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Review: Skyfall

Skyfall is the latest film in the 50-year-old James Bond franchise. As somebody who’s never fallen on any particular side of the fence regarding the 23-film strong franchise – Bond films are rarely terrible, and yet rarely spectacular – I was very much aware of the reputation that Skyfall had amassed amongst hyperventilating internet users. It’s got the big box-office bucks and an endless stream of “Best Bond Yet!” acclaim to back it up, but in the end Skyfall amounts to little more than a fairly standard entry in a series of films that has only recently been allowed to sit at the big boy’s table.

Since Daniel Craig (Girl with a Dragon Tattoo) was given the reins, the franchise has seen a markedly more mature style take hold. You could say they have been playing with the same deck of cards – busty babes, crooked-faced villains, and exotic locations – but dealing them in a different fashion. Skyfall is basically as one would expect, and it has its strengths and surprises alongside its weakness and disappointments. I adored, however, that Sam Mendes’ (American Beauty) first time at the hands of an action blockbuster was so gorgeously lit, and that the screenplay of John Logan, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade focused on the low-key angle of Bond’s relationship with his superior, M (a steely Judi Dench, J. Edgar). On the other hand, its rather flippant dismissal of any female character that isn’t played by Dench is an unfortunate distraction (Naomie Harris, 28 Days Later, gets a particularly wasted plot) to match the somewhat forced dialogue and lapses in dramatic logic.

James Bond (Daniel Craig) and M (Judi Dench) evade the villain in Skyfall

Famed cinematographer Roger Deakins has given Skyfall a beguiling look. From the neon fantasy-land of Shanghai, to the lantern-laced casinos of Macau, and the ember-hued finale on the British highlands that is so heavenly lit one could be forgiven for thinking Bond had entered a Bronte novel. Elsewhere, there are exciting action sequences to be found aboard a tunnel-hopping Turkish train and some flashy hotstepping through the London Tube. As M, it is Dench who walks away with the film hidden under her tweet coat. The cold resignation of a woman determined to not leave MI6 in a worse place than she inherited it; she gives Skyfall gravitas when it’s needed. Javier Bardem (No Country For Old Men) gives off creepy vibes as a white-haired bisexual with mummy issues – his entrance echoes that of Katharine Hepburn’s in Suddenly Last Summer, so take that a cue as to the direction of his character – but his fiendish plot can’t help but fall apart under closer inspection.

Silva (Javier Bardem) on the attack in Skyfall

By this stage in the history of Bond there doesn’t appear much point to really bother critiquing the broader aspects. People are going to go and there’s little to sway such a decision. In light of this, it comes to looking at the finer elements – those small bits and pieces that make up the bigger picture. Skyfall succeeds as brisk entertainment despite its 143-minute runtime, but the nitpicking part of my brain tells me it’s far from perfect. Consider this: Bond makes a joke about Q’s youth and “spotty” complexion, ignoring the fact that actor Ben Whishaw (Bright Star) has the smoothest skin one could ask for. Too often this martini is sloppy, not smooth.

Skyfall is released on November 22nd

Director: Sam Mendes

Cast: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Berenice Marlohe, Albert Finney, Ben Whishaw and Rory Kinnear

 

24 thoughts on “Review: Skyfall

  1. That was literally one of the worst reviews I have ever read. I have never been a huge Bond fan and was not particularly interested in them until Daniel Craig’s past 3 movies. First off, using a single line of the film, which I admit was rather odd, as justification for a “sloppy martini” is illogical in itself. Bond films have not claimed to be sensical but these past 3 and especially this last one have been far more grounded in reality than their ancestors. Silva is a pyschopath and his plot while strange can be excused considering he probably suffered massive brain trauma from hydrogen cyonide. This is really an exploration of Bond as an individual and his aging. No Bond film as ever really looked at him from such an emotional and mental angle. Yeah sometimes there would be the brooding scene in the film but it was usually played off as just a side effect and no big deal. This film really almost breaks Bond and questions if he is really capable of his antics. No other Bond has EVER had that posed or thrust upon them. Not to mention Skyfall FINALLY builds a coherent and consistent backstory for 007. I think if you are a bit more objective in your view of the film and especially compare it to those of the past you will find a much more satisfying film in front of you.

