REVIEWS

Review: Sam Mendes' 'Skyfall' Earns Top Marks for Bond Accuracy

by
November 8, 2012

Skyfall Review

50 years. 23 movies. A franchise as rambunctious and stubborn as its lead character, the James Bond series wouldn't have lasted as long as it has without a few great movies here and there in its arsenal. Skyfall is a great movie. Not as elaborately charged or as gun-wrenchingly explosive as one might expect, it still finds a way, thanks to director Sam Mendes, to bridge a gap between old and new schools of spy film, the Sean Connery smoothness of Goldfinger with the electricity of Daniel Craig. Skyfall earns tops marks for James Bond accuracy and continues a groundbreaking, cinematic tradition with a pinpoint bullet.

This time around, we see Bond well into his retirement from MI6 after a daring mission leaves him shot, believed dead, and out in the field. But Bond is called back into action when M becomes a target of a mysterious attacker. Lots of investigation, hand-to-hand fighting, and precision shooting ensues, and what proves to be Bond's most dangerous nemesis ends up hitting closer to home than he anticipated.

Not much of a synopsis, really, but that's what you get with Skyfall, a simple story that allows for ample amounts of character. This film has character in droves, and the way the screenwriting team — Neal Purvis and Robert Wade back in the saddle again this time, with a big assist from John Logan — reflects and reveals information about characters we've known and been invested in for decades is nothing short of brilliant. Skyfall is the most personal Bond film yet, letting us in on a backstory 23 films have yet to develop and playing the Bond/M relationship for all its worth. This is Dame Judi Dench's seventh time playing Bond's MI6 superior, and the veteran actress has never been this concrete in the franchise before.

Along with the newness of character development, though, the writers and Mendes make every attempt at having Skyfall call back to the Bond films of old. The pre-title sequence is as riveting as ever, and the opening song by Adele has a classic ring to it. For the first time in this recent run of the series we have the Q brand to arm Bond with an assortment of high-tech gadgetry. Though the gadgets aren't nearly as ridiculous as the series has been known to include, the banter between Bond and Q, now played by Ben Whishaw, is a welcome return to form. Minor aspects like the villain, a blond-headed Javier Bardem who has serious mommy issues, not showing up until well into the second act and bringing classic cars like the Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger help give Skyfall the proper window dressing to the James Bond juices flowing.

Skyfall - Daniel Craig as Bond

All the while Mendes handles the action superbly, choosing clever ways of showing the action instead of aimlessly throwing the camera about and hoping to catch something breathtaking. At times the inclusion of certain CG images are distracting, a sequence with giant komodo dragons almost calling back the days of when Timothy Dalton was ordering it shaken, not stirred. But even with eyesores blotching the screen here and there, Mendes and his crew make very sequence memorable, and the stunning work here by cinematographer Roger Deakins makes every shot as breathtaking as the film's action. Skyfall really is, without question, the prettiest James Bond film to date.

Blending old and new schools of Bond moviemaking calls for a remarkable and unforgettable villain. That's the main staple of any, good Bond film, and Bardem's Silva is up to the task of overtaking that bar set by actors like Donald Pleasence, Gert Fröbe, or Christopher Lee. The mystery behind who Silva is and why he has his sights set on MI6 is part of the intrigue in Skyfall, but Bardem's commitment to the role is unquestionable. In a world where comic book villains haven't been turning it up to 11 for years, Bardem's turn as Silva would be something of a trendsetter. As it is, he's no more diabolical or unsavory than Heath Ledger's Joker, but that doesn't stop Bardem from capturing the creepy-but-cool-and-obviously-sadistic mood that any good villain should exude. The blonde hair helps. In one of the few instances in the film, the CG additions to the character are the most interesting aspects, but even that might be saying too much.

Skyfall - Bond and Silva / Javier Bardem

Craig, as always, is the brooding James Bond, the kind of man who will kill on sight when the occasion calls for it but dies a little inside with each life he takes. Craig was the perfect choice to handle this new 007, a spy with a rich, grounded history and a darkness about him to match it. It's poor to continue comparing James Bond with Batman as well as their respective franchises, but you get the impression with Craig in this role that we could very well, at some point, see the demise of this character. The darkness he chooses to wrap himself in each time he plays the part just calls for that type of series outcome, but only time will tell.

