Skyfall – Review

Skyfall (2012) 

Director: Sam Mendes. Cast: Daniel CraigRalph FiennesJudi DenchJavier BardemBen Whishaw.

Heralded as the Best Bond film in over a decade, or possibly even the best Bond film ever, accompanied by a series of positive feedback and reviews from early screenings and a marketing campaign that only a 007 film can have (before my screening I counted at least 7 different Bond-theme adverts!), Skyfall finally opens to the public.

Right from the word go, you can tell you’re in for something special: as we’ve now become accustomed, the opening sequence is absolutely spectacular. A never-ending chase, through the streets of Istanbul, along the labyrinthine corridors and over the rooftops of the Grand Bazar, and finally on a moving train, ending with a bang, literally! Bond gets shot from the distance and falls off from the moving train, over a bridge down to some deep waters below… How on earth can he have survived the fall is never really explain, but hey, who cares, it’s Bond, James Bond. Logic and plausibility should have been left outside the theatre, before coming to see the film. Later on there will be another impossible escape from a prison, which once again, will not be explained. But then again, the film moves so fast, that it almost doesn’t matter.

However the film never really reaches the heights of that first sequence in terms of action (almost as if the budget had been all blown on that). The other set-pieces throughout are pretty standard fights, shootouts and simpler chases. However what really makes this Bond quite special is its mood, its splendid cinematography (including an ingenious one-take-wonder-fight in silhouette against the backdrop of some flashing neon lights from some advert on a building in Shanghai), but above all, the central relationship between Daniel Craig and Judy Dench. It’s ironic that across all the 23 films, the 77 years old Judy Dench could possibly be my favourite Bond Girl. Ruthless, ice-cold, incredibly charismatic and this time vulnerable too. I will not spoil the ending (though you can see all the various twists coming miles away), but by the time the credits roll, she will be the real star of the movie.

Skyfall (Incidentally, for some reason I had missed the name of the house in Scotland and I cound’t quite work out the reason behind this title) also sees the return of Q (though as Bond rightly says it’s not really Xmas as far as gadgets go), this time as the new geeky young techy genius played impeccably by Ben Whishaw. It all makes me really hopeful for the next future instalments (apparently two more movies are already in the pipeline after this one, with the next one already in production ready for a 2014 release).

And of course no Bond is complete without its baddie and Javier Bardem is one of the best we’ve had in a while. Over-the-top as only he can be, Bardem shares a classic intimate scene with Bond which will be remembered forever: a brave scene, considering Bond’s history, but also brilliantly funny!

Despite the above mentioned sequences in Istanbul and Shanghai, British director Sam Menders decides to play most of the film at home and London is where most of the film takes place. It’s the London we all recognise, with its rain, its Millemiun Wheel, its Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, its Gerking skyscraper standing above the city-line and its iconic “tube” at rush hour which plays as the setting for another chase, though this one rather unremarkable (I must confess, the only fun for me this time was to try to recognise all the various stops).

The film gets more and more intimate, the more it unravels, something which is quite unlike any other Bond movie before, where usually the third act is reserved for the big reveal of a massive lair, or some secret base somewhere in some hidden location. This time  we end up in rural Scotland. Nothing wrong with that, of course. This is a more intimate 007 film, one that focuses more on personal relationship and people rather than dastardly plan from some evil master of crime. Having said that , there is something slightly under-whealming about this last 30 minutes and in the end I couldn’t help feeling a bit let down (especially given the fact that it ended in exactly the way I thought it would… Including the twist).However, we even get given a little bit of a hint into James Bond’s background, something which has escaped us for 23 film, and though it was all just a fleeting moment, it was also a nice welcome novelty into a character who we think we know much too well.

And of course, to complete the mix, we’ve got a shaken Martini, a splendid Aston Martin (with its music cue right from the 60s), the classic “Bond, James Bond” line and a couple of cold jokes (though we are still quite far from the Roger Moore fun-fest).

Daniel Craig, now on his 3rd outing (4th if you count his appearance with the Queen at the Olympics), inhabits Bond to perfection, whether he wears his tuxedo or not. The blink-if-you-miss-it moment where he adjusts his cufflinks right after landing on a smashed train is played to perfection both in terms of timing and tone. Never for moment I regretted I didn’t have Connery, or Moore, or Brosnam (I’m not even going to mention the other two…).Daniel Craig is James Bond!

Slightly shortchanged are the actual Bond Girls this time. Sévérine, played by Bérénice Marlohe is of course beautiful, but ultimately rather forgettable. Eve (Naomie Harris) is a much stronger character (I bet any Bond fan will be able to guess the twist much before it will actually be revealed), but I couldn’t help having a certain detatchment towards her and to be honest I could not care less whether she had lived or die.

In the end, this is one of the stronger Bond movies we’ve ever seen, though certainly not as Oscar worthy as the hype wants us to believe it is (though Judy Dench might get nominated and probably some technical nods will come its way too). It is enjoyable, tense, thrilling, always intriguing,  but I must say, it won’t be one of those I will watch over and over again (aside from that amazing opening).