  2. Well this is the 1st Bond movie I’ve actually paid money to see at the cinema, since ‘For Your Eyes Only’ at the local drive way back in in ’82. Lost interest in the illustrious Bond franchise after Roger Moore was retired & tho I’ve seen some of the subsequent films from Dalton, Brosnan & Craig on tv or dvd I’ve found it all uninspiring & repetetive. Agreed that ‘Skyfall’ looks beautiful, as is expecteed of the exotic Bond repertoire but for all the box office magic, especially since Craig took the helm, Bond, for me at least has long lost it’s licence to thrill. Skyfall is no exception, in fact I found this ‘best Bond ever’ to be full of glaring, illogical plot & premise, especially taking M to a remote location with only Bond there to defend her safety from a mega resouced geniusopath. Of course the ‘I could & should logically kill you right here & now Mr Bond but that would end the movie’ premise & the sojourns to a parade of exotic locales for no credible reason are givens in the Bond canon, but after 50 years these leitmotifs are really tired. I have to disagree, but I have found Dame Judy Dench to be most unconvincing as M, her dialogue is delivered flat; Lionel needs to be there, rubbing her feet, reminissing about times gone by

  3. I agree with you 100%
    at least your review is truthfull unlike the facade of over paraised reviews out there

  4. Consider this: The joke about Q’s youth and his “spotty” complexion is just a joke. Would you have taken “you’re so young, you’re still in diapers” literally as well?

    Too often this review was sloppy, not smooth.

  5. I was disappointed in this movie. Maybe it couldn’t live up to the hype. tThere were heaps of holes in the plot and I couldn’t get past the fact that M’s handbag vanished from her bosses office as she made no move to pick it up and it wasn’t in the next shot. Then there was the bullet fragments and the bullet hole, the perfectly timed train crash, all a bit messy really. I could go on. Ok I’ll be brave – Daniel, you look great in photos but on screen your face is starting to fall and your hair just is too short. Ageing is happening and even though I thought the first Bond you were in was just amazing – this isn’t. There’s something missing – I can’t put my finger on it – but it’s to do with you.

  6. I believe the “you still have spots” comment about Q is a reference to fawns (young deer) having white spots, not teen acne.

  7. Nice review Glenn, but if you’re going to be nit picking, then Bond’s comments about Q’s complexion are where you’d end, not start.

    — Spoiler ahead —

    If we’re going to nitpick, how about the the strange disconnect between having Silva portrayed as a genius agent hell bent on planning his revenge against M so that he concocted a ludicrously complex (and cliched) ‘let them them catch me so I can get inside’ plan, only for it to culminate in him burst into a court room and start shooting the place up. Really? THAT’S his master plan?

    Silva is built up to be a better agent than Bond is, but Bond can casually sneak into M’s apartment without her noticing until she starts pouring herself a drink, while Silva somehow thinks he needs to evacuate an island and kill a bunch of field agents just so they can have a heart-to-heart enforced suicide pact?

    Oh, and damn, Bond REALLY sucks at saving people… I mean he has two people to save in the film and he fails both times. In fact Ralph Fiennes proves better at it than Bond and not half bad with a gun either.

  8. The review could’ve been a little more elaborate than what it is. I mean if you thought that it wasn’t a good enough movie you probably should’ve cited the reasons properly. That being said ‘Skyfall’ was a real disappointment. First of all throughout the movie I couldn’t understand why they would suddenly drop the plot the first two Daniel Craig starrer Bond movies were following. Things felt messy as a result somehow. Even if I look past it and consider it to be a completely different movie it sucked big time. The acting was definitely good. Yes, granted. Action sequences were also amazing. Everything else is just boring and stupid. Some of the scenes seemed so slow and drawn out that I could’ve fallen asleep. Characters (especially the female ones) were a complete waste. Logic of the villain was utterly flawed. Overall the movie simply failed to impress.