What can be said, what should be said, is how satisfying Skyfall is as an entry to the 50-year-old cinematic James Bond franchise. After a swell of support for Daniel Craig after Casino Royale, even die-hard fans of the series were left more than a little soured by Quantum of Solace. With Skyfall, though, their worries for the franchise as a whole should be put to rest. With enough solid action, splendid character development, and a top-notch but simple story that ultimately brings us to the Bond setup we've known and loved for years, everything about Skyfall bleeds 007. Once again, under the reign of a top-notch director, the series has given us another great entry, and once again, when it says "James Bond Will Return" over the end credits, we can't wait for that very thing to happen.

Jeremy's Rating: 8.5 out of 10

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  • matt
    Could not agree more, loved this film!
  • Xerxexx
    Seeing it soon.
  • Jericho
    Agreed
  • Cs
    The film itself could almost be called a reboot. But it was a truly great film all around. I hope they can bring make more quality Bond films like this in the future.
    • http://www.facebook.com/cpurdy111 Chris Purdy
      I agree. In many ways, this film was as much or more a reboot than Casino Royale even was. Especially considering the ending.
  • T.Romo
    This score is lower than Cloud Atlas? We all know Cloud Atlas was geared to a niche crowd, but really not even a 9? I expected at least a 9.0-9.5 score. Something's rotten in the state of Denmark.
    • Greg dinskisk
      Is the score he gave all you looked at?
  • VVS
    overrated mess. the good: Beautiful cinematography, Title sequence, Adele's song, Hong Kong sky scraper sequence, Discovery of the amazing acting talent that is Berenice Marlohe (she was the best in the cast) the bad: all the supporting characters are poorly developed with cheesy dialogue, the villain has weak motivations, the writing is poor...all the conveniently placed traps...what is this a cartoon? story drags in a lot of place...the end was dull. Veridct: an unthinkable generic effort by the great Sam Mendes that leaves you scratching your head. This was not the Nolan of James Bond, more like the Michael Bay of James Bond
    • Guest
      weak motivations?! eh no I wasn't bowled over by this film either, but that was one of the better parts
    • Ricardo_PT
      I kinda agree with you in most of the points. And i too think this is being overrated. I'm not going to speak my mind until the "sound-off" post. I will say this, berenice Marlohe's perfomance was one of the most awful I've seen in a while. There's a scene where her dharacter is nervous, she does an horrible job, it looks like someone pretending to be nervous.
    • http://www.facebook.com/cpurdy111 Chris Purdy
      Yeah, weak motivations. Right. Not like "I want to take over the world, Mr. Bond" or "I want to create an underwater/outerspace city and kill everyone else on the planet, Mr. Bond" Silva was the best villain in a LONG ASS time.
      • VVS
        so your argument is that he's the best weak character in a gallery of weak characters? Lmao. Where is your logic?
        • http://www.facebook.com/cpurdy111 Chris Purdy
          jesus christ you are a jerk. anyway, this is a bond film, so obviously its lineage should be taken into account when critiquing the film. yes, he is the best villain in a gallery of weak villains, but i don't think he's a weak character, and i think his motivations are as good as any villain i've ever seen in an action film. they may seem flimsy, until you learn a bit more about his capture, torture, failed suicide, and you realize how crazy this guy is. and he has an obvious oedipus complex for M. compare that to the joker, which everyone considers such a tremendous villain. his motivation is "my childhood was bad. my daddy was an alcoholic. i have big mouth scars, so im going to become an agent of chaos with no humanity to further the thematic premise of this movie"
          • VVS
            only lineage i take into account is the history of film...and in the history of film, this one is forgettable generic fluff. Dont bring your Bond -fanboy shit into critique....critique it as a film The joker's motivation is not his childhood. The joker's motivation is the hypocrisy in the world. You might need to watch the film again. He is an anarchist who is also an actor. He acts a character to achieve his goals. He's a frightening character because his motivations are actually real....we see them in the real world...hence, we are so thrilled by him, because we find truth in his words. As much as we find his actions sadistic, we look to the left, to the right and think "well shit, he's not lying" what was Silva's motivation to do anything, if his sole purpose was to kill M...he could have done that quietly and got away with it....what was the point and making such a huge show out of it? It doesn't add up.
          • Ricardo_PT
