Skyfall Reviews

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Daniel Mumby
Super Reviewer
November 10, 2012
Like any long-running film franchise or TV series, it is interesting to note the ways in which the Bond series has acknowledged its longevity. While the 10th, 20th and 30th anniversaries passed by relatively quietly, with no films being released to coincide, the 40th anniversary was marked by Die Another Day, a greatest hits compilation with little narrative pull which was in hindsight downright embarrassing.

Skyfall is a more confident and impressive offering all round, marking the 50th anniversary with a film which looks far back into the series' past while also making a conscious effort to appear modern and cutting-edge. The result is technically superb, with Sam Mendes bringing weight to the characters and the visuals being some of the best in the whole series. But the film also demonstrates how fundamentally little Bond has changed, something which is cause for both concern and celebration.

The Bond series has always been at its best whenever it has had to defend its existence. The previous attempts at reinvention - Casino Royale, and Goldeneye before that - were prompted by perceptions that the series was old-fashioned, caused respectively by the game-changing Bourne series and the end of the Cold War. But while these films are impressive technical exercises, which still feel in isolation like a breath of fresh air, the basic formula has remained more or less the same for 50 years. The series has become so much of a genre in itself that any claim of reinvention or radical departure should be greeted with extreme caution.

Bond has always assimilated ideas and stories raised in other films; it's one of the many ways the series has remained relevant, or at least appeared to be that way. Skyfall continues to follow the trail blazed by Bourne by showing the extent of high-tech surveillance, and how advances in communications have changed the way that decisions are taken about people's lives. Both the villain and the revamped Q branch borrow from The Social Network, a film which argued that the world is now run not by governments but by technical wizards, and by extension how 'nerds' have grown from being perceived as harmless and weak into a force to be reckoned with.

Skyfall also contains a number of prominent visual references to other films, past and present. The entire sequence in Shanghai owes a massive debt to Blade Runner: the shot of Bond's gun in moving close-up and the fight against the Japanese signage are eerily close to Ridley Scott's masterpiece. There are also touches of Inception present in the lift scene and on the villain's island, whose ruined buildings could have come straight from Christopher Nolan's Limbo.

On top of all that, the film contains a great many nods to its own back catalogue. Much of the plot, while appearing original, hints back to conversations in Goldeneye. The allusions to Bond's parents are akin to the scene with 006 among the fallen idols, and the central duality is structured along the same lines: like Alec Trevelyan, Silva was betrayed by his homeland, and represents what Bond could have been had things turned out slightly differently. The journey "back in time" in the iconic Aston Martin DB5 is a direct nod to the Sean Connery era, Silva has a passing resemblance to Jaws from The Spy Who Loved Me, and there are two passing references to The Man with the Golden Gun, in Shanghai and with the shooting of the mirror at Skyfall.

The key point here is that everything we see, we have seen before, either in the Bond series or in the many other films on which it draws. What makes Skyfall successful (and memorable) is the way in which these ideas are presented or repackaged, so that they appear either original or become distinctive to the character. Having an abundance of references was largely to be expected, given the occasion that is being marked, and if nothing else the film scores over Die Another Day by actually having a coherent and interesting story.

The central irony about Skyfall is that its story is very much anti-Bond, but it is being told in a by-the-numbers, classic Bond way. The story is a not-too-distant cousin to The Ipcress File or Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, insofar as it uses a troubled yet distinctly British protagonist to focus on the changing mechanics of the secret service, particularly the ways in which technology is altering or eroding the role of agents. This is reflected in the numerous scenes of M answering to politicians, the increasing dominance of Q branch, and the conversations between M and Mallory.

But whereas Tomas Alfredson went against the grain with his film, openly eschewing the conventions of a spy thriller, Mendes tells this story in the manner of the classic Bonds. We go through the same motions as all the Bond films after Diamonds are Forever, with Bond being sent on a difficult mission after a riveting pre-title sequence. He snoops around with an attractive sidekick-cum-love interest, who despite seeming more forthright and independent still takes a back seat, in more ways than one. After several fights with secondary villains, he and the main antagonist meet and talk about the plot. There then ensues a cat-and-mouse chase over several locations, eventually resulting in Bond triumphing, sometimes with a deep personal cost.