  9. Good review!

    Couldn’t believe this film was so well reviewed elsewhere. Saw it recently and it left me cold and irritated.

    Almost nothing made sense.

    *****SPOILERS

    You can blow up a building by hacking a computer? How does that work? Lazy.

    You can evacuate an island by saying there is a chemical leak on the internet? How is that going to fool the chemical plant? Nobody came back to check? That scene is so underused. Oh, look, I have a private island. It has no impact on the film at all.

    I wanted to be caught? Why? M appears at a public inquiry. Just go in there and shoot her. Oh, that was the plan all along. Even better, just break into her flat (like Bond) and kill her.

    The ending was lifted from Button Man.

    A film by committee. Let’s have a scene on the tube. A tube accident? A private island? Something sexy and exotic. A casino in Macau? Chuck the internet in there. Blow up MI6. Its London so it should rain all the time. How about Bond dies but not really? Then something different at the end. If it were a book, it would be unreadable. As a film it was merely unwatchable.

  10. Attention seeking with this negative review sadly puts you in a rather poor group of trolls.

    You make this obvious by raising objections that are menial at best and totally irrelevant at the extreme.

    The film is true to its heritage and would be disappointing if it strayed to far from the formula. It is the formula, with all of its plot predictability, disposable minor characters and illogically chosen exotic locations that have always been the appeal of the movies. It is exactly the things that you choose to complain about that are what the generations of Bond fans actually pay to see.

  11. This Bond film was a yawner. Maybe the new generation of Bond movie goers doesn’t mind, but, I did. Two stars. You’d be better off to rent a real James Bond DVD.

  12. I think I was protected from disappointment by the fact that I am heavily wary of hype and I came into the theater waiting to be disappointed. I left thinking it was a good movie. I wake up thinking it was actually a very good movie.

    *****SPOILERS*****

    I noticed the same apparent plotholes
    – as for the uberplan which turns out to be disproportionnate considering the ultimate goal it’s a trap that unfortunetatly most of the scripwriters can’t avoid and that is almost bound to happen when you have a pool of screenwriters. But I think there is only one bad transition : Silva didn’t plan to be caught, I think that’s an unfortunate change of one of scriptwriter who falled to the fallacy of the ubergenius that has planned everything including his own “mistakes”. It’s very cliche and always the source of many plotholes. It reeks of a bad scriptwriter. Once that ignored, the rest makes sense: Silva intended to ruin M completely and kill her only once everything would have fallen apart. 1- silva tries to destroy everything to ruin her reputation and provoke her examination, 2- from the start Silva intends to kill her in front of everyone right when she’s under heavy examination proving she is completletly incompetent as she is not even able to protect herself let alone the country and completely disgracing her in the process, destroying her utterly body and reputation 3 – he fails and as by then Bond and M finally understands the insanity of the enemy and the REAL extent of the danger (silva could and would definitely tear london apart to get to M) Bond and M confront him in a remote area where he can’t cause as much damage (no civilians,no technology, familiar place for bond) . It’s an insane plan tailored for an insane enemy 4- as their analysis is right on the money, Silva is clearly insane, he ditches everything and could even have killed himself if allowed to.
    I think it was a brillant plot .the problem is in the island – london transition and a lack of explanation about the last part.

