Monday, October 29, 2012

007 Returns With Quite Possibly the Best Bond Film Ever: Our Review of "Skyfall" (2012)

Directed By: Sam Mendes (American Beauty

Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes

Rating: PG-13 for intense violent sequences throughout, some sexuality, language and smoking

Run Time: 2 hours, 23 minutes

Synopsis: Following a mission gone wrong in which critical information on undercover NATO agents is stolen and 007 (Craig) is shot and presumed dead, M (Dench) and MI6 are brought under attack by a hacker named Silva (Bardem) with a vendetta against M, and a bureaucrat (Fiennes) looking to force M into retirement.


Andrew: Hello readers! Last week Sarah and I were fortunate enough to catch a screening of the new James Bond movie Skyfall a full two weeks before its wide release. Skyfall stars Daniel Craig (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) in his third turn as 007, Judi Dench (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) in her 7th appearance as M, and Javier Bardem (No Country For Old Men) as a villain named Silva who has a personal vendetta out against M. We also get some new additions to the franchise in Ralph Fiennes (Schindler’s List) as Gareth Mallory, the Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, who believes MI6 and M’s ways to be antiquated, and Naomie Harris (Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End) as a new MI6 agent named Eve.

I, personally, have been REALLY looking forward to this film because the Bond series is by far my favorite film series (as I’m sure it is for a lot of people). I thought Casino Royale was breath of fresh air to the series and possibly even the best of them all so far, which some traditionalists might find blasphemous. Quantum of Solace was a bit of a letdown but I like it when you put it back-to-back with Casino Royale

Sarah: Yeah, it was definitely a follow-up to Casino Royale, it fit in quite nicely following up on the effects Vesper Lynd’s death had on him. As a stand-alone film, it’s not that great.
But now you have Skyfall. Bond got his revenge for Vesper in Quantum of Solace so now we’re back to more of a stand-alone Bond film. We’re back to BOND, as it were.

Bond is back, ladies and gents, and better than ever!

A: Yeah, it’s far more of a stand-alone film than the first two. In fact they kind of get away from the storyline the first two sort of set up with the shadowy QUANTUM organization. But it’s for the better.

S: Oh yeah. OH yeah. I was excited for this one. I like the Bond movies for what they are but I haven’t seen all of them so I’m not a die-hard Bond fan. I was disappointed with Quantum of Solace. I felt it was a let-down and went very far away from who James Bond is.

So I was a little apprehensive about this one, I’m not going to lie. And even a little bit into Skyfall I remained apprehensive…

A: Why did it have you apprehensive?

S: Just…it wasn’t super action-packed…it laid out a bit of a long storyline before introducing us to the bad guy…it just seemed like it was going to go very techy and computery.

A: Wait, you mean you were apprehensive WHILE the movie was still going on?

S: Yes!

A: Really?!

S: Yeah, pretty much for the first half. It was good, don’t get me wrong. It was better than Quantum of Solace but I didn’t think it was better than Casino Royale until the second half kicked in.

A: Gotchya.

S: I was a little like, “Well this is good, but it’s not blowing my mind like Casino Royale did.” It didn’t really have the gadgets that Casino Royale did, it didn’t have the suspense…I don’t know.

What I do know is Skyfall literally flipped a switch halfway through and became a whole new Bond film. I loved it! What did you think about it?

A: I’m different than you here, because I loved it from the very beginning. The pre-opening credits scene – which the Bond films have long been known for – had me hook, line and sinker right from the very beginning.

There’s a motorcycle chase through Istanbul that had me going pretty good. Bond had a few good quips, there’s that kick-ass moment where Bond rips open the back of a train and straightens his cuffs when he lands, plus the hand-to-hand fight on top of said train was pretty darn good, too. That scene in and of itself reminded me of Casino Royale in that you got to see Daniel Craig showcase HIS version of Bond.

S: Good point - when he rips open the back of the train? That was pretty Bond-esque.

A: So right from the get-go this movie had me. And then while you weren’t enamored with the first half, I was because not only did I think it was relatively action-packed but it looked. SO. GOOD.

The entire Shanghai sequence in Skyfall is gorgeously shot and amazing to look at. This photo doesn't do this particular scene justice. Trust us.

This is a BEAUTIFUL film, especially when things are taken to Shanghai. What cinematographer Roger Deakins does with the neon lights and high-tech look of Shanghai is fantastic. If Deakins isn’t nominated for an Oscar it’ll be a damn shame.

S: Yeah, the scenes in China had beautiful cinematography, but so did the rest of the film.

A: True. Even when the film moves to the villain’s deserted island, which I loved by the way...I loved that the villain had his own island. That’s such a Bond thing.

S: But even when the movie switches back to England and Scotland everything looks amazing.

A: True. You get a real feel for everywhere Bond has to go to in Skyfall. And because of that the film really had me.

