Review: Skyfall, 2012, dir. Sam Mendes

Has the James Bond franchise come full circle? Are we now at a point where there are no more secrets to the world’s most famous globe-trotting, womanizing, martini-guzzling spy? By the time Sam Mendes directs Skyfall, his entry in the half-a-century-old series, to its logical conclusion, we’ve actually experienced cinema of regression, watching as the film delves into the character’s roots before witnessing them burst forth to let their genre heritage flourish. Since Daniel Craig took over star duties in 2006’s excellent Casino Royale, we’ve seen him take Bond from a debonaire MI6 agent to a British cousin of Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne; with Skyfall, we come to understand why, and also see Craig assume the traditional mantle we expect him to bear in the role.

The film literally starts with a bang– in fact, several of them. Mendes’ name isn’t one typically associated with high-end action theatrics, and after a few minutes of watching Craig and the luminous Naomie Harris chase Patrice Rapace through a crowded Turkish marketplace, it becomes immediately clear that the British auteur isn’t pulling any punches. Maybe nothing better showcases his attitude than his decision to “kill” Bond; 007’s line of work often leaves him bruised and battered, but Mendes gives him a death-and-resurrection through-line here, one that lets both the director and his star question the character’s place in a world which differs so greatly from the one Bond was born into fifty years ago.

Today’s megalomaniac villains don’t play by the old rules. They don’t have iron-jawed henchmen; they’re not bent on annihilating the human race with nerve toxin; they don’t want to rob Fort Knox or create new civilizations under the sea. They do not favor the overt, and have made their bread and butter of cyber-terrorism. So when Bond unofficially passes away at the end of the film’s opening sequence, M (Dame Judi Dench) is left to pick up the pieces of his demise months later and attempt to deflect scrutiny of her leadership and competence, and her efforts to do so become undermined by an attack deep within the heart of MI6 itself by someone from her past.

Beleaguered and beset upon by enemies on all sides, M finds a reprieve and an ally in Bond when he comes out of hiding and the game is truly afoot. His reappearance marks the start of the film’s eventual return to the basics of the franchise, but Craig, Mendes, and the god-like Roger Deakins have a lot of ground to cover before they get there, and together they make the journey one of the most essential pieces of cinematic blockbusting of the year. From Shanghai to Macau, all the way back to London and eventually to the highlands of Scotland, Skyfall builds a reverse sort of momentum, starting off big and getting smaller and more personal as the film employs story-through-action and peels back the layers of Bond which remain after Casino Royale and 2008’s far inferior Quantum of Solace.

Because the goal here isn’t just to choreograph gorgeous fight scenes shot in the dark, lit against a city skyline and involving occasional bursts of illuminating gunfire; or to introduce one of the best antagonists the series has ever seen; or to allow our hero opportunity after opportunity to spout of pithy one-liners in between the moments where he frets over his age and concretely-proven mortality. No, Mendes wants to finish the job Martin Campbell started six years ago and get to the core of what makes Bond tick, and as the film brings 007 back home in a very real way– the “Skyfall” of the title turns out to have deep significance to him– we’re given a fresh, new, and brilliant perspective of the character before the series promises to get back to its essence in future installments.

In other words, Skyfall has layers, and in its complexity purists might find disappointment. The random sexual encounters Bond experiences here are much-reduced on a number of levels compared to his past exploits; his gadgets are less playful and less plentiful. But the film very loudly points to the character’s history in everything it does. Can anyone deny that this is a James Bond film when he fights off assailants in a pit containing hungry komodo dragons? The absurdities of the older films, which of course supply them with the charm and allure that makes them so beloved, aren’t absent from Skyfall, but they are tempered by Mendes’ desire to dig into character and Deakins’ ability to make a fistfight in a Shanghai tower look quite as gorgeous as a boat ride across a lake to an exclusive Macau casino.

And that’s a good thing. Skyfall‘s excesses recall its ancestry, but its artistic and narrative drives provide it with its own individual identity as a film. When we first meet our villain, Silva, played with decadent unbridled glee by a marvelous Javier Bardem, we expect him to sound off on his vision for world domination or explicate his nefarious plans to seize control over one planetary asset or another, all in the name of infamy and ego. But Skyfall isn’t an archetypal Bond film, and Silva isn’t an archetypal Bond heavy; he wants revenge for being betrayed by MI6 while in their service as an agent not unlike James. He’s 007’s mirror image, a man similarly haunted by old, lingering wounds and fueled by his desire to suture them shut once and for all; they exist on opposite sides of the same coin, one and the same despite their differences.

So in a way, Skyfall is a film about Bond reconciling with his past as a character in order to become the figure of cinema iconography we recognize him as. How else to view a Bond film in which the last act sees him break his souped-up Goldfinger-era (I believe; a diehard can correct me if I’m wrong) Aston Martin out of hiding for one glorious climactic spin? Skyfall serves us both the rough-and-tumble Bond and the suave Bond all in one sitting, reminding us why the character matters and organically taking the franchise back to its familiar beginnings. This is without a doubt the best, most thrilling blockbuster of the year from top to bottom, and hard evidence that genre movies don’t have to take themselves too seriously or play too broadly to be great.

112 thoughts on “Review: Skyfall, 2012, dir. Sam Mendes

  1. I’ve watched the Skyfall trailer at least five times, I’m so excited to see this — and your reviews turn my excitement into a driving *need* to go see the movie RIGHT NOW. Too bad this weekend is so busy! Love the review. Yay!!

    • Thanks Mink! And yes, you most definitely need to go see this movie immediately. Once your schedule clears, make time for it, you won’t– I hope– be disappointed.

      I honestly wasn’t all that enthused about seeing it up until a few weeks ago when the first wildly positive reviews came in. That made my ears perk up.

        • For no other reason than it is great, and I think great films deserve to be seen as soon as possible. Grant also that my views are informed by the fact that I’m a film critic and writer. Seeing a movie immediately is almost a necessity.

            • Sure. But if you have a driving need to see a film, why wait? This isn’t an argument, either, but a recommendation. If you don’t get it, you can go see the film whenever you want. It’s no skin off my nose.

  2. Pingback: Skyfall Review: Queue Slow Clap | Rorschach Reviews

  3. Oh yeah. LOL. Sunday’s gonna be a good show.

    You’re singing my tune Crump! Although watch what you say about “Bond purists…” I got my eye on you…. LOL

    Great review man. Wickedly glad you’re so impressed with this one. Hard not to be, right? I mean… the greatness of this movie SHOULD pretty much be evident to everyone, no? Its an awesome action movie with depth! How often do we get one of those? How many action movies leave you wanting to sing the praises of the cinematographer?

    We’ll discuss more tomorrow, of course, but I say you’re right they definitely tried to make this more “Bond” – and its astute of you to realize that that’s pretty much the sole reasoning behind him fighting in the Komodo pit. LOL! (Awe-some!) – but I still think the tone here is a little dark. That’d be my one beef with these last two Craig movies. Very heavy.

    How great was Bardem though? Good lord. 😀 Glad to hear you’re such a fan of this, thats great. 😀

    • Hey, nothing wrong with Bond purists. But this isn’t so overtly Bond-ish as the Bond movies that made Bond fans Bond fans. If that’s a thing.

      Thanks, Fogs. Glad you dug the review, and I’m glad but not at all surprised that we both liked the movie. Again, I can’t really call myself a died-in-the-wool Bond fan, but I like Bond well enough, and I think Bond films can be extraordinary when done well– case in point, Skyfall

      The weird thing is that as un-Bond as the movie appears to be, it’s very Bond. There’s humor. There are komodo dragons. The sex is much-reduced but it’s there and it feels just as Bondish as any other sex scene you can name in the franchise. And there’s a frigging super-powered Aston Martin. I mean, come on, how is this not Bond?

      I’ll save the rest for the Podcast. Looking forward to it!

      • I actually knew it was happening on Friday. But yeah, they put it up on the FP page in the middle of the LAMBCast. So if I went silent for a moment partway through, you can blame WordPress!

  4. Great writing – so kudos on that! But I have to disagree about the film. I just saw it last night and I was disappointed. I loved Casino Royale for how it got back to the basics, and was so raw and gritty. Skyfall was a little bit too smug and self-conscious for me. The in-jokes about Moneypenny, the Aston Martin, exploding pens, etc., became a little too much for me. The Aston Martin didn’t even make sense to me. Why would this version of James Bond have this 1960’s era over-the-top James Bond car with guns and an ejection seat? He just keeps it in a warehouse… why exactly? Did he buy it from the former James Bond?

    I certainly didn’t *dislike* Skyfall, but neither did I walk away thinking “WOW!”

    Just my $.02

    • No doubt that the Bond movies have definitely become more self-aware in Craig’s time, but I think that’s an important and necessary element to get back to the sort of movies that we think of when we think of the brand. I can understand that being an unattractive quality for some, though.

      As to the Aston Martin, I think he keeps it around because it’s a reflection of how he sees himself. But I also think it’s there for fan service, which I don’t mind when it’s done well.

      Thanks for leaving your $.02! Always happy to hear my readers’ opinions– and I’m glad you liked my review even if you didn’t love the movie like I did!

  5. Pingback: Review: Skyfall, 2012, dir. Sam Mendes « shahnwazali1

  6. Hi Andrew

    I love Skyfall, Daniel Craig (my fav Bond!), Judi Dench and Javier Bardem. So, to say this movie was a marvellous treat is a terrible understatement.

    What I feel is flat in this movie is Adele’s contribution to the soundtrack although I so adore her too.

    I love your writing and your blog.
    Thank you so much, looking forward to read more!

    • Well, thank you very kindly! Hope to hear much more from you in the future!

      I’m with you– Craig is my favorite Bond, too, though it’s very close between him and Connery. But what helps Skyfall so much is, as you say, its entire cast; Bardem may be one of the best villains in the series hands-down, and Dench of course classes up any movie she appears in.

      I’ll admit that while I liked Adele’s contribution, it’s not the best part of the movie for me– or even the most memorable.

  7. A great review! Makes me even more excited to go see the movie this afternoon. I was disappointed with The New Yorker’s review of Skyfall because it sounds like the reviewer just doesn’t “get” the overall Bond gestalt. Thanks for the detail in your review.

    • Let me know what you think of it when you get the chance. Always curious to read people’s thoughts. And my big issue, frankly, with Denby’s article is that he has six paragraphs and he scarcely says anything about the film he’s reviewing, instead pining for the days of Connery and Moore. I often feel like the world of contemporary film has passed him by.

  8. Nice review and I agree with almost all of it. However, my problem with the Bond movies is that they have become too internalized. I enjoyed this movie and its a good Bond movie, its just not as great a movie as they are making it out to be.

    • It might be that my reaction is entirely informed by the fact that I’m not really a dyed-in-the-wool Bond fan; I get what the love for the franchise is all about, but I’ve never really felt all that attached to it. So when people like Mendes look inward, it ends up being more exciting to me than seeing Bond save the world from a madman with a laser for the thousandth time.

      Besides, you can’t go wrong with Roger Deakins’ cinematography!

      • Totally agree Andrew. My point was that since saving the world from the madman has been done to death and looking inward is something that can be done only so many times, where does the series go from here. Totally on spot about Deakins!

        • Bingo. That said I do think that the series will end up going back to the series’ roots after this film; the ending kind of leaves us in that spot where we’re done peeling back Bond’s layers and can get back to having more komodo dragon pits in each film.

          Which isn’t a bad thing so long as the future installments are well done. Mendes and Deakins could shoot a whole film of absurdity (again, like the komodo dragons) and for me, it would probably be worthwhile!

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  10. 🙂 Thank you. As one of a family of Bond Enthusiasts, with the females being totally gaga over Daniel Craig, I am already planning an event of our viewing of the latest Bond!

    I also love your writing style….

  11. Lovely dissection of the film and its place in the Bond verse. I hope to catch this in the cinema just to see it on a bigger screen. Great review and break down of the film. Oh and very deserving of its Freshly Pressed inclusion. As a past “Pressed” blogger, welcome to the ranks? 😀

    • Well, once you’ve seen it, I look forward to reading your thoughts on it. Thanks for stopping in and for the kind words! Come on back in the future!

      As for being Freshly Pressed, this is my third time in just over the last year (my review of Drive got pressed last September, and my article about my top fifteen most anticipated releases of 2012 was pressed in January), but it never gets old!

  12. Reblogged this on Nathan Ko and commented:
    Just watched this. Pretty good, but some things don’t really make sense. For one thing, Bond is bound to die or at least immobilized after so many attacks, and second, M16 isn’t really accurate. We’ll, that’s inherit. All in all, I recommend watching Skyfall.

    • The invincibility of the action hero is a trope across action cinema of all kinds. Even this year’s The Raid does that. After a while it’s just something you learn to ignore.

      Glad you liked the movie overall though! And thanks for reblogging!

  13. Reblogged this on Eeyore Goes to the Movies and commented:
    More evidence for an interesting emerging phenomena: franchise films, now more than ever, dominate film production–and yet some are managing to transcend shoddy pasts into territory of quality film. What is responsible for elevating some franchises, while others continue to fail dismally? More to come.

    • Most definitely true. Genre franchises have really started to be treated with more care and respect and interest than they have in the past; it shows even in the ones I’m not fond of, like The Dark Knight Rises. I think you can chalk it up to fan demand and the knowledge that “elevated” genre franchises make more money.

      • Definitely, except this doesn’t totally explain the vacuum some film franchises such as “Transformers” become; that is, they still open to huge box office grosses despite a widespread knowledge that the movies are poor in narrative cohesion, and acting. I’m going to be writing an article on the state of the franchise soon, so keep your eyes peeled if you’re interested. Thanks for the re-post, great review!

        • I think Transformers is just a case of studios selling whatever they want to an audience that’s too eager to be bludgeoned into submission by abusive spectacle to care.

          And I will definitely keep my eyes open for that article. Very cool!

  14. Nice Review. I liked the Movie, but I don’t think it’s as good as Casino Royale. I like the raw, gritty, gadget-less Craig/Bond, and the continuation of the backstory that was teased out in Casino Royale.

    Two parts fell down for me. Bond having a car (the Aston Martin) tucked away in a lock up made a lot of sense. (After all, since he’s on MI6 expenses most of the time, what else is he going to spend his money on) But when it turned out to be the gadget-filled Goldfinger car, I felt that was pandering to the audience that goes to Bond for the gadgets. It defies logic – in the world of this James Bond, who’s car was that? his father? some earlier 007 who also happened to be called James Bond? At least Dr. Who has a regeneration convention that allows different actors to play the role. In Bond, we ignore it, and shouldn’t be prompted out of that ignorance.

    Second – Sévérine, a well cast Bond girl, but was used as an appendage rather than part of the story. Bond’s fondness for and weakness for women are part of what make the character, and killing her early was a shame.

    • Thanks Gavin. I’m not sure whether I like this better than Casino Royale but I like it at least as much, and this is definitely the same raw, gritty, gadget-less Bond we saw in that film. That said, Royale wasn’t bad nearly so well as this. I have to give a lot of credit to Mendes and Deakins for their artistic efforts here.

      The Aston Martin, I think, is meant to be a relic of his past. This is the same James Bond we’ve come to know throughout the rest of the series; he’s had that car since Goldfinger, kept tucked away in a garage only for use at the utmost end of need. It’s fan service, but I don’t mind that when it’s done well, and I thought this was done well.

      As far as Severine…well, she died a lot faster than I thought she would, but nearly every Bond film has a girl who Bond ends up bopping and who ends up dead. She’s just a trope. Maybe cut too short, but that’s really all she is.

        • Not especially. Continuity has never been a strong suit of the Bond franchise. That utter lack of a strictly maintained chronology lets people like Mendes play a little bit fast and loose in situations like this.

          I was kind of a fan of the idea that “James Bond” is just a pseudonym assigned to agents of the 007 title, and that Craig’s Bond was just the latest agent to hold it. It would certainly override the concern about age and timelines, but at the same time it would also open the door to a film where all the old Bonds come out of retirement to aid the current one, which I think would be fan service of the most irritating sort.

          But then again maybe that would just be awesome. Who knows?

  15. Great review. Skyfall is an impressive Bond movie. Perfect timing for an exploration of Bond’s roots and some nice, subtle retro nods. Loved how this film returned to British soil – it made for a darker, less glamourous Bond but a beautifully shot, refreshing change.

    • It’s certainly a nicely done finale to the exploration of his roots, which began with Casino Royale. And I love that it ends up in Scotland, myself; excellent change of pace from the usual Bond climax, where things are taken to some exotic locale. Takes everything inward. Thanks for stopping by!

  16. Great review. I loved Skyfall – the back story and the fact so much of it was filmed in my home town rather than a bazaar somewhere else. BUT M wouldn’t have left a light on in the cottage OR used a torch getting there. A small thing but it did kill her!

    Loved your ‘argument’ with replier #1. fight/paperbag springs to mind.

    • Cool to hear that this was shot in your hometown! Congratulations on that.

      I can’t really argue much against M’s fatal decisions to light her way in the end; not the best idea she’s ever had, though I assume she and Kincaid did so under the assumption that Bond would take care of Silva and his men.

      As to that argument…I don’t know. I barely even had the energy to respond to any of it.

  17. Nice review. Think “Skyfall” was definitely the most “Bond” of Craig’s three films so far. A great Bond film is one that gets the right balance between serious action and the puns/gadgets/komodo dragon fights – too far one way and you end up with Quantum of Solace – to far the other and it’s Moonraker ahoy. Skyfall in my view strikes that balance perfectly which is what makes it so good. Congrats on the freshly-pressed-ness too.

    • Thank you, thank you! And well-reasoned point about the film, which very much does strike a balance between the elements of serious edge introduced in Casino Royale, and the delightful absurdities we’ve come to associate with the Bond name. Skyfall walks the line between the two very, very well.

  18. I really like skyfall. Especially I like the idea to combine old elements like the old james bond car with the new actor. It really fits into our time where everything is based on computers. It shows how denpendent we are from electronic nowadays. Of course not everything in James Bond always makes sense. Indeed Bond has to be very old, if the aston martin had been his car. But it is just a movie. I like to be entertained and James Bond is always very entertaining.

    • Great thought! There’s a great deal made about the changing times and Bond’s relevance in a world where technology trumps theatrics.

      And I can live with the weird chronology here. We’re talking about a series where a villain planned on forcing humanity to live in an underwater civilization. There are far weirder things to nitpick in Bond history, I think.

  19. Pingback: Skyfall Reviews @ Go, See, Talk! and A Constant Visual Feast « The Cinematic Consensus Group

  20. Enjoyed reading your review, it was well written and made some very valid points, however I did not agree with the overall tone. In my opinion “Skyfall” was an above average Bond film. I will probably be tagged as one of the “purists” your referenced but I had certain expectations going into this film and felt as though i was left holding the tab as the credits rolled.

    I do agree that the humanization of Bond throughout the film was amazing, as well as the cinematography and locale selection. The feeling of hopelessness and being on the ropes was portrayed solidly, however I did not get this feeling from the conflict with the antagonist, the plot, or any of the other cast members. I feel that Craig’s acting communicated this feeling. It felt as though he knew what to expect and how to handle what was being thrown at his character but with the added complexity of trying to protect another’s life, a trait that is uncommon for Bond. This was present in “Casino Royal” as well and in my opinion is one of the aspects that made that movie so appealing.

    When it came to the plot and character development this film gave me an overwhelming sense of being rushed. The introduction of the Bardem’s villain felt awkward. He claimed to be just like Bond but other than the quick mention of his MI6 past, and his desire for revenge there was very little development or explanation for what could have been a very deep character. Sean Bean’s portrayal of Alec Travelyan is in my opinion the best execution of this in the Bond franchise. You understood his hatred of England and his disdain for 007 because it was such a major part of the story. Yes the scene where he removes his upper mouth plate sparked that emotion but other than that I feel as though we were left desiring more.

    The connection of Silva to Quantum was also a story element that was lacking. One of the main reasons I have loved the Craig Bond movies is because they did something that all the other Bond’s had not; they tied together! Historically Bond films have been separate adventures but CR and QoS broke that mold and created a story that transcended installments. I was ready for this to be the third one with Silva as the leader of Quantum and all around maniacal genius but that connection never seemed to come and if it did and I missed it than it was poorly communicated. Yes he was able to outsmart Q with his computer but honestly who didn’t see that coming a mile away. I felt disjointed and trying to grasp a whole new story when i was expecting a continuation to take place.

    The throwbacks in the film were excellent and very enjoyable. It was nice to see so much homage paid to such and influential movie franchise that has entertained us for generations. The only one complaint that I have with the tributes, and this is where the “purists” and maybe even “racist” slams might start coming but hear me out, is that they made Moneypenny black. The issue I have with this is not the decision to change her race but the fact that the change felt forced in a predominantly white cast. It was as if they wrote the movie and then went “we don’t have any black characters, where can we throw one in?” This struck me as just poor planning to not have created diversity in the cast to the point where you had to change historical Bond content in order to accommodate the oversight.

    However overall “Skyfall” was very entertaining and achieved some of the goals that I believe they set out to but the missteps that I witnessed cause me to be hard pressed to put it in the category that so many others have as “one of” or “the best Bond movie ever”. Thank you for your time and hope you enjoyed to opposing views.

    • I’m always welcome to opposing views. In fact, I think they’re essential, to the point where I nearly crave them. How else do we fine-tune our opinions in a film if we aren’t given the opportunity to do so? I like defending my perspectives; it not only lets me defend and better-establish my own reactions to a film, it also gives me the chance to see a film in a new way.

      That said– I do disagree somewhat with your reactions here. For one, I don’t think there’s really anything of Naomie Harris’ casting that’s worth declaring affirmative action over; they’ve had black characters in the series before (see Felix Leiter being cast as a black man in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace). There’s nothing made about the color of either characters’ skin to the effect that being white is a critical part of their story, so I don’t see an issue with Harris and Jeffrey Wright being cast in roles traditionally portrayed by white actors.

      I do agree with you that Craig’s performance conveys a lot of the tension and that “hopelessness of being on the ropes” (well said), but I think the film itself does a lot to transmit those same notions as well. In fact I think that’s one of the film’s through-lines; it’s touched on frequently that Bond is, perhaps, a little long in the tooth and after his “death” ill-fit for field service. So when he attempts a feat of daring such as grabbing onto the bottom of an elevator, there’s inherent tension for me.

      And I think there’s plenty in the film to make us understand Silva’s rage toward M. Not just from Silva himself, but also from M. We see from the beginning M’s belief in the mission over the man– she lets the agent in the field die so that Bond can pursue Patrice– and we see more and more evidence of it as we meet Silva. That introductory scene alone, I think, does wonders to establish his grief and anger and need for vengeance against her, and I actually thought that between that scene and the scene where he removes his jaw, the film did more than enough to make that driving need for revenge palatable.

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  22. Excellent review, but it only convinces me it’s not worth going to see.

    I’m a purist. For me, the Bond franchise has been making Bond in an ever more believable and mundane everyman. That may work for ticket sales to every man, but it’s not truly what Bond is about and for me as a woman, it doesn’t work at all.

    Daniel Craig is a fine everyman and an excellent actor I like very much. But Bond is all about image and attitude. Craig is just not able to project sexy or dangerous. Also, the core of Bond’s character is that he has no core.

    Bond is a somewhat patriotic paid killer who enjoys killing people. He enjoys the game of it all. He’s not touchy feely. His backstory is that we’ll never know his back story. Murder, mystery, and mayhem — that’s the essence of Bond.

    Watching Craig play Bond is much like watching my accountant do my taxes. An interminable yawn. Add in all the product placement and inside jokes . . . zzzzzz.

    Kudos though on being freshly pressed and great job on the analysis of the film — really brilliant!

    • Well, thank you very much Indra! Permit me though to disagree with you. I don’t think Bond is an everyman. John McClane is an everyman (at least in the first Die Hard film); James Bond, even when filtered through a lens of realism, is still superhuman, performing incredible physical acts from parkour-like stunts to surviving falls that would normally kill anyone else. (Not to mention his impeccable marksmanship.)

      As far as image and attitude, I’m a little surprised. You’re one of the few people I’ve seen express an opinion of the sort pegging Craig as being very un-Bond. Personally, I think his intensity works exceedingly well within the framework of the stories the last few films have told– and he knows how to work his way around the dry humor and pithy one-liners that are among the character’s trademarks. But I can understand not liking his portrayal just because it’s so much more focused than others.

  23. “I’m a purist. For me, the Bond franchise has been making Bond in an ever more believable and mundane everyman. That may work for ticket sales to every man, but it’s not truly what Bond is about and for me as a woman, it doesn’t work at all. ” – To each his/her own, but that’s kinda how Ian Fleming imagined him, a “blunt instrument”.

    But I have to admit, Connery turned that blunt instrument into a damned charming blunt instrument.

    • Yeah, I think Fleming’s image of Bond, as seen in the books, differs somewhat from the ways he’s been portrayed in the books. It’s just that the best Bonds manage to blend Fleming’s vision with the sort of suaveness we’ve come to accept as being part of Bond’s persona.

  24. Excellent review! I read this before seeing the movie, and I’m so glad I did. Thanks for pointing out things I might have missed, and which really enriched the experience. It’s a fantastic movie.

  25. I saw it today — impressed, but not enough Silva, if you ask me. The part when he was telling a story about the rats in the island as he walked toward Bond tied up to a chair was great filmmaking. It’s been a while since been so transfixed in an image WHILE imagining something else. That’s the moment when I knew that this is a superior movie, not just a Bond film, one that shouldn’t be forgotten once we begin to compile lists of the best movies of 2012.

    I enjoyed and thought it was