            Frankly, i got to go with VVS on this one (even if he's sometimes a little harsh). You really can't say a movie is amazing and a masterpiece (i Know you didn't use these exact words) just because it is better than the other movies from that particular series. Like VVS, i allways lool at a movie from a general view, being Schindler's list or The Twilight, I allways look at a movie and think to myself, of all the movies I've seen and liked, where does this one rank? I never liked the kind of expressions some people use like "dude, for a summer blockbuster, that's amazing". So, looking at Skyfall from a larger point of view, it's not that great. I also agree with VVS, from all the movies Mendes as done, this one is easily my least favourite (hell, I loved Away we Go). Mind you, the movie has amazing shots and scenes, but in the end, it didn't make me feel anything special. Bardem played that villain amazingly but, ultimately, it was, indeed, "shallow". The movie looked like someone would through in an idea and say "this will look great on camera", and that's it, not even thinking if it would make sense or have an impact on the audience. Going back to that first thought, what frustrated me the most about this movie is that it tries so hard to be different than the other bonds, more mature, like they knew better, that now it seems a little unfair that you want to praise it based on the other films. The all time I was thinking "this is trying to give us that Dark Knight feel, but it lacks in comparison"
          • http://www.facebook.com/cpurdy111 Chris Purdy
            You two both bring up good points. However, I guess I still disagree that the film, as a whole, didn't succeed. I saw it twice and had a completely different reaction. The first viewing was in IMAX and so my objectivity was, admittedly, spoiled by months of hype. The second viewing was in a small multiplex and I was able to watch the film much more objectively and, I still loved it. What can I say? I observed a number of narrative flaws in the first act, but no more so than Casino Royale, also a number of things that had bothered me in the first viewing were rectified with a second time through. Whether or not this film is on a par with Dark Knight or Begins is in the eye of the beholder, but I really think you would be hard pressed to find a better action film in recent years. I think its praise is well-earned. You disagree. I guess that's that.
  • IamSlave
    Can't wait to see this tomorrow. I've been hearing from many people that Javier Bardem has done a great job in his villain role.
  • K
    This is not James Bond. I don't know what the hell this is. The plot doesn't make a sliver of sense. There're plot holes big enough for an oil tanker to sail through. I mean, come on, a hole right in the holding cell for the villain to escape? Bond retreated to his ancestral home with minimal support and firepower and expected to protect an old woman? And don't get me started on the silly bits like Bond holding a grudge against M because he heard M gave the order to shoot but he didn't turn or make the job easier for his lousy colleague, and Silva's grand final play was to go gun-blazing which effectively made all the scheming in the past 2 hrs pointless? And why Grand Bazzar? Saw it in movies and TV shows way too many times. Running out of locations to shoot?? Besides, Craig looks broken and old. And I suspect if he purses his lips any harder, his jaw will fall off. So disappointed.
    • Dominic A
      , Hole In Cell : yes that is a good idea to maybe get in at a barricade situation . The point was Silva knew it was there cause he had access to the plans . if you didn't have access ,you wouldn't know about it. also compliments the underground theme of many scenes . Retreat to Ancestral Home : 1st it gets innocents away , unlike the Subway or MI-6 explosion or the Council Chamber. 2nd , it was a plot device to make you learn about Bond's childhood past , which might be the main reason to see the movie( best vista of the movie too the Scottish Mountains of Felthiye and the farmhouse in the middle of nowhere . 3rd ,For the minimal firepwower they have , he still blew up all but 3 . and 4 Dench comes because the movie IS ALL about HER , or didn't you notice that ? . Not turning assassin's body toward his shooter agent ? well get YOURSELF into a headlock where the guy is trying to snap your neck or choke you out and then YOU try to "turn" him ANY direction . Go In With Guns Blazing : well he fell for the trap the Villian is always overconfident and the Hero sets him up to fail in this way . Scheming only gets you so far , until u have to BRING IT !, Looks Broken and Old : again why aren't you actually PAYING attention to the movie - he's SUPPOSED to look broken and old ! he has to overcome that even tho Mum knows he failed all the evals . and it was a telling plot twist that once MI-6 went back to the "old" ways underground , THAT"S when they were overcome and compromised . Those old ways fail but Bond's old ways at HIS home win . THAT's the upshot of the plot NOW what didn't you understand ?? did u pay attention to the movie or your phone ?? cause you missed a lot ....
      • Dominic A
        I saw the IMAX preview Weds and it was pricey at 18$ but kinda worth it if you go to movies for beautiful vistas and cinematography . i liked it for that and the old-is-new themes running throughout( old agents trying to be relevant , old acts of M coming back now to haunt her , MI-6 underground , old-style older classic architecture of London against new twinkly lights and tall glass buildings of Shanghai, old iconic Bond settings of trains and casinos and tropical islands mixed with new settings of Felthiye and Subway lines and a crumbling floating city ). And hey a Hot New MoneyPenny eh ? Does THIS bode well for Idris getting his shot at Bond ? altho they'd now have a LOT more to change/reboot , with these new revelations of Bond's childhood . Bond crying at the end !? with his stiff upper lip threatening to totally fall apart ... or digging 3 pieces of shrapnel out of his shoulder by himself no anesthetic and a Bowie knife ... or the jumping off of a crane's big claw into a train right before the claw falls away , taking the back half of the train with it , and he cocks his shoulders resets his jacket and cockily strides away like he was in no danger = NEW Classic Bond Moments to remember .....