    that’s the only true defect of the movie.
    Now there is another problem that runs a lot deeper and might be tricky to solve and who revolves around Craig. The artistic direction of the franchise. There was never as much talent in the franchise as of lately. Director, cinematography, music, actors, storywriter,etc… Above everything else you can feel they are trying to build a character.The (cinematographic) James bond so far was actually the epitome of lack of character development. He stayed in an eternal place of coming from nowhere-going nowhere. It wasn’t only lack of talent, it was almost made on purpose, necessary evil : that’s how they kept it coming , perpetual reboot ,soft continuity, nothing bond did had a real impact including the main actor who was changed with every decade.
    And here comes Craig. I think it was a bold dramatic choice that paid a lot on the beginning but is clearly reaching its limits. Bond is a thug in a gentleman suit. Connery made such a lasting impression because he had the thug quality, a crude bodybuilder, and was made into a gentlemen by the director that personnaly trained him into everything (talking,dressing, walking ,eating,.). And he could easily reverse the process at will especially with women . The problem with Craig is that he gets the thug quality and he made Casino Royale impressive in that regard as it’s the start of the franchise, Bond is learning. But by Skyfall he should look like a gentlemen and he still doesn’t. Quite the reverse. Crewcut, face falling falling apart, beard, etc… Just look : Bond never looked so awkard in a tux. They should have gone as planned for Cavill who was younger and more gentleman like even if Casino Royale would have been less impressive.
    The problem is where they go from now : Bond is already dealing with aging both figuratively (bond has never been so disabled) and properly (craig) and it’s only the third entry of the reboot. I think Craig will start to look really ridiculous as Bond in the 5th. Now if they switch actors it won’t be as easy as it used to be as now they are building a character. There is a reason why in the dark knight trilogy Nolan didn’t mind replacing rachel and refused to replace the joker. When an actor has made such a lastin impression on a character it’s next to impossible to replace him . Replacing Craig now will produce huge discrepancies and waste a good part of character development. The producers should have understood that with this new direction they needed a YOUNG actor that could easily perform 7-8 movies. The other solution “the campbell solution” is even bolder : acknowledge there are several bond, make it a codename as M. Maybe that’s another change the producers intend to bring to the franchise but it breaks the mystic of james bond.

  13. Your review is really great! Had a great time reading through. I agree that Skyfall was a disappoinment, but only because the past films were really of high caliber. Keep the posts coming. 😀

  14. Finally! A critic not afraid to tell the truth.

    Skyfall was full of plot holes that made absolutely no sense. The biggest one: Bond tells Q to lay a path of breadcrumbs that would lure Silva, an international terrorist to a remote location, yet MI6 leaves Bond to battle Silva alone.

    Apparently it’s not very easy to honor the centuries old Bond mythos and satisfy a younger, CSI/Homeland oriented generation of viewers.

  15. It was a bad movie, and I also just don’t get all the praise for it. The new Q was just annoying. The oedipus complex was laughable. Yeah and let’s blow a hole in the subway floor with absolute perfect timing as Silva is on the ladder and Bond is positioned just as a train is coming through. Furthermore, lets escape from Skyfall in the night and use our flashlight to guide Silva to our location. I almost laughed out loud when Skyfall exploded and fire came shooting down through the tunnel after Bond – never seen that before.

    At least Bond couldn’t “save the girl” this outing. Ralph Fiennes put in a good performance also.

    Seemed like the writers tried hard to distance themselves from the Bond movie formula, but still managed to drop in a boat load of cliches.

  16. I’m Scottish and I considered Connery to be the best Bond ever. Correction, I consider him to be – Skyfall hasn’t convinced me otherwise. After a great start with lots of action, we have foisted onto us a completely unbelievable story about computer hacking and the escape of a bad guy that would be more in place with Batman, not Bond. If you’re going to make Bond dark and serious then do it properly, research what is realistic (any network guy could tell you the hacking is utter claptrap – one scene is on a par with Independence Day) otherwise keep it tongue in cheek. Too long, too dull.

  17. I went with a group of my mates (20ish bond fans!) and we were expecting something really special given the reviews across the board.

    My thoughts were simply:

    Craig (in my opinion never suited to the part) just doesn’t have the special something to keep you interested. Connery was just a badass… always has been! Moore was simply hilarious. Dalton had something very emotional, and Brosnan well, .. just looked the part – uber smooth!

    The film was too slowly paced, tedious to warrant 2hrs running time. would have been better shorter with less convoluted story telling.

    Javier Bardem was not convincing as a “better than Bond” agent.. he was too insane, too stylish, feminine and his actions were not the work of a genius.. lots of plot holes.
    Goldeneye did this well with Alec Travelian (sean Bean) and it was really great to watch Bond pitted against a nemesis. I just got bored with all the over the top acting here.

