAHAAAA!!! :D

      Ohhhhhh shit, Shelby. Thats freaking funny. Just wait. You are going to have that thought a LOT as you go through the series :D Heheheheehhhh. Ohhh way too funny, cause its so true.

  11. I’m a newbie to the Bond series, and I absolutely loved this one! As an action film, it is much better than The Avengers. I originally gave The Avengers a high score, but since then I’ve grown to dislike the whole alien invaders premise of that movie….

    • Welllllll… I give the Avengers a pass on that regard as just an overall movie, because its really a movie about a team and a team dynamic. However, as an action movie, it pales next to this one in the reagrd that here, the stakes feel more real, and the action isn’t cartoonish. So yes, I think this is the superior action flick, too.

      Good to hear it registers with people who arent “Hardcore Bond Fans” though. :D

      • No, no. I really loved that movie too. Easily one of the best of the year. But as a Superhero movie, not strictly as an action film, you know? I gave that one an A++, too. Pretty sure that and this are the only movies so far this year!

      • I’m not sure if it’ll crack my top 10, but maybe. Yeah, exactly. I loved the humour. Haha, the movies must be good to receive that coveted FMR A++ stamp ;) Both Avengers and Skyfall got a 90 from me, the only 2012 film that has gotten an 100 from me is The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

  12. Yay Fogs, great review man and glad that something we’ve been anticipating for so long lives up to the hype, eh? I love how this movie works perfectly as an action movie but not at all devoid of dramatic tension and emotional gratification. I LOVE Judi Dench’s M and how much screen times she’s got here. I see you didn’t mention Berenice’s Severine in your review, I thought she was the weakest link here.

    • Sad, but she wasn’t worth mentioning, right? I suppose I wouldnt call her “Bad” per se, but she was more of a plot device than anything else. That entire sequence in Macau was really just there to appease the Bond fans who had said the series had gotten too “Un-Bond Like” you know?

      Meanwhile, YES! Its great when your anticipation builds up. When you can be like THIS Was WHY I was going so crazy!! :D This one delivered and more, Ruth. Big Time :D

  13. Saw this today and it truly redeems the Bond franchise. In my mind there was quite a bit of doubt on that front, following the QoS debacle, but I’m happily satisfied that they have made a worthy entrant into the series. There was plenty of action, drama and “cool”-quotient (hereafter to be known as “coolQ). And speaking of Q, I quite like young master Q, although not at first. I very much liked that they made him, Moneypennny and Mallory all earn their places in the future movies, something we never had with their predecessors. I also loved most on the other nods to the history of Bond, especially with the cars. The Aston Martin DB reveal was the only huge applause moment of the screening I attended. And the music sting when they killed the car was perfect. Craig’s Bond was excellent as well, but I agree with you 100% that I wish they could give him just a little bit more humor, and joie de vivre.

    I will disagree with you a bit on Bardiem’s Siva character. He was very good, but nowhere near a Dr. No or Goldfinger or Blofeld. I thought he was very similar in history to Sean Bean’s Trevailian (?) and his expertise and powers seemed unlikely to me. Not that it was a deal killer, but it took me out of the moment. I though his performance was excellent and a lot of fun to watch him chew up the scenery all over the place.

    So am I the only one who really wished Bond’s Scottish gamekeeper had been played by Connery? Just me? Lol

    • One other thought: at first I thought there wasn’t a true ‘Bond Girl’ in this movie. I mean there were sort of 3 with the nameless girl at the beginning, Moneypenny, and Severine, but none them really fill the formula role of true Bond Girl, until it occurred to me that M is the Bond Girl for Skyfall.

      Thoughts?

      • Huh. LOL. She’s the primary female character, I’ll give her that. I’ve always took Bond Girl to mean sex/love interest though, regardless of whether its a femme fatale, casual, or main co-star role. So… at the very least she certainly isnt going to be widely considered this movies Bond Girl, though I kind of see what youre tyring to say there.

    • Well, I know how much you hated QoS, so I’m glad this one restored your faith. To be honest, based of of your QoS hatred, I didnt know what to expect from you here. LOL

      If they could work in just a bit of that rogue, devil may care happy go lucky Bond – just a bit, 0 these movies would be SO great! Not that theyre not now, but we’re talking near perfect territory. Thats the one complaint I mildly have and thats the tone is TOO intense all the way through.

      We’ll just agree to disagree on Bardem there. He’s outrageously entertaining. A fantastic fantastic villain. My favorite. :D His expertise and some of the things he did tested your suspension of disbelief a little, but I was more than happy to just go along for the ride. :D

      And… I would have started an angry letter campaign if Connery showed up as some old groundskeeper or something. NO. LOL Nuh uh. It may not just be you, but… youre on your own on that one as far as Im concerned. :D

  14. Oh man. I really wish I could be a guest on your upcoming podcast in which I am sure you will be discussing this movie and its “awesomeness.” Just to sit and discuss it as we agree to disagree on certain parts. haha. Would be entertaining to say the least. At least more entertaining than Bérénice Marlohe was in this movie, but perhaps not nearly as entertaining as Bardem’s golden hair. :D

    I liked the movie. A lot actually. but there were too many things missing for me to proclaim it as the best or to claim Bardem as the best either.

    A nice review though here for sure. I love how there is so much dissidence about this film in the reviewing community, yet mostly everyone still gives it such a great score!

    • It’s lying on the slab before me getting “Chopped Up” as we speak. :( You’ll have to settle for listening in, buddy.