    • Richie G
      The maitenance access was outside Silva's holding cell, Bond held a grudge for M not having faith in his abilities as much as getting him shot (explaing why he didn't move) and Bond was supposed to look old (they mad him look older so they could ask "is Bond past it" as part of the plot) I'm more peeved that they made such a big deal about that radio when Bond had a tracking device put in his arm two movies ago. Way to be pointless Q. Also the hacking grapics sucked and "I'm creating a trail only Silva can follow" What?! it was a straight line on a map
      • http://www.facebook.com/cpurdy111 Chris Purdy
        Not to nitpick, but after Bond wrecks the Aston Martin in Casino Royale, Le Chiffre cuts the tracking device out of his arm and snaps it in two.
        • Richie G
          haha yeah? I'm sure you're right. Still, lets introduce Q so the technology in the series can take a step backwards. Right?
          • http://www.facebook.com/cpurdy111 Chris Purdy
            if you take skyfall as an exact sequel, rather than a standalone film, then perhaps the tech moves backwards. i dont think it matters, really. it works in the movie. its a setup/payoff plot device, like every bond gadget, ever.
          • http://www.the72pins.com/ Matt
            And to make matters even worse, the new, young "tech savvy" Q hooks an enemy laptop directly into their system, allowing them to get hacked... Completely moronic. And then he gives Burt Ward a run for his money in the "horrendously awful fake typing" school of acting.
  • Andrew
    Saw it a few hours ago, one of the best movies of the year. Javier Bardem is top notch.
  • Buzzfunk
    I cannot believe the praise this movie is getting. I think people are blinded by the indeed beautiful imagery. But everything was shallow. The story? please. Sam M cannot direct action in anyway. I never felt any sort of tension, excitement during them. The few throwback jokes were great, loved the car and Q but everything was terrible. Too long, too much influence by overrated director Nolan and on top the music was just not Bond. Personally, my least fav out of many Bonds.
    • Buzzfunk
      Sorry its late. Forget a few "else". My apologies.
    • http://www.facebook.com/cpurdy111 Chris Purdy
      Shallow? I think you might be forgetting that the previous 22 films weren't exactly cerebral or regarded for their depth. Compared to virtually any other Bond film, with the possible exception of From Russia with Love and OHMSS, Skyfall is indeed the LEAST shallow and possibly the most complex in the entire series. The Bond formula is lived out. It's a 50 year old franchise that's done about everything that can be done within that tired old plot structure. When they play it safe, we get forgettable mundane movies like Tomorrow Never Dies and Quantum of Solace. When they take risks and change it up, we get gems like Live and Let Die, Casino Royale, Goldeneye, and now, Skyfall. The Bond series thrives on its ability to adapt to the times and continually reinvent itself. It survives because of how the films continue to surprise us in spite of the predictable formula, not because of how close they adhere to it. If the series is to succeed and survive another 50 years, it must evolve and break new ground, which this film has done in a multitude of ways. And if you never felt any tension or excitement, I think that's your own damn fault, and not the film's, because I certainly felt it. A lot more than in the second half of Casino Royale or in all of Quantum of Solace. Mendes may not have the eye for kinetic energy that Martin Campbell has, but he's a dramatist and a former theatre director. His strong suit is characterization and symbolism. He frames the action clearly and, at times, marvelously. Which is a heck of a lot better than 'lets just wiggle the camera around and hope the audience thinks it's awesome' which Marc Forster and Christopher Nolan both rely on to sell the effect. If you go back to the classic Bond films, you'll see the story as well as the stylization of Skyfall's action is actually no any worse than any of the best Bonds shot in the 60s and 70s. In short, I disagree completely. This film is every bit as good as the best 5 Bonds in the series.
      • VVS
        so because the last 22 films were shallow, its okay to make another shallow film? Good Point!!! You win..the mental midget award. I don't care how it fared as a Bond film....all i know is that it was a terribly generic, mediocre film. No better than The Avengers...just beautifully shot.
        • http://www.facebook.com/cpurdy111 Chris Purdy
