Skyfall – A Haphazard Review
After a four-year wait a new Bond film arrives!
Typically I’ll do those long-winded Bond video reviews in my 007 series. I just ventured into what I like to call ‘The Craig Reconstruction’ with my look at Casino Royale. Eventually a more extensive look at Skyfall will be covered, but for now I’m going to take more of a brief look at it and share some of my initial reactions. Besides I don’t really feel like doing a video review of it when I’m probably going to be doing a detailed one down the road at some point.
As some of my more devoted Bond followers know I abstained from any and all Skyfall-related news. Other than the film teaser and trailer I avoided reading or talking about Skyfall at all. It’s tempting to want to read about films in production you’re really geared up to see. It can be tough, but why spoil things for yourself? I’d rather go into a movie as cold as possible and keep some surprises waiting for me.
With that said if you haven’t seen Skyfall yet (although you probably have who am I kidding) let me preference this blog saying don’t read any further. The shorthand version is that I really liked it and recommend you go check it out. It would be better if you discover any of the following SPOILERS I’m about to talk about yourself. Besides this might not make much sense if you haven’t already watched Skyfall.
YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.
By the way most of this was written a few hours after my first and only viewing of Skyfall in IMAX (it’s worth it). I plan on going to see it again when I get a chance.
This is the biggest thing about Skyfall. It’s kind of unusual for the story to actually come to the forefront of a 007 film. Usually it’s the ‘tried and true’ – villain trying to take over the world and Bond having to stop him.
And that’s kind of here. There’s a villain, his objectives are some high stake targets – not exactly world domination, but again with the Craig films they attempt to present the story in a more realistic fashion.
Other than this bad guy running around who has to be stopped, there’s plenty of stuff going on here than the simple synopsis of MI6 coming under attack and M’s life being in jeopardy.
There’s this whole ‘old vs new’ theme running through the story. Maybe Bond should of “stayed dead” and admit he may have “lost the stuff”. He likes shaving with an old fashioned razor, obviously a lot of the dialogue with the young Q with the wary 007 reinforces this theme. We also have M being ordered into a forced retirement. Bond ends up taking M “back in time” that will lead to the climax of the movie.
In the recent Craig films M has assumed more of mentor/parent role than ever before with 007. Here she is targeted and it’s much more effective and more convincing than when she needed saving in The World Is Not Enough.
At one point I really thought she was going to buy it during that hearing. I do think now after Skyfall they should take a break with M for awhile. Let the character sit back at the office for awhile and not have M be a major player in the next few films. Give the character a rest and allow him/her to just dish out the missions for awhile and focus on other characters.
Bond villains have typically been presented as the darker side of 007. They usually have all the sophistication, talents and intelligence as Bond. It’s just that they’re not using their abilities for Queen and country, instead they’re just doing a bunch of bad stuff.
Here there is a clear drawn connection between Bond and Silva. Both agents and both sacrificed by their surrogate mother from her strategic decisions. Silva wants her to pay for what she did to him, while Bond is struggling with trusting her again.
Silva is a much more threatening former agent villain than how 006 in GoldenEye was portrayed and ultimately there’s a more interesting dynamic between Silva and Bond – just in that first meeting between them.
Is Silva the first homosexual Bond villain, or bisexual or whatever? Honestly, I don’t really care whether he is or not. But his strange actions when he has Bond captured is a surprise and I suspect he’s purposely doing it to mess with Bond’s head.
It was a relief to see Craig’s Bond face off against an actual heavy villain than just the underling lackeys he’s dealt with since his Bond debut. Bardem gives a very creepy, intimidating performance. He’s very good. I still think he looks really weird, but I guess it works for his character.
This MI6 family feud comes to a head at Bond’s family home where he lost his real parents. Here he will try to protect his surrogate mother in a Home Alone-style defense. I was almost waiting for the bad guys to trip over Bond’s little Aston Martin matchbox car collection! Actually it’s a very well done sequence with some exciting action and stunning visuals.
There’s definitely a lot of stuff going on here – much more than a typical Bond film – and fans should have a field day going through the film. Recurring use of mirrors, reflections, perhaps some religious symbolism – although I think if you look close enough at anything you could probably find that.
Plus, as a Craig Bond fan I was awaiting to see if he would return to his linoleum roots and get some bathroom time in Skyfall– and he does!
