Review: Skyfall

Premium Bond?

As Legacies often burden, there’s an overriding sense of significance while watching Bond at Fifty

Skyfall is significantly important, not only is it the film to celebrate fifty years of Bond, but it’s pressured to deliver once more on the promise of Casino Royale after the disappointment of Quantum of Solace. How this promise is fulfilled is quite extraordinary, but perhaps not so given the sum of its parts.

With a high class of acting, directing and cinematography talent, Bond twenty three goes beyond, to be greater than the sum of its parts, remarkably, to delivery perhaps not the most radical front end ‘baddy’ plot seen before, but a rich sub text of tasteful homage and celebration of a country and a world changed over half a century, charting the journey of an Icon from then ‘til now and before.

Skyfall’s brilliance is its story and its faith in the old while embracing the new. The plotting and scheming of Javier Bardem’s Silva would appear to be the primary narrative as Britain and MI6 come under attack from cyber terrorism, but as Judi Dench’s M becomes THE target, Daniel Craig gives his best performance yet, not just as Bond, evolving into the assigned high protector of Britain and ‘Maam’.

Never has acting in a Bond feature ever been better. Firstly Craig, belligerent as always and with a fallibility that has been presented before, but now with a sense of despair and near incapability that reveals the seldom seen frailty of the age old protagonist. Bond has never lacked faith in his ability and confidence has always transfigured into outward arrogance, but when in ‘strapped to chair’ encounters and re-evaluating body and mind (literally), Craig demonstrates  a glassy eyed, near beaten portrayal that makes One route for him like never, ever before. When faith is instilled once more by M, when pen on paper says otherwise, it’s the fortitude of cinema’s greatest hero – which can’t be measured, that not only celebrates with humility and reserve, the strength of an icon, but that of a nation.

Much has been said of Bardem, naturally; no stranger to playing the bad guy. In a similarly creepy display akin to his No Country for Old Men turn, a very ‘Bondian’ villain is delivered, with the hallmarks of many classic bad guys, and one such previous menace in particular, that subtly pays a respectful nod to the devilish legacy laid out before, all while delivering his own disturbing and worthy entry. For how good Bardem is, there is a sense that with so much to celebrate and ponder while re-evaluating a protagonist fifty years old and his place in the modern world, the villainous intentions of a modern threat is not un-identical to what has come before ever since Dr No pioneered the bad guy trail.  While perhaps lacking a true climatic encounter with Bond, Bardem’s Villain is indeed brilliant and utterly menacing but serves a much more significant narrative purpose as being the catalyst for a magnificent and intimate engaging of Judi Dench’s Mother figure.

In the many times Dench has played M, she has never been better than here, much due to the fact that she is central, as much as Bond is, as a figurehead of British fortitude,  a rich thread that runs throughout when not only M, but Britain is attacked . Bringing M front and centre is not only a celebration of another great Icon, but of what she and Bond represent in a modern world of perhaps, ever decreasing old imperial influence. Old methods utilised in a world of hidden cyber danger, whereas before MI6 and British intelligence only ever needed to rely on the wisdom of its people is thought provoking stuff; a commentary delivered memorably by Dench’s best M moment when defending the failings of herself and her charges within a brilliant, shifting set piece and monologue that perfectly sums up and celebrates Bond as he foot chases through the clamouring streets of old and new London.

And the streets and sub terrain of London take a rightful centre stage, captured brilliantly by Director Sam Mendes and Cinematographer Roger Deakins, collaborating once more. Much time is spent in other expected exotic locations; a high rise Shanghai scuffle is superb, but having so much set within London brings an intimacy and threat back home and gives a real narrowing and feeling of going back in time, with city wide shots of the near ancient London contrasting the modern, a purposeful narrative once more taking Bond back in time, alongside the brilliant head nods to all that has come before.

In an outstanding highland finale, Bond revisits the past – it’s perfect, adding even more to the legacy by providing rare back story. To say any more would spoil, just enjoy its beauty and poignancy.

The most satisfying part of Skyfall as a celebration of fifty years, all while expanding the story, is that the desired winks to the past don’t get in the way and pay respectful homage, without being ridiculous within the modern gritty vision of Bond since Craig’s arrival in Casino Royale; the return of a new ‘Quartermaster’ with the brilliant Ben Whishaw, as comically as unimpressed with Bond as ever is well timed, with Gadgets firmly placed in the past that aren’t that high tech at all, the PPK, the beautiful DB5 and the use of the ‘old ways’.

Now I am not going to be as obvious as to say Skyfall will leave you shaken and stirred, but with superb acting, direction, narrative and sub text beyond what has ever been seen in a Bond film before it is one of the best yet and as a celebration of Bond and all things British, Skyfall is sublime.

Mendes will likely testify, with Christopher Nolan as his inspiration and influence on what is a near perfect film, never mind a Bond vehicle, that he has applied The Dark Knight blueprint to the oldest of franchises. One of the greatest movie series has now been believably and fully realised in the modern world.