If we try to see Skyfall as a genuine reinvention of the Bond series, we will quickly come unstuck as these clichés keep coming. No-one has yet had the confidence to fully abandon Bond's gadgets, vodka martinis or inherent sexual magnetism; even when Timothy Dalton made him cruel and dangerous, the character was still placed within conventional surroundings. If, on the other hand, we see this film as a genre exercise, whose mechanics we know inside out, then the film takes flight and becomes remarkable. It's like a well-directed production of The Mousetrap: predictable and often silly, but presented so confidently that it becomes endearing.

Taken purely as a Bond film, Skyfall is an incredibly well-made addition to the series. Despite its prominent references to other films, it is visually distinctive and spectacular. The film is shot by the fantastic Roger Deakins, who collaborated with Mendes on Jarhead and Revolutionary Road. He paints the film in a number of metallic greys and silvers, giving the action a polished sheen even in its most kinetic moments. Mendes' camerawork compliments him very well, relying less on Bourne-inflected hand-held work and more on longer, sweeping shots to establish the scale of the locations.

Mendes also comes up trumps in making us care about the characters. It's tempting to just view them as archetypes and therefore let the film wash over us, but even with all our cynicism we do invest in Bond and the people around him. Daniel Craig is beginning to rival Dalton for the title of Best Bond, continuing the intensity he cultivated in the last two films and really showing the strain of the character. Javier Bardem may be more pantomime here than he was in No Country for Old Men, but he's still intimidating, and his introductory shot is one of the best in the series.

Judi Dench remains compelling as M, and the film takes the time to show how her relationship with Bond has developed over the series. While Bernard Lee's M more or less stayed the same from film to film, her M has gone from calling Bond a "sexist, misogynist dinosaur" to some form of emotional kinship. Elsewhere Ben Whishaw impresses as Q, clearly drawing on Brains from Thunderbirds, and Ralph Fiennes is in his element as Mallory, though at times he tips over into his performance as Victor Quartermaine in Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

Skyfall is a highly enjoyable and technically impressive way to mark 50 years of James Bond. It's nothing like as ground-breaking as has been claimed, with all the clichés of the series being celebrated in amongst all the subterfuge. But as a genre piece in and of itself, it delivers on almost every level, thanks to the believable central performances and Mendes' assured direction. The only question that remains is whether these high standards can be sustained for Spectre.
Super Reviewer
April 12, 2014
Mendes comes in, sees what's been wrong with the franchise and boy, is he mad. He decides to reboot, screw this crap, reboot the bastard in mid-stream. Taking elements of the new and fusing them with the classic stuff he grabs the electric paddles and jumpstarts the old series, the old spy (shaken but not stirred), jumpstarts the tuxedo to life.
And he's alive ... he's aliiiive.
Jardem plays the Bond villain as openly gay (How many Bond villains are gay? "What makes you think that you're my first," says Bond) and with a malevolent joy not seen in awhile ("I KNOW I'm bad, what of it?!"), invigorating the proceedings. And the story sets in place not only Craig as the new Bond (finally, as the two films previously failed to do) but also leaves you waiting for the next entry, leaves you waiting even for a remake (Thunderball?).
About bloody time.
And now Cubby can rest.
Super Reviewer
½ February 13, 2013
Silva: She sent you after me, knowing you're not ready, knowing you would likely die. Mommy was very bad.

Finally got around to watching Skyfall and as someone who isn't completely in the know about everything James Bond, I thought it was amazing. It's a big movie, like the previous Daniel Craig Bond films. The settings are fantastic, the cinematography beautiful, and the action scenes are about as good as you can get. Sam Mendes definitely nailed Skyfall. It helps that you've got Daniel Craig vs. Javier Bardem. 