      I agree, it seems like everyone is giving it a really great score, regardless of if they have complaints or not. I just think its because its a rock solid, fundamentally sound, highly entertaining, action spectacular!!!! :D LOL

  15. Pingback: Skyfall (2012) | The Reel Collection

  16. Certainly Silva is a good villain but I wouldn’t place him at the top of the pile, certainly somewhere in the top ten though, and probably in the top five.
    I agree with pretty much everything you say here, except the level of humour which we have already talked about, I think that this is the most fun Bond film since probably GoldenEye… certainly it beats the other Craig films on that count. Also I loved the fan servicing in Skyfall, I can see why some might think it gets a little much, but I enjoyed every last scrap of it! :D

    Great write up, and I’m glad that after your blogathon you ended up loving Skyfall!

    • Yeah, I put a lot of pressure on this movie, that’s for sure.

      I still think it’s really very serious. I know there’s some humor beats here and there, and that entire Macau Casino sequence was created just to get that more light hearted Bond feel to it, but its still very very intense and almost smotheringly serious in my book. I appreciate the quality of the films, and its definitely better to have the scales tilt on this side as opposed to the campiness you get when things go the opposite way, but I am very much hoping the next outing winds up a little lighter! :D

  17. I think you and I both know where we stand on this, respectively, especially after the LAMBCast. So I really have little more to contribute to this review that we haven’t hashed out already. But I am leaving this comment for posterity. And also Skyfall is awesome.

  18. I used to not like Bond. That was back in my youth when Bond was Brosnan, whom I couldn’t stand. But ever since Craig took over, I’ve become a fan, and this was the best movie yet.

    It makes me curious enough to want to go back and dig up some oldies, just so I can have even more of an appreciation of Moneypenny and Mallory (who, honestly, I thought was a brand new character….as I said, I’m no long-term Bond fan). Any suggestions for the best old Bond films for filling me in on those characters?

    I had only one disappointment, and it’s not a strong one at all. But if you create this fabulous villian with this skin-prickling “abnormality”…why not use said abnormality in the climactic final scenes? Maybe it’s just me. I really wanted to see that again, during a fight sequence, or in death.

    • Mallory is a new character that takes over as M… Its the first time we’ve seen an M (Played by three others, previously) when they weren’t… already M. So he’s the first to exist beyond the job, so to speak.

      There’s not all that much to “know” about the characters. In every movie they’re in, Moneypenny and Bond flirt, but never hook up, M hands out the assignments and tells the two of them to cool it, and then Q gives Bond some gadgets. Judi Dench was the first to make the M role more involved in the entire film… and that began during the Brosnan era.

      If you want to check out some older Bonds, I definitely recommend “Goldfinger” above all others. Its awesome, first off, but you’d also get the benefit of having seen a classic. Seeing as that movie is so iconic. :D

      I thought they did a GREAT job with the “Bond Villain Defect”. Mostly, Bond villains just show up all deformed already, and its just for show! This one completely tied in to his motivations! That blew my mind. I was happy they didnt show it too much, mainly cause it was gross as hell :D and then also, it was CGI, so… do it quick and then move on!

  19. Well, the wife and I saw the bond movie this Friday at Enfield Square Mall. Good flick. I would say that it was an A- to A. I did have a few issues with the movie that prevented it from being a solid A+ but I would highly recommend this film. Below are my comments on the film.

    1. The first issue I had was in the first 15 to 20 minutes of the film where he supposedly gets killed. Sorry but I found it to be to unbelievable that anyone short of Superman could survive a bullet, falling from a few hundred feet into water on his back, which is like hitting concrete at that height then going through rapids in a river all while unconscious. He should have been dead a couple of times over. I thought they over did it.

    2. The bad guy was excellent. Very believable character but I could not get my head wrapped around the fact that he purposely gets captured just to have his virus planted in HQ. wouldn’t it be easier for him to simply find a way to get the brief case to HQ without the fancy escape attempt? This is a guy who found a way to blow up the HQ without exposing himself. But then again, he probably wanted to look at M and explain what and why he was doing what he was doing. Besides we wouldn’t have the great special effects and scenes.

    3. The last thing I would like to mention now is the bond women. At first I’m like they got rid of all the bond women way to early. Then I realized the next day that the last bond women was M herself. After I thought about it I was like nice touch to the writers.

    That’s it, I’m sure I will have more to say about the flick to again it was an excellent movie but I still prefer the classics with Sean Connery from the 60s to early 70s. But the new stuff is much better than the Roger Moore ones.

    • Nice plug for the home town theatre. :D

      1) In terms of believability within the context of the Bond franchise, Bond surviving being shot and that fall ranks #1,268 on the list of unbelievable Bond moments. :D LOL. I hear you, but that didnt bug me for a minute.

      2) Yeah, he said he needed to show her what had happened to him. I think he orchestrated everything to the minute detail (super villains can do that) so, wht the hell. Get captured, let ‘em cage you up, hell, give you a straight jacker. :D Again, I hear you. How can I argue that that’s not true? But I would say it didnt BUG me. The style and momentum of the movie just washed that completely away….

      3) A couple of people have been commenting now that M was the real Bond girl here. And I guess that’s kind of cool, but I’m going to side with you on this. The Bond girls were disappointing. This movie will be mid pack in that regard, at best.

      Hard to beat those Connery classics, but I think this one is a great action flick, buddy. This was a kick ass flick. :D

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