S: I kind of liked how…yes, it’s a James Bond movie, but a lot of the focus is on Judi Dench’s M. I really felt like they did a good job of shifting the focus towards her, because the bad guy isn’t after Bond. Silva is after M. And I think that was a stroke of genius. It switches things up from Bond being the target and it winds up being about Bond trying to protect a woman he really cares about and respects. So I felt it was pretty ingenious how they did that. Plus it doesn’t hurt that Dench was fantastic. They gave her more to do in this film than any other Bond movie I’ve seen and she was great.

I also loved how Javier Bardem’s Silva was soooo slimy. You never know what’s up with him and that’s creepy.

A: Bardem is fantastic as Silva. Right from his introductory scene, which is a long, static take with him monologuing about where he’s coming from, he’s phenomenal. He tells this story about growing up on his grandmother’s island and how they dealt with a rat infestation that was fascinating, he explains how his technological savvy and hacking skills make him such a threat, but then he gets right up in Bond’s face and makes him really uncomfortable. Like, he’s rubbing his legs and tracing the hairs on Bond’s chest…it’s very homoerotic and there have been a lot of articles on the Internet already about whether or not Silva is the Bond franchise’s first gay villain, and they never really say whether he is or not. That’s what was so great about his whole introductory scene.

S: Yeah, he IS but he isn’t homoerotic in that scene. You never really can tell, can you?

A: He might be bisexual. Either way, it’s a great scene and it works. Silva totally unnerves Bond, and really it’s Bardem unnerving Craig. You can tell by the look on Craig’s face that he wasn’t totally prepared for what Bardem was going to do.

S: Well it’s super creepy! It’s not meant to be romantic, it was totally meant to unnerve Bond, absolutely. I think that scene had one or two of us in the theatre squirming in our seats.

A: From what I could see it looked like it had every guy in the theatre squirming a bit in their seat!

Here’s the other thing about Bardem’s Silva: he’s a totally fleshed out character. You find out exactly what his reasoning is, why he wants to get back at M, but he also has a master plan that is VERY well thought out. When it all falls into place you just go, “Damn!” Because the villain is smart, the script is smart, the writers aren’t just throwing things up against the wall and seeing what sticks. He’s a fully fleshed out villain and I loved that.

Javier Bardem's turn as Skyfall's villain, a cyber-terrorist named Raoul Silva, is one of the best in the history of the Bond series.

S: I liked it too! The movie is good. It’s really, REALLY good. The action sequences are epic, James Bond-esque action sequences. They just show the strength of this version of James Bond that Daniel Craig has brought to the screen. He’s not just this martini-sipping gunslinger, he’s a full-on action character.

And I loved what the other characters brought to this movie. It’s such an homage to the 50th anniversary of the Bond series. It’s beautifully done and very subtle. It brings you touches of the older, classic Bond films and really brings you full circle.

A: The three Craig movies have come full circle. The reboot in and of itself has been completed with Skyfall. But yes, the little homages like a certain car that’s used at one point, the use of John Barry’s original James Bond Theme, some sets they use in the course of the film, and then of course the addition of Q.

S: Oh my gosh, I love the new Q!

A: I think the casting of Ben Whishaw (Cloud Atlas) as the new Q is fantastic.

S: He was great! He’s perfect! I love that he’s so modern. Because in the older Bond films isn’t Q and older gentleman? Whishaw’s addition completely helps bring the new Bond movies into the modern age. Bringing in a younger face to play a young, technological genius as a foil and teammate for Bond is genius. Genius casting, it really is.

I also liked Ralph Fiennes as Gareth Mallory. He can play such a slimeball that he was perfect as a government agent who wants to bring about the end of M’s reign.

A: And I liked Naomie Harris as Eve. She plays a big part in the opening action sequence and had some pretty good chemistry with Bond out in the field, at least I thought so.

Overall I can’t think of a single misstep this movie made. The only misstep I could even possibly conceive of is when the film shifts in its final act. At the time it felt a touch odd to me, and they added a new character you’ve never met before to the series named Kincaide. And while you could have wondered why exactly they needed to add him and have him played by such a big actor in Albert Finney, in the end it doesn’t matter because I thought it worked.

S: I was thrown a little by the end, but you actually learn a lot more about the character of James Bond in Skyfall than you ever have before.

A: Very true. They’ve dropped hints about Bond’s past before, like his parents and being an orphan, but they really kind of bring the character home in Skyfall. They go deeper into his past than ever before.

So again, a lot of things they did well. I loved the music; I thought the score by Mendes regular Thomas Newman was fantastic. I loved the takes on the classic James Bond theme. Adele’s theme song was great…

S: Oh Adele’s song was fantastic. It fit the opening credits so well. It was WAY better than Quantum of Solace’s.

A: But more important than those things? Sam Mendes directed the hell out of this movie. He was a perfect choice. The decision to give equal weight to the action scenes and the emotional scenes, the shot choices he and Deakins made, the casting choices…just all around Mendes rocked it.

I really can’t complain about anything. From start to finish I was smiling. I’m really glad about where they’ve taken the series. Again, the reboot is complete and I’m excited to see where they take the Bond series from here.