Daniel Craig is a great Bond, but what this movie, as it does in all good action films, is the villain Silva played brilliantly by Javier Bardem. Everyone knew before this performance that the man can play a villain and pull it off with Oscar worthy work. So it's no big surprise when you see Javier Bardem completely take control of the movie within the first minute of his screen time. The guy is phenomenal.

I'm not the biggest fan of the Bond franchise. I've seen some of the older ones, mostly with Connery as Bond. I haven't really gotten the urge to go and watch all the Bond films. Maybe in time I guess. Undoubtedly though, Casino Royale made me realize that this franchise wasn't as dull as I thought, and now Skyfall has confirmed it. It will be interesting to see where the franchise goes.
Super Reviewer
½ February 12, 2014
Skyfall delivers everything a Bond movie should: amazing stunts, excitingly lavish action scenes, gorgeous women, martinis, and an awesome opening theme intro/song. It even gives Bond an origin story. If you're a fan of the franchise, you can't miss it!
Super Reviewer
January 10, 2013
Average Bond vehicle.
Super Reviewer
January 26, 2013
As Christopher Nolan has been to Batman is Sam Mendes to Bond: this first of his three-film arc takes Bond back to his point of origin but still makes sure to include a pulse-pounding chase and the standard array of neato technology. Where it differs from the canon - for the better, you realize when you remember Roger Moore - is that a level of psychological complexity has been added to both Bond and the villain, reclaiming the character from the action movie territory it's long been lumped into and making it more of what it was intended to be: a spy thriller. An auspicious beginning, I'm looking forward to the next one.
Super Reviewer
May 17, 2013
Golden Eye used to be my favorite.. but now Skyfall is. It has everything: Action, giant lizards, hot chicks, explosions, a sexy Bond, gadgets, nods to the Bond films past, an awesome song (good job, Adele) and it's just the best. Thank God.. It was just what I had been missing.
Super Reviewer
March 14, 2013
How can a James Bond get any less then a 5. Movie scenes spectacular. I did miss all the fancy gadgets and a shame to see the Astro Martin shot up and blown up, can't bring that one back. Don't miss this one. 5 stars 3-11-13
Super Reviewer
½ March 11, 2013
Good movie with much more drama than usual, but not as action packed.
Super Reviewer
March 9, 2013
Pretty mediocre, I must say. I was looking forward to this, but more for action than for psychology. Why do they feel that we have to go touchy feely deep on Bond's character? I do appreciate that they are trying to recapture some of the tongue-in-cheek humor though. Too much M, and Q is obnoxious, but Moneypenny I'm looking forward to seeing more of. And Fiennes.
Super Reviewer
February 25, 2013
Let's get this out of the way right now, "Skyfall" is not the greatest Bond movie of all time. That being said, it's very entertaining, and Craig/Bardem give great performances. There was a bit too much M in this one for my liking, and the ending is very anticlimactic. "Skyfall" is a great movie, but it's no "Casino Royale." Grade: B
Super Reviewer
October 14, 2012
Skyfall is an entertaining Bond film with charismatic performances from Bardem and Craig, but the action, story, and side characters may not be deep or engrossing enough for some.
Jason Lalljee
Super Reviewer
May 23, 2012
With all the hype that's been surrounding it, I honestly expected something more. The cinematography is fantastic, as are the set pieces and Thomas Newman's score. The actors are all in top form- I'm happy with the additions of Ben Winhshaw as Q and Ralph Fiennes as Malory. I'm also happy to see Judi Dench getting more sceen time. As for Javier Bardem, he wasn't given much to work with. I felt that the movie didn't present anything innovative to the action genre, and I was never really intellectually satisfied. But Bond fans and the casual moviegoer should (and have) be pleased.
Super Reviewer
½ November 7, 2012
James Bond is presumed KIA on a mission but is lured back into service by an elaborate cyber-terrorist threat targeting MI6 itself. Skyfall seems to begin as yet another "evil hacker takes over the world with his dastardly laptop" story that has become as tedious as it is ubiquitous in this day and age. Combining this concept with the old "I'm too old for this shit" theme that first reared its head in the Lethal Weapon franchise and some moments of irrelevant Bond totty and cheesy quips and I feared Skyfall had fallen into the same trap of excessively self-referential corn for its 50th birthday that Die Another Day tumbled into. And then Javier Bardem appeared on the screen. The character dynamic is very like that of The Dark Knight; Craig faces off against an effeminate, playful yet clearly psychotic version of himself and all the cyber-nonsense falls away to become a personal duel between the two men for the affections of their adopted mother figure. Sam Mendes' direction takes a far more subtle approach when harking back to Bond's past as he battles the anti-Bond whilst hurtling backwards through his life amidst decaying monuments to empire. The classic DB5 makes a welcome return and makes a literal blast from the past culminating in a Straw Dogs style showdown with a military helicopter, like North By Northwest on steroids as Bond's own past burns to the ground all around him. It's a daring rewrite of the history of 007 leading up to the classic Bond/M/Moneypenny dynamic from the very beginnings of the character and Sam Mendes pulls it off beautifully. I personally preferred Casino Royale but at the same time I suspect that repeated viewings of Skyfall are required and will be appropriately rewarding. It's yet more proof that a 12A blockbuster in the right hands can become something with sophistication and adult themes and it begs the question why studios choose to hand these kinds of projects and their associated multi-million dollar budgets over to talentless hacks with such depressing regularity.
