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++

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114 thoughts on “Skyfall

  1. The only other thing that kept pushing my brain was that he was pronounced dead, and MI6 sold all his crap. I don’t know how things work in the UK but in the states, if a body isn’t produced for identification it can take 5 years for a person to be pronounced legally dead. The time line just didn’t fit for me in the film. But anything is possible in the Bond world including getting shot, falling off a bridge that would have killed Batman and surfive from drowning.

    • HAHAHAAA! Man… you WERE bothered by the little details, huh?

      Nelson: “No, see? That Scorpion… thats a *Compsobuthus werneri* that thing would NOT sit still for that. Also, its typically only found in southern Africa… and that chase took place in Turkey, so at best he’s in NORTH Africa right now” :D

      LOL. I can only reiterate… I brushed right by these little details. Good movies will do that to you. ;)

  2. Heh heh heh, two weeks late, but I gotta comment on this thing.
    Totally lived up to my expectations, that’s for sure. I’ve always liked Craig the best and I stand by him. I think he’s perfectly fun enough without being completely unaffected by his experiences. I also liked the “go back to old homestead for final shootout” thing, even though it is kind of overused I supposed (it seems familiar but I can’t think of an example right now). It was cool, because I literally had not thought about James Bond having any sort of past or backstory or parents at all. Of course, Vesper (!!!) does make some comments about his past, but I never even realized it until watching this. I was like “ohhh yeah.” Whoa, James Bond has parents. Weird. I guess it is kind of less Bondesque, but I liked it.
    Loved the song, but the titles were really disorganized I thought. It made more sense in retrospect, but still.
    Also Ralph Fiennes! I love that guy, but he was so awesome in this film! “Just for variety, can we actually here from the witness?” awesome.
    I’m so excited for the next one! I hope this isn’t going to turn into like a star trek thing where only every other craig-era Bond film is good. But I’m so excited for the next one!

    • Ha! Yeah, I hope this doesnt alternate like Trek, too. I dont think it will. Two out of three is a really good sign, and those two aren’t just good theyre really great

      Fiennes was awesome wasn’t he? Love his take on that character, it was great. I’ve grown to really like the originality of the back to the homestead finale (at least within the Bond canon)… Bond is on DEFENSE. We never see that! I did backpedal on Craig though… I realized at some point that his Bond is the first Bond I wouldnt want to be. So, while his movies may be coming out the best, I dont think he’s my favorite. :(

      Anyways, No expiration dates on posts, Hunter, always love talking movies! Sometimes people dig up real old ones, like when a theatrical review finally hits cable… so, feel free :D

      • I’m warming up to Craig. I think part of the problem with him is that he comes off too cold. Bond should have a suave, debonair, charisma that causes women to fall into bed with him. Although he is amazingly sexy, Craig’s Bond just lacks that one quality. I saw part of Casino Royal today, from somewhere in the middle, I’ve mentioned that I couldn’t get into the first half hour of it. Apparently it gets better. That storyline also may explain why Criag’s Bond comes off as oddly angst ridden that he seems to be shoving down and burying and comes off so detached from the rest of humanity.

      • Absolutely part of the “problem” is that he comes off too cold. And mind you, I still like his Bond very much… its just that so many people are calling him the best bond, etd… I agree with you. “Bond should have a suave, debonair, charisma that causes women to fall into bed with him.” He should also have a little better humor in his bag of tricks. Craig’s Bond seems a little loathe to crack a joke. Not that he doesn’t…

        Anyways, glad you gave CR another chance. I think its great right from the opening, but… however you’ve got to get there. :D

  3. Hi, I haven’t been here before, and I’m not sure if discussion is still going on about this or not, but I’m dying to discuss Skyfall and my friends don’t understand, so…
    Thanks for a great review. I don’t agree entirely, but for most parts yes.

    I come home a while ago, after seeing Skyfall for the third time. It gets better on each viewing and this worries me. ;) Tonight it looked even more beautiful. It was funnier and deeper. Javier Bardem was even better. See? Oh and there seems to be new stuff to notice or appreciate every time. For instance, today I’m still sorta giggling at Silva’s “Her loss.” line and it’s delivery. LOL Can I get a 3 disc deluxe dvd set with all the extras already, please? I’d still go see it on the big screen, because that’s how it deserves to be seen, but just for the days in between…

    Ever since the first time I saw it I’ve been thinking about far too much, reading about it far too much, watching various stuff on youtube* far too much… well you get the picture. I’ve never done this with any movie ever, so it’s a bit strange. Oh, and I’ve been grinning like mad for weeks now. – Yes, my face hurts. :D
    (*For giggles I recommend the pre-premiere Graham Norton Show – the whole show is in 3 numbered parts on YT – with Daniel, Judi and Javier all on the couch. It’s also obvious they really had a great time together doing the movie. Unfortunately I’ve yet to find other interviews of all three or any two of them together.)

    I’ve been going to see every new Bond movie for about 30 years, but this is the first time I’ve gone back to see one multiple times (this wasn’t the last one that’s for sure). I loved Casino Royale to bits – still do. Just watched it the day before yesterday (and QoS yesterday), and it remains as magnificent as ever, but in some ways Skyfall was more fun, more engaging cerebrally (I just keep thinking about various stuff), and more beautiful visually. There still seems to be so much more to discover. Like, I really need to read about that painting beside Severine in Shanghai, for instance. I don’t think it was a co-incidence that it was that particular painting anymore than the the one at the museum.