S: Yeah, it’s going to be interesting to see where they take it, like are they going to reboot some of the older, classic villains? Will they bring back more homages to the older films or take it off in its own direction with something fresh? Will Mendes come back? So many questions and I think it brings tons of excitement to the series.

A: Absolutely. Do you have any negatives about Skyfall?

S: Well like I said earlier I felt the beginning was a bit slow, especially up until Silva is introduced.

A: What exactly did you find slow?

S: Well I thought the movie as a whole was pretty talkative in the first half despite all the action scenes. Like Silva’s introduction was a little long for me, too, right until the film switches.

A: And where’s the switch?

S: Well I could tell you but it might spoil the plot, babe.

A: Fair enough! I’ll agree with you that parts of it are slow but I was totally fine with it because it balanced out so well with the rest of the film.

S: Ok, so what’s our final verdict? You want to give it five stars, don’t you?

A: Well, there are no flaws in it to me. I think it’s the perfect James Bond movie, at least in conjunction with Casino Royale. It’s light years better than Quantum of Solace, and like you said it’s a great homage to the series as a whole. They couldn’t have come up with a better Bond movie to come out on the film’s 50th anniversary.

FINAL VERDICT: A must-see in theatres!

(Individual Scores - S: 5/5  A: 5/5)


  1. Great review. I'm not a big Bond fan but I watched this because quite frankly, it seemed a better option than PA4 or Hotel Transylvania!

    This didn't feel like a conventional Bond film, which is good. It wasn't formulaic and we got to learn more about Bond, his human side. It also looked beautiful, like you guys point out.

    I also liked some of the knowing winks it gave the dedicated fans. For example - Bond doesn't say 'shaken, not stirred' during the entire film. When he orders a drink, the waitress is shown shaking a cocktail and she puts it down, he says 'perfect' and drinks it. Subtle, sharp dialogue all the way through.

    I actually want to watch it again!

    1. Yes! Great call on the martini scene, we both thought the exact same thing and forgot to mention it in our discussion. But those are exactly the small winks and nods to the rest of the series that were so great about this one.

      Glad you liked our review and the film! We'll definitely be seeing it again too when it comes out wide in America!

  2. Great conversation, and I agree, this is a MUST see. I'm with Andrew, I never really found it slow at all. The beginning establishes the stakes, and then that scene in the casino in Macau I think, literally, is there to appease the old school Bond fans who wanted a bit more color and fanciful action... So, as one of those people, LOL, I was very happy with it. :D Bond vs Komodo Dragons!

    1. Thanks Dan! Skyfall certainly had it all. We have yet to hear one person say a negative thing about the movie and that's a testament to the four-quadrant execution and appeal by the filmmakers. We can't wait to see it again!

  3. I loved the movie, too. I have to comment on one detail in the review that I really had a problem with and completely disagree with. You say Bardem unnerved Craig who wasn't prepared what Bardem would do. You cannot be serious. They all had read the script, and they talked about it a lot. You can bet Craig knew exactly what Bardem would do. Craig was not unnerved, he was acting to be because the character he was playing wasn't feeling comfortable. Craig is a brilliant actor and people he likes and respects (Mendes and Bardem in this case) would not only not need to use cheap tricks to get the desired effect, nor would they disrespect him by doing so. As for the characters, while uncomfortable, Bond is clearly not "totally unnerved" by it - obvious from his last line in the scene.

    1. PS. - To clarify what I meant by the last sentence: he's throwing the ball back at Silva, in a way winning that particular poker game. ;)

    2. Interesting! It's absolutely possible that they all knew how the scene was going to be shot. That's just not how we interpreted that particular scene, and we love that a scene like that one can spur different interpretations from viewers!

      It wasn't our intent to imply that we thought Mendes would use cheap tricks to get a desired effect or response, but we were thinking more along the lines of that's how Bardem interpreted the script and how he chose to act the scene out.

      Fair point though!

    3. But you're still saying Craig wasn't acting. Tsk, tsk. Give him some credit, will ya? He's a professional. As are the others. So of course they discussed it to the last detail to make it as good as possible. This wasn't improvised theater. ;)

      They've all (Daniel, Javier, Sam) in fact said that a) they talked about it a lot, and b) they had a lot of fun shooting it, and I have no reason not to believe them... especially since it's what I would have assumed anyway.

      Besides, there's nothing in that scene that should be of any reason for Craig the actual person to be nervous about, anyway. He - unlike Bond - was not at the mercy of a madman with a bunch of guys with guns a few meters away. :)

    4. We're not trying to give short shrift to Craig. We simply were saying when we saw the movie that we interpreted the scene the way we did. Obviously Craig is still acting and did a fantastic job conveying what the whole crew was going for. We just took it as Bond being uncomfortable with Silva getting too touchy, but ultimately Bond is incredibly secure in his masculinity, so as you pointed out he ends up making no big deal.

    5. Well, it sounded to me like you were since you were talking of Bardem unnerving Craig and Craig not being totally prepared, which like I said I totally disagree with. Sorry if I misunderstood you somehow. Bond and Silva... now that's a different thing, obviously. :)