If you don’t understand that bathroom reference watch MY CASINO ROYALE REVIEW
We got the indication from the trailer that the visuals in Skyfall would look impressive – and they do. Director Sam Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins no doubt took great care to have each scene pack a visual wallop and their work pays off
In one of my Bond reviews I talked about the replacement of the old epic exaggerated Ken Adam sets and how they have gradually faded away. Because of that particular lack of visual impressiveness the films could compensate by trying to photograph the Bond films and make them as much of a visual feast as possible. Skyfall does it thanks to the cinematography. Could we be seeing Deakins at the Oscars for his work?
All top notch. Skyfall’s pre-credits sequence is the most thrilling one I’ve seen in a long time. The shootout, the motorcycle chase, the train fight and ultimately Bond getting shot. It’s exciting and kept me on the edge of my seat – even though we all knew how it would play out thanks to the trailer.
The train/crane opening will be the way which fans will refer to it, but it might be hard to find a shorthand way to refer to the rest of the action during the film.
After the action in the pre-credits the film doesn’t get to unfold on such a grand stage. Most of the action consists of shootouts, chases, explosions and fights set in smaller areas – the streets of London, the conference hall, Bond’s home in Scotland. Other than the subway train crashing, there’s nothing that reaches the spectacle as the opening train sequence.
Fortunately, the film doesn’t need it, the stakes are high during most of the scenes, you’re emotionally invested in them, they are all put together very well and are gripping. Any skepticism that Mendes wouldn’t be able to deliver the action required in a Bond film was for nothing.
One thing that I’ve found refreshing yet again with the Craig films is the lack of – or it was probably used but just not distracting – CGI. Most of the action looks to be filmed old school and while watching Skyfall no clunky CGI became an intrusion for me. Oh maybe during that opening motorcycle chase. It looked like Craig’s face was pasted on the stunt rider or something, but that was it.
It’s a real turnaround from Quantum of Solace, which seemed to be the first thing that audiences were conscious of – or were trying to keep up with. The rapid-paced editing in the action scenes that dizzied audiences in Bond’s previous adventure is gone. Things are slowed down and I was never lost or confused about what was going on, where the characters were in relation to each other or any of that.
In fact, in several instances Mendes locks his camera down and allows scenes to play out for us uncut. The most notable is Bardem’s introduction in the film. It was like they were thinking, ‘Ok Javier we hired you to act, so go to it’. It’s just him walking towards us, doing his opening speech with a very slow zoom. It becomes one of the most memorable introductions to the Bond villain ever.
One other instance I noticed the lack of cuts was Bonds confrontation with the assassin in the office building. It’s just their silhouettes fighting backlit by all those bright Shanghai advertising signs. It started to remind me of a classic Binder title sequence.
Craig once again shows that he was the right choice for James Bond. As with his previous Bond films there’s more meat on the 007 bone for him to work with. Bond is broken, perhaps past his due date. He’s suspicious of M at the moment. I also found it refreshing that Bond’s hiatus from MI6 was his own decision and not an order or part of his mission – something that I suspected when seeing the trailer.
Even with all this heavy drama going on, this time around Craig tries to lighten up his 007 a bit more than in his previous two outings. He has more of a sense of humor and casual attitude especially with his scenes with Q and Eve.
As we saw in the trailer Whishaw’s Q and Craig 007 have a fun back and forth exchange sizing each other up. In the end they settle into a mutual respect for each other. Whishaw was pretty good and this take on the character manages to emerge out of Desmond Llewelyn’s shadow and the stamp he put on his interpretation of Q – something that I thought was going to be quite a feat.
It probably helped that we haven’t seen the character of Q since John Cleese played him in 2002’s Die Another Day. So there’s been that gap of time that built up anticipation for his welcomed return and more of an open mind for a reinvention of the character. At least it was that way for me.
For hardcore Bond fans we had Harris pegged as the new Moneypenny a long time ago. They also set her character up nicely. She’s one of the most believable ‘action Bond Girls’ the series has had. Eve comes off much more convincing than Jinx, who I never believed for a second was this tough agent.
Harris’ Eve is living with having made some tough decisions that will shape where her character goes. Bond and her have some fun verbal sparring and the film establishes an engaging relationship between the two of these characters that we get to see the genesis of. It should be fun to watch it play out in the future – even if it will be in the short traditional Moneypenny scenes.
But I don’t understand how could Bond be working with this chick and never know her name all that time? I understand it’s a payoff for the end of the movie when she reveals her name, but really no introduction ever before that?
Berenice Marlohe’s Severin – we all knew she was going to cash in her chips and not make it to the closing credits. She looked really, really good. Could she possibly be the best looking Bond girl that Craig has had……I have to think about that. She really wasn’t in the film as much as I was expecting though.