    Btw… I didn’t recognize the songs Silva played, but I have been told the helicopter one was Boom Boom by The Animals. Hilarious, actually – it suits him perfectly… I mean he WOULD play that at a time like that, wouldn’t he? But I wonder if anyone could help me with the song he played on the island? It sounded familiar, but I haven’t managed to figure it out, yet. Now I even have the melody stuck in my head, but still can’t place it or the performer.

    Now, the coldness thing, and also what supposedly appeals to women, well, I disagree that… wait… is anyone still reading? If yes, I might go on for ages. – Thought I should warn folks about that… ;)
    Checking back later.

    • Glad you’re a big fan of this flick Tuulia. I am too.

      Unfortunately, I cant help you with the song Silva was playing on the Island. Its been almost a month since I saw it, sorry I can’t be of more help :(

      We like to talk about movies here, so dont worry about going on too long, thats certainly been done before LOL. I actually found that Skyfall got better in my second viewing, as well. There were a couple of things the first time that I didnt know what to think of… once I got comfortable with them, I felt even better about the movie (it was great from day one, of course!)

      You sound like a big Bond fan, I wish you had been around for Bond month! I wrote up a lot of Bond related top tens, hosted a Blog-a-thon, lots of stuff. If you have interest, you can check it out in this “Category” http://fogsmoviereviews.com/category/james-bond-central/ Sounds like there’s some things there you might enjoy!

      Sorry I couldnt be of more help, but it was nice of you to add to our Skyfall discussion here, hope you stop back!

      • Thanks, and I’ll check it out… :)

        Actually I never would have thought of myself as “a big Bond fan” during the years. A fan to the extent of going and checking out every new Bond movie and occasionally watching the older ones on tv, but that was it. Now, rather than “a big Bond fan” I’d probably be more accurately described as “a Bond fan, but a BIG fan of the Craig era Bond”. :)

        And I’m that for many reasons, but one also being the way Craig’s Bond treats women. I*m a woman myself so that sorta matters to me, you see. ;) Goldfinger was on tv on Monday, and I watched it and that scene Bond has with Pussy in the hay was just yuk (that chap is supposedly a “gentleman”? geez), and there are many more unpleasant instances from that perspective in other old Bond movies, whereas I have no complaints whatsoever of the way Craig’s Bond is with women, he’s been fabulous with them in all three movies. I don’t agree with the “cold” comment. As a killer yes, he’s cold, which makes it believable that killing is a big part of his job. But he’s more than that: a complex character with lots vulnerability, wit and charm who doesn’t treat women like shit. How anyone would think that, say, Connery’s Bond was more of a gentleman/somehow more charming with women than Craig’s is completely beyond me – anyone feel free to enlighten me. ;)

      • In fairness to Connery’s Bond, that was a different era… I dont think anyone would argue that he was more of a “Gentleman” with women, but he certainly was more charming (Craig, as you said, is much much colder). The films also worked in Bond having “liasons” at a much higher rate than the Craig Bonds have. Thus Connery winds up with the ladies man rep.

        Thats my take on it at least.

      • I do realise the times were different, but still.
        And colder as a killer ONLY I meant – therefore even more believable as a killer. It doesn’t follow I see him as less charming, but in fact more charming – obviously not because of coldness (when that is required), but despite of that. Killing and seducing are completely different things, ;) and his approach is therefore completely different. That is, there’s no coldness in his seduction. The fact that he doesn’t try to take advantage of any potential situation to bed a woman regardless of circumstances (Vesper at her most vulnerable in CR, Camille in QoS) also makes him more of a man and shows a moral backbone, which a hero is supposed to have. Connery’s Bond was too full of himself and too sure of himself to be attractive, IMO. I really don’t see the charm in the character in that sense – otherwise he was fine as Bond, I think. To put it another way, Connery’s Bond with women was “oh, you want me even if you don’t know it yet, I know you do” and Craig’s is “I want you, would you allow me to charm the pants off you”… something like that. :D Connery’s Bond was very much in love with himself, Craig’s Bond is not.

  4. Okay I’m way late to the party. That said; this is the one film not to be missed in its theatrical run. Exceptionally impressive entertainment. Tops for me in films this year; in the top tier for Bond films. I did enjoy the diverse locales, and Bardem is very engaging as a character and villain here with excellent backstory as Fogs mentions. Fiennes is a find, and his role as highlighted previously is strong though supporting appropriately. Harris is a good add; Dench(love the dog btw) and Daniel elevate their game and bring this one home with a bang. Super post and a truly phenomenal movie outing. Cheers.

    “Welcome to Scotland!”
    -Albert Finney, Skyfall

    • Hey. I dont care. I love talking movies, especially the great ones. I’m always psyched when people want to swing back and drop off comments at a later date too, that’s awesome.

      Agreed on all points, even that this is the top movie of the year. So far, its holding strong. This is contender time, so it’ll ave some challenges to face off against, but it stands a great chance at movie of the year, in my book.

      I wonder if the dog was actually in any other movies as a prop or anything. I’ll have to keep an eye out the next time I watch Goldeneye (most of her other movies, she’s not in the office).

  5. Pingback: THE 6TH ANNUAL LION AWARDS: Best Films of 2012 | The Large Association of Movie Blogs

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