Mendes and Co. have expertly and respectfully paid tribute to fifty glorious years of cinema gold while managing to look forwards, to the point of almost re-launching Bond, showing that old dogs do learn new tricks and prove that even now, nobody does it better.

Out now on Blu Ray, online and DVD

banner 9 star

34 responses to “Review: Skyfall

  1. Great review Kevin! Can’t wait to rewatch this. The homage to Bond’s past and his family background is great, and I agree about Q being comically unimpressed w/ Bond, definitely captured the spirit of the original w/ Desmond Llewellyn. I’m thrilled to see Dench getting a prominent role in this too.

      • Indeed. Tbh when watching skyfall I took time to consider her legacy in bond and how long she has played m now. Extraordinary really. There aren’t many actors who can compare, especially in bond. I’m glad she was so central.

  2. Great review. This wasn’t my favorite Bond movie, but it was a pretty damn fun and entertaining flick that reminded me of the old days and had me hopeful for the new ones as well.

  3. Great review – you caught the essence!
    Thanks for stopping by my blog and checking out my thoughts on the Bond movie.

    • I love from Russia with love. Tbh I love them all. Even the crap ones. In time I will do a top five bond. I think skyfall and goldfinger would be in it. No doubt!

  4. I was with you until you brought Christopher Nolan into the mix. This was ten times the film that TDKR was in the same year, I dont know what Mendes “applied”.

    Anyways, that gripe aside, I agree that this was a great flick. I hailed it as my movie of the year, in fact. I’m a big Bond fan and a big fan of this one in particular. Great movie, you’re right to point out how great the cast was here!

    • Hi fog. Regarding what Mendes applied. Mendes gave a post production interview of how TDK inspired much of skyfall and he commented how he didn’t think skyfall was possible without this inspiration. I couldn’t really find a way to work this point into my review so specifically. Much of skyfall has much of the same vision, scope, scale, narrative- specifically modern terrorism but mostly threaded more epic realistic themes into bond like TDK did for batman. All while making a mountain of mullah, I was equally satisfied to see skyfall do so well. I think I do agree with you on film.of the year though. This was my cinematic review from one view but after watching again tonight I think I am going to upscore it to ten, on second view it virtually perfect, not just as a bond film. Thanks for your honest comment, discussion is always very welcome.

      • Me too. I like Skyfall even more than I did before after last night’s watch. My top ten for 2012, which I am still to decide is getting a rethink (apologies but TDKR will be in there somewhere :/ . Bond has Been influenced in recent years by Bourne in particular and I don’t think there is anything wrong in where that influence comes from as long as it makes it better and still relevant. But bond is the godfather who’s old influences are still to this,day seen, and after fifty that’s pretty immense! And how they can make a movie that tributes it’s heritage while being as current as ever is remarkable. And it made me very proud to be British! Nice one Fog!

  5. Ok, don’t block my blog after this comment, lol, but I could not disagree with you more! Casino Royale was the film that was virtually perfect and it is by far the superior film to Skyfall on every level. I was so hyped to see Skyfall, but once the second act started it started tinkering on over-the-top cheesiness. When I watched that komodo dragon scene my blood started to boil as I was so damn disappointed the franchise took everything Casino Royale achieved and reverted back to the Pierce Brosnan films! Could you imagine something so corny happening in Casino Royale? LOL. if the next film follows this trend I fear the franchise will fall off again.

    Casino Royale brought such a gritty and much needed realism to the series that just made it extraordinary, and then Skyfall basically defecated over everything Casino Royale achieved.

    I agree with you that Ben Whishaw was great as Q, and he is going to be one of the top actors in the game within the next few years, but that’s another subject; what i realized as I was watching Skyfall is that Q is not necessary. With Q directing Bond it feels like Simon Pegg and Tm Cruise on Mission Impossible. Mission Impossible is okay, but pales in comparison to Bond, and in particular Casino Royale. It takes away from the intimacy of Bond vs. villain.

    Which leads me to Javier Bardem’s character, which started out promising on his first scene, but then they never utilized him afterwards. I was expecting more of the psychological combat between Bond and villain, but we didn’t get it which was a huge let-down. Compare to Casino Royale where Bond and Le Chiffre were going at it for the poker game, and then afterwards when Le Chiffre captured Bond and was interrogating him. It was Bond vs. villain; no Q talking in his ear; no gadgets. Bond vs. villain, and THAT was what was so fascinating, and that is what we were robbed of in Skyfall with the exception of Bardem’s first scene.

    And then the third act! Wow, was it bad! So Bond hides away in his old home, and manages to shoot down Javier Bardem’s whole gang and their helicopter with a couple of shot-guns? LOLOLOL!!!

    And then how about as M was escaping for shelter across the land, and she turns on a FLASHLIGHT so she can easily be spotted!!! LOLOLOL!!!!

    Are you SERIOUS?????

    This was just an insult to Casino Royale!