Super Reviewer
½ October 31, 2012
Not as James Bond-y as I would have liked, however a solid film regardless.
Super Reviewer
May 4, 2011
Much better on a second viewing.
Super Reviewer
March 29, 2011
This is the bestest James Bond 007 film of the history I ever watched.
The consensus on Daniel Craig's tenure as James Bond so far is that he started out impressively in Casino Royale but wavered in Quantum of Solace. Here, in a Bond specifically tailored for the 50th anniversary of the series, the dangling plot-threads of Casino and Quantum are left in the wind as a more experienced, more damaged hero deals with a villain from his boss's past.
Having rebooted the franchise by depicting Bond's first days with a license to kill in Casino Royale, this picks him up later in his career.
The pre-credits sequence establishes that Sam Mendes - brought in to raise the tone a bit - can handle a fist-fight on top of a train as well as anyone. The boldest hire for this go-round is cinematographer Roger Deakins, who delivers the most impressive visuals this series has had since the 1960s. No one will ever mistake Skyfall for an introspective picture, though Bond's rarely-mentioned dead parents get trottec out in Christopher Nolanesque way which aligns him with all other orphan heroes of current cinema.
The challenge of delivering a series entry is to present the mandatory elements - the credits sequences, the girls, the cars, the locations, the stunts, the villains, the novelty pets, the gadgets - in fresh, surprising ways. Regular screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, augmented by John Logan, skate over their MacGuffin with some computerspeak and politicking, then hit all the required notes - with sidebar-friendly anniversary nods to practically every previous Bond film, including the David Niven Casino Royale - while telling a story that doesn't strictly adhere to the umpteenth-remake-of-Dr. No format that wore thin during the Roger Moore-Pierce Brosnan eras. Among other innovations, this is the first Bond really to make use of spectacular British locations, in and out of London, as a plot hatched in exotic places comes home to burn down the Establishment.
Craig takes a fall into a surreal credits sequence accompanied by that Adele song, then spends a reel or so as an unshaven, washed-up wreck who can't shoot straight and shows signs of psychological trauma. It's a character stretch Craig manages better than Brosnan's bout with beardiness in Die Another Day, mostly because he gets his chops back - and his chops shaven, in a sexy sequence with fellow agent Eve (Naomie Harris) - with credible effort. It's a reading of the role that comes from the later Fleming novels.
Harris's peppy M16 sniper and Berenice Marlohe's slinky woman of mystery have a few good scenes, but the main Bond girl here is Judi Dench - whose M is harried by bureaucrats who want her to retire, but has to stay in office to cope with her own nightmare legacy. Javier Bardem's villain makes a grand entrance delivering a parable about rats in a barrel, then gets deeper under the hero's skin than any official shrink, prodding him into reflections about his drink and pill dependency and sexual identity which would have made Sean Connery flinch. Silva is a Flemingseque creation - a loathesome foreigner with a hidden deformity - but Bardem adds in a little Hannibal Lecter vibe and even becomes a horror movie slasher for a surprisingly gothic, down-and-dirty climax.
Ralph Fiennes plays it ambiguously as M's political rival, but gets some good scenes late in the day, and there's a reinvention of the role of Q from Ben Whishaw, who is now the spook's computer whiz as well as quartermaster. And Albert Finney brings gravitas to a key role in the home stretch.
Super Reviewer
½ February 3, 2013
Skyfall is yet another blockbuster hyped to such proportions that it will impede the viewing of anyone coming to the film after the storm of praise. However, I also believe it helps in terms of clarity. Skyfall is a wonderful action movie with some truly fantastic scenes and performances that elevate the acting above other efforts in the franchise. But that's about it really. The emotional elements are not fully fleshed out, with Silva's motivation being summarised by Dench's M in just a few lines. Luckily Bardem is easily able to take the role to new heights with just the raise of an eyebrow. The film tries very hard at giving us old characters and situations from previous Bond films, but it is also very derivative and in debt to other films, especially Nolan's The Dark Knight trilogy. Bond comes back from the dead, he now has a mansion and elderly butler, the villain gets kidnapped on purpose, etc. I really did feel as though I was watching an adapted Batman screenplay at times. The film was also uneven in terms of the tone it wanted to give to the franchise, at one point Q is taking the mick from previous installments to empthasise this efforts realism, and the next Silva's complex plan is going off with some very contrived and convenient twists. Despite the film's shortcomings, at least it was damn entertaining, unlike the previous film, but why did the end turn into Home Alone?
Mr Awesome
Super Reviewer
½ February 1, 2013
Daniel Craig embodies Bond more than ever, but "Skyfall" overall seems somewhat flat. There's not much to separate this from any other standard action flick (and Bond films tend to be anything but standard). In Skyfall, James Bond is brought back to action after terrorists hack into the MI6 master computer files and steal the identities of all the 00 agents in the world. M (Judi Dench) must stand before a hearing to prove the necessity and relevency of MI6 in the world today (why would we need secret agents running around when everything can be done with computers now?). The villain this time is Silva (Javier Bardem), a disgruntled 00 agent who wants to settle the score with M. Bardem can be a great villain (as in "No Country For Old Men"), but here, he does little more than mug for the camera.