7.5/10

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11 Responses to Skyfall – Review

  1. Completely agree with your review, except for a couple of points: Dalton is the best bond! He plays it just as Fleming intended from the books. The prison escape happens because all of the doors were unlocked by accident (although this was all part of the plan). I agree about the title though: if it’s because of the sign we see towards the end, then what is the relevance of the question and answer with the psychologist? I suspect that as a complete Bond geek, I will rewatch this many times…

    • MovieGeek says:

      .. Dalton the best Bond?… Yes, he probably played it as Fleming intended it, but I must say he really had zero charisma. Other than that, I’m sure I will watch this one again and again, but I’ll probably skip forward through some of the stuff towards the end…

  2. will says:

    It’s Awful. Dog Breath Awful. The opening scene of a Bond film is meant to grab the audience by the nuts. I’ve seen better openings on ‘Spooks’. (And the vengeful ex-employee plot is traight out of Spooks, and every other clapped out TV ‘thriller’ series). Compare the Land Rover chase through the crowded streets of natives in the asian city (ever seen that before?) to the free running chase sequence on the construction site in Casino Royal. No comparison. As for the train fight scenes – Steven Segal did better in Under Siege II. In fact Under Siege II was more exciting and had a better plot.

    Where were the fabulous cars? Using that old Aston implied Bond should be nearly 80 years old – sorry I don’t think the post modern nudge nudge cleverness works as a justification. You need a great plot/film to hang that on. Mendes tried to do it the other way round – hang the film on the post modern use of references.

    As for logic: why did the girl get the William Tell treatment? Why have a gun that only works for Bond – just to enliven the utterly unexciting and totally predictable comodo dragon scene?

    This is a film made by a North London vegan who won’t let his children play with action men because they encourage violence. The film reads as something made by someone who doesn’t get or like action movies.
    It’s a bedwetter’s idea of and action movie.

    Where was the style, the glamour, the suspense, the locations, the love interest, the transported out of our humdrum existences into another world? We got London in the rush hour, the Underground and bleak damp Scotland.

    And poor old ‘Scotland’? It’s shown as the most ghod awful cliche put on screen for years. Heather, weather and Victorian gothic – even malt whisky firms are changing their advertising to avoid that one.

    The Scottish lodge house is ridiculous. the ‘Home Alone’ booby trap scenes just embarrassing. sticks of dynamite lying around from the quarry? really? And don’t forget Albert Finney in a beard with a shotgun (complete with 19century hammers) and no discernible accent. A ‘secret tunnel’ from the ‘Reformation’ (in a Victorian lodge?) Scooby Doo had better plot devices. Seriously, the day Bond needs a ‘secret’ tunnel in an old Scottish Mansion to escape the baddies is they day you know the franchise is dead.

    In fact they should have had a scene like the ones in ‘Merlin’ where Merlin talks to a dragon mentor, except Bond could have done it with the Loch Ness monster in a secret cave under his house. That would have really deconstructed the genre.

    The parents grave stones…OMG why not have him as a split personality arguing with his mother’s desiccated corpse in the attic – shortly before taking his monstrous hound, with luminous mascara, for a walk on the moors?

    At the end he should have said ‘hasta la vista, baby’ as the baddy died… with a knife in his back (I can’t believe I’m not making this bit up). Where’d they get the script writers – on loan from Jean Claude van Damme?

    Instead of a love or lust interest we get a close up of Judy Dench’s moustache. Please. I’m sure all the Islington filmos were wetting themselves at the cleverness of it all, but this film will be more quickly forgotten and less watched than Quantum. And that is saying something.

    • MovieGeek says:

      So basically you didn’t like it. ;-) Oh well, you do make some valid points, but I definitely enjoyed it more than you did.

      • Hideki says:

        The house in Scotland is called ‘Skyfall’, it says it under the statue of the stag on the plinth at the gate.

        • MovieGeek says:

          I has totally missed it!! Thanks so much! You’re my hero!

  3. Hideki says:

    I was impressed by the motorcycle work on the rooftops but also reminded that Bourne had already been using motorcycles for a while more recently.

    It turned a bit into ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ but with guns.

    • MovieGeek says:

      Yes I agree, that rooftop chase was amazing! I remember being on the top of the grand bazaar in Istanbul and thinking “this could be an amazing location for a movie”

  4. Karen says:

    Yeah Bardem played it well and was the standout… People been giving dench all the credit, she was solid if not a little annoying every now and again… I am also a little disappointed Fiennes with what his role ended up being.. I would have like Fiennes to be a villain…

  5. Unexplained title? It was the name of the place of Bond’s birth. the name was on the pillars of the gate. http://www.flickr.com/photos/28940296@N05/6894236050/

    anyways, glad you still liked it. It’s not the best bond flick but it is one of the top 5. I had my own issues with the film, but still liked it myself. funny, that’s the usual consensus of the film

    • MovieGeek says:

      I had totally missed the name on the pillars… I don’t know what I was doing… maybe admiring the cinematography.

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