    Casino Royale was perfection! It had great action sequences – suspense – tension – romance – unpredictability – and a twist in the 3rd act I didn’t see coming – and then a great ending! When Bond walks down the steps and raises his gun. Just perfect!

    I do agree the acting was good in Skyfall, and the cinematography was phenomenal; it was the writing that was the problem.

    • I won’t block you ha ha you’re very welcome to your opinion and I won’t be dismissive of all you have took the time to write ( massive comment) so it’s worthy of reply. Right to reply: I really couldn’t disagree more with you on skyfall. Where I do agree is that casino royale is perhaps better but I absolutely love skyfall and I don’t think I am alone in this, critical acclaim and audience figures state this for me. To say it defecated over casino is a bit strong and some is wide of the mark, to compare to Brosnan yes they got bad but we’re comparing very different visions of bond. Q was brilliant and perhaps not necessary but much of what was in skyfall was in there for celebratory value of 50 years including the Dragon which was a bit silly but it was yet another playful nod. Watch his face when he is picked up by the big guy. Pure Roger Moore, some of those were cheesy but he deserves his place in the legacy of bond and is much loved. Lots to reply to but I will say that bardem was great but it still lacked that baddy face off, in this part I agree. I personally wanted to see some more rivalry and perhaps a proper battle, mentally or physical. This was in my mind when marking to nine. So, I respectfully disagree sir but what a comment! I loved it, you didn’t, but I would never block a comment just for stating an opinion and I respect the effort and time taken to write it and I still very much welcome your further visits and respect your opinion and your honesty. You didn’t hold back 😉

      • I liked the Roger Moore movies; Live and Let Die – Octopussy – A View To A Kill were my favorites.

        Even as a Skyfall fan you have to admit that was bad writing when M and that dude were trying to escape and they turned on a flashlight that made them easily visible; and M is in the “spy” business? LOLOLOL!!!

        And that whole 3rd act was just terrible and rushed and forced; and if you go to the message board on IMDB you will see that a ton of people hate this movie. I am definitely not alone. It was just written horribly. I’m still disappointed.

      • Are your fingers hurting yet? Ha.
        Gary, I am not suggesting either that you are alone. I am not naive to the possibility that there are many who didn’t like it as much as I as there are many people who completely hate Bond anyway. I am sorry you still feel really disappointed. all i can say is that I loved it like many others while respecting that you didn’t.

  6. I enjoyed this one, perhaps not as much as you did but it’s still a good flick. I really loved Bardem in this one. What I did not care so much for was the lack of cool gadgets coupled with the nerdy tech aspect of Bond using a giant computer monitor type device. That part reminded me of why I stopped watching that show 24.

    My favorite line was “welcome to Scotland”

    • I hear you but I didn’t miss the gadgets to be honest but yeh the giant monitor was clumsy especially when bond miraculously sees the code. Skyfall is one of those movies I find hard not to be too critical on as over analysis sometimes spoils enjoyment, firstly I want to be entertained. That’s what I want from bond. Good line to pick. On the gadgets thing I liked ‘we don’t really go in for that anymore’ I loved it. Glad you enjoyed it too. Thanks for the visit.

  7. Great review! I liked the film and I agree that the idea behind the finale was great with Bond revisitng his past, but for me the 3rd act didn’t work fully – it was good but I just had more fun during the first 2/3 of the movie than in the last 30 minutes. Still, it was one of the best Bond movies I’ve seen.

    • Hi Sati, many have viewed the final third in the same way as you, in that it didn’t fit a bit in with the first two thirds. I agree that it was a bit of a deviation and very different in tone but I loved it for the rare back-story it provided. It is a very good Bond film. Thanks for your visit.

  8. This is probably one of your few recent reviews with which I strongly disagree. I liked ‘Skyfall’ and found it an entertaining, if somewhat clumsy homage to 007 legacy’s past, but overall I found the execution of its “aging hero past his prime” theme to be underwhelming, and its action set pieces severely lacking when compared to the construction chase scene and emotional powerful Venice building collapse in ‘Casino Royale.’

    More importantly, I found that this film lacked any relationship nearly as powerful and memorable as the love story between Craig and Green back in 2006. M and Silva have their moments with Bond, but to me, nothing ever becomes fully realized or fleshed out. Just my take on it, though. You can check out my review for the nitty gritty details.

    • That’s okay my friend it was inevitable. I respectfully disagree, but I agree regarding the love story of casino royale and skyfalls opening doesn’t match royale. But I kept comparisons slight if I remember correctly more so the legacy of it, as everyone is making comparisons, could spend all day comparing bond’s really. It is interesting though how you point out how significant those themes are in bond now, which shows the evolution it’s made and best done in royale, which is clearly a good thing. I thoroughly enjoyed it, that’s just my take on it.

      • I believe so, and that would be just spot on for me. Craig brought relative youth and grit to Bond so if he stayed to long I would hate that to be undone. Two more seems right.

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