Much like the recent re-launch of "Star Trek" or "Tron", there seems to be a desperate need to re-connect with the series' past here. Some things are worked into the plot naturally while others are arbitrarily thrown in there for no other reason than to trigger an audience reaction. Skyfall is the twenty-third Bond film in a series that has been going for fifty years now, and yes there have been some great ones as well as some bad ones. "Skyfall" is neither the "Best Bond Ever", nor is it the worst. It's a healthy middle-of-the-road.
Super Reviewer
January 15, 2013
M's pragmatism tests Bond's loyalty and creates a fearless, technologically savvy villain.
As Bond films go, this is one of the better ones. It's stylish, well choreographed, and actually spends some time developing character. After all, the central conflict between Bond and M is the driving force behind the film, and the conflict is ideological. In most action films the hero prevails because of his superior violence or some magic -- magic defined as a technological know-how that the audience neither cares about nor understands i.e. Captain Kirk does something with the Enterprise's computer or Batman has a cool toy. But here the conflict between M and Bond is most compelling because it's based on whether or not M's cool, pragmatic management is morally reprehensible. Though this conflict is never really resolved, it's nonetheless nice to see a Bond movie doing something with the characters.
Javier Bardem is very good as a villain as always, and Daniel Craig is a strong Bond. There is one scene in which there's an undercurrent of homosexuality, which is a welcome addition to the franchise and an aspect of the hyper-masculine character that would be laughable in a Connery Bond.
Overall, I'm not often a fan of Bond films, but I found this one decently entertaining.
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