    Music,theme (CRUCIAL to a bond movie) were very, very average. I miss John Barry!

    too many locations, product placement.. just looked like one GQ shoot after the other…

    Fact is, if this movie wasn’t under the BOND franchise, critics (with vested interests) would slate its story telling and audiences wouldn’t go to see it.. Bourne identity is one of the only original spy franchises of recent times Bond has done nothing new.

    The cinematography was Oscar-worthy though! As BEAUTIFUL as any bond film made.

  18. Good informative/descriptive review

    This is one of the most overestimated/over praised films I have ever seen. I take pride in having no bias or prejudice. I enjoyed quite a few moments of this film, like the amazing settings and the pretty good acting, but Its just the same old bond. For example every fight scene is like a simulation of a fight, I’t doesn’t feel like anybody is actually fighting and that is extremely boring to me. This feeling of simulation also flows through most of the other areas of the production and mainly the plot.

    The introduction was also one of the most boring intros I have seen in a long time. It’s only goal was to start the plot and filled the rest in with some lame simulated chase/fight.

    For the masses I will say watchable film, but where is the quality?

  19. I have to say as a Bond fanatic, I agree with the review. An ok movie, a better movie than Bond movie, and plot holes all over the place.

    SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Can’t figure out why Bond runs to his old home, yet makes no stop for weapons. Had plenty of time. Also wondering why the British military, secret service or police in some capacity are not there for backup. Also, how about treating on open wound on M? And a flashlight? Not real bright. I expect better. Sure, the old fashioned Bond movies had holes too, but they were supposed to be fanciful and cartoonish, if you will. The new ones are not.

  20. The opening credit sequence was interesting for about a minute, and then it started repeating the same imagery over and over — a tombstone… a tree… a little stone house… oh and there’s more tombstones… more trees. And it pretty much told the whole story of the movie which is painfully obvious upon a second viewing. Casino Royale and Quantum — heck even the 007 video game Bloodstone — had more flashy, interesting intros.

    And I’m tired of all this praise for the cinematography. Quantum was much more artistic and visual, while Casino was shiny and colorful. Skyfall just had a bunch of shots of Bond standing in front of a vista, looking on. “Here’s a shot of Bond standing on a rooftop looking at London! Here’s a shot of Bond standing on a boat looking at Asian dragons! Here’s a shot of Bond taking a leak on the side of a road in Scotland — oh, no, he’s just standing and staring again.” Skyfall was visually messy and not cohesive. I can pick the Casino Royale colors from a box of crayons, same for Quantum. They’re strong and solid. Skyfall is just cat vomit with a few Chinese neon lights.

    Thematically the movie was a mess. Bond (sorta) set out to prove he’s still relevant in today’s society. Yet he had to travel to an internet-less, middle of nowhere area to be relevant. In other words, he didn’t prove what he set out to prove. Bond even said he was traveling “to the past” aka wilderness Scotland to win. That’s a mixed message. And once there, the ending muddies the message further. Let me ask one question to prove this point: Who killed M?

    Exactly. We have no idea who killed M. Some faceless, nameless goon shot a bullet that happened to hit M at some point. We don’t even learn about it until after the fact. I guess you could argue that Javier Bardem killed her since he hired the goon, but if that’s the case, then why not just let him shoot her? It would parallel the beginning where M let Bond get shot. That would be a thing of beauty, story-wise. Bottom line, Bond doesn’t save the day, M dies, and there’s no real growth for the characters. Bond, always the hero, is not a hero here. Still, the message is unclear. Should we conclude that M is to blame for her own death for lying about Bond’s test scores, allowing him to go out into the field unprepared? Is this supposed to be commentary on bureaucratic incompetence and a form of nepotism? There’s just no simple interpretation (eg. “Bad guys lose, good guy turns hero”), nor is there any clear, deeper thematic message. It just left me bored and disinterested. And that’s sad considering how good Craig’s previous two outings were.

    The only possible message is that Bond’s character is getting old, unable to compete in today’s world, and is somewhat irrelevant unless the conditions favor him, and even still he’ll get his colleagues killed. That’s some pretty crappy commentary on a celebrated character, and it suggests Skyfall’s creators really have some hostility towards the iconic 007.

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