I did enjoy her death scene, the whole twisted William Tell thing around that strange statue ruin. It also allowed a subtle Bond anniversary reference in there.
However, my favorite scene with Severin was when Bond uses his ability to read people that we learned he has from Casino Royale and breaks down her character at the bar. Both of the actors were very good with Craig dissecting her and Marlohe reacting. This exchange turns her from being this hot mysterious lady to a sad hot lady. It was all very cool.
I wonder if this will be Marlohe’s career peak. Will we be seeing her again in any major film productions?
Lastly Judi Dench is great. I think it might be her best performance as M. Should we consider her the Bond Girl in Skyfall? Moneypenny I never really thought of as ‘Bond Girl’. Severin is the sacrificial lamb. M is really the leading lady in this.
It would be kind of boring if I just made this a Skyfall love-fest. There were a couple of things that I didn’t care for or felt confused by like:
What happened to the compter drive? It’s the thing that kicks the movie off. Bond has to get this drive back with all the agent identities on it and it just disappears halfway through the film. When Silva gets captured on his island was Bond able to retrieve it there? During M’s hearing did they refer to it saying they had it back? Did I miss something there?
Silva wants himself to get captured. This was something that didn’t surprise me at all. This bad guy wanting to get captured twist has been used in two huge films in recent years. So after seeing Loki and the Joker do the same thing this curveball was somewhat lost on me.
Note to good guys: It doesn’t really pay to capture bad guys nowadays. Today they want you to catch them.
Silva’s capture was especially weird because, well with Loki and the Joker I understood why they wanted to be caught and how it helped further their plans. I didn’t understand why Silva wanted to be caught.
I’m not sure what the point was. Was it just to confront M and show her what happened to his choppers? Was that his goal of going through all that? The best answer I came up with was by allowing himself to be captured M will go to her hearing feeling safer. Silva escapes bringing MI6 down who are now unable to warn her making her easy prey for him to kill. I guess that’s it.
I didn’t think the musical score was anything special. I like Adele’s theme song, but nothing stood out to me from the actual score. Sitting here thinking about it I can’t really remember any of it, other than the Bond theme.
The big thing that I really didn’t like was how the Aston Martin was used. We all knew it was going to make an appearance. When Craig goes to the garage and pulls it out it was fun to see and it made sense that it was being used in the film. It didn’t feel like a forced fiftieth anniversary reference for the fans.
But then we find out it’s the souped up version of the car with the ejector seat and machine guns under the headlights and all that. That’s when it lost me. I was expecting it to just be the Aston Bond won off of Dimitrios in Casino Royale. That would make sense in the context of Craig’s Bond films. He still kept it after all this time and its just been sitting in storage.
Why does it have the gadgets to it? Is this from back when they used to give double-0’s tricked out cars and Bond just happened to grab one at an employee auction or something? Was this specifically given to Bond on an earlier mission or was this his own Aston and they decided to give him some spy add-ons to it?
Q just told him they don’t do the shiny gadget things anymore, so what is this about? I know Skyfall isn’t meant to be a sequel of any kind, but this just felt like a jump in any kind of continuity with the recent films and felt out of place for Craig’s Bond for the sake of some fan service.
It’s inclusion especially seemed awkward during the makeshift home defense climax with all these trip wires and traps Bond uses in his house to fight the bad guys, meanwhile machine guns pop out of the Aston. I liked when Silva blew it up, Craig looked pissed and the Bond theme kicked in, but I could have done without it being the gadget version of the car.
Maybe I’m just being too nitpicky with its inclusion and it’s just me.
For a nearly two and half hour movie it moves like a bullet. As with most Bond films you have to suspend some disbelief to enjoy it. I never got antsy or impatient with any of it. The overall pacing of the movie is very well done. It keeps up the momentum and it didn’t really slow down for me to worry about any plot holes while watching it. I’ll be curious what if anything they ended up cutting out of the film.
So yeah, I really liked it. It delivered on cool Bond action, was a more character-driven story, had some rich relationships that played out and introduced some tantalizing characters, along with keeping some of the elements from the traditional Bond Blueprint. I’m looking forward to watching it again.
It’s a relief to hear that Craig signed on for two more Bond films. It would be a shame with Skyfall’s open ending in place that we couldn’t expect it to be a jumping off point for another Craig Bond adventure.
And should we start referring to Craig’s gunbarrel shot as the ‘closing gun barrel’ from now on?