          did you even read my whole response, or just the first sentence? mental midget award. clever. way to turn a civil debate into yet another flame war. asshole. really though, this film is not shallow, not for an action film, not for a blockbuster, not for a bond film. it may not have the thematic depth of batman begins or the dark knight, but its better than rises, better than most of the bond series, and MUCH better than the avengers. avengers was rather pathetic. it does not hold up in repeat viewings, its pretty much drivel. and the cinematography in that film is completely unremarkable, as wally pfister was right to say a few weeks ago. it just showcases the production design with little regard for emotiveness or filmic depth. like the film itself. it was fun though. skyfall is one of the better films in the series because of its delicate balance between action and drama, style and substance, classicism and modernity. it's as good an origin story as casino royale or batman begins. every film in the series is unique. in ten years time, people will look at their 007 collection and reflect fondly on skyfall. if your expectations for a flipping 007 movie were too high to be satisfied, that's your own fault. you're just setting yourself up for disappointment.
          • http://www.facebook.com/cpurdy111 Chris Purdy
            what exactly was generic about it, i might add? i mean, besides the fact that its a bond movie and people get shot and there's a villain, the whole third act of this film (if not the entirety) is unlike any "generic, mediocre" movie that I've ever seen.
          • VVS
            the plot is way too familiar. none of the characters have any depth, and say dialogue just for the sake of saying it resulting in cheesy generic moments that try to reach for some kind of emotional investment but fail (I.E. M standing next to the tombs "I will find whoever did this") The action is all shot in a very typical way, not creating much tension or interest. The whole Villain being caught and then revealed to have planned it all along is so tired. Iron Man 2 did it...then Avengers did it...and now Bond is doing it. It's literally a crime for Sam Mendes to make a movie this generic.
          • http://www.facebook.com/cpurdy111 Chris Purdy
            Hey, I'm not saying you're not a lover of film. We all are on this site, I'm sure. I have a degree in Film Studies. I went to school with Ethan Anderton from FirstShowing, actually. Mendes knew what he was doing and had no delusions about it. The man is not beholden to your or anyone's expectations of him, if he wants to make a film that is somewhat sillier than his previous efforts, that is his prerogative as a filmmaker. It is also not 'literally a crime'. Maybe figuratively. But I doubt he'll be arrested for directing a movie. Mendes is quoted as saying that he did not set out to make a Sam Mendes film, he set out to make a Bond film. I happen to think he made one of the better ones in the series. I guess what confuses me is that I don't know what rubric you are using to critique this film. It seems like you're comparing it to films outside of its genre, outside of its class. It sounds like film snobbery, which I am personally trying to outgrow. Perhaps my views seem illogical, but I assure you there is a logical reason why I rate Bond and Batman on a different scale than Bergman and Fellini. It has to do with my capacity and desire to be entertained by both. Cinema comes in many different flavors. Independent films, Hollywood blockbusters, noir, foreign & arthouse films, animated films. The standard in quality also varies wildly. Audiences expect different things out of different types of movies. To me, as a Bond fan and cineaste, the 007 series is such an enduring and influential icon in world cinema, so long-running, that it almost warrants being considered as its own minigenre and not just a franchise. In which case, I must at least partially consider its predecessors. This is the approach I take as an individual. To compare a big budget action blockbuster, an entirely collaborative studio/profit-driven effort, to an auteur-driven character drama, even one by Mendes himself, is in my opinion a little disingenuous and completely misses the primary point, which is to suspend disbelief and enjoy a movie. I won't say that you're wrong in wanting to critique the weak points of this film, I'm just curious to know if you attempted to enjoy it at all, and what you expected from it. Also, out of curiosity, what do you think is a better recent action film?
          • VVS
            I read your entire response, but sadly there was no logic in it. It was just a bunch of excuses at to why a james bond film should not be judged as a film, but judged as by the limitations of what a james bond film has been. I'm a lover of film, first and foremost. I loved Road to Perdition, and American Beauty. I root for films to be great. But sadly, Skyfall is just a generic BlockBuster. A shallow book with pretty pictures and a good soundtrack. going by your logic, if sam mendes made twilight with Deakins, all it has to do to be a great film is follow the formula of the terrible series of films that preceded it.
      • Not stirred at all
        Well we all have our opinions. I too think it is possibly the worst Bond Film I have ever seen. They are trying to make it into a non-Bond Film and missing the whole point, of the Bond ideas.
  • truong18
    cannot wait to see this movie.
  • Guest
    tell me more about this kimono dragon lol
    • Richie G
      haha, I didn't notice that. I think he means kimodo. definitly wasn't wearing a kimono
  • Nielsen700
    It's in my top 5 Bond films of all time. So great!
  • http://www.facebook.com/Tyban Tyler Bannock
    I loved it. Bond is grown up and gritty. Absolutely wicked.
  • 008
    Dalton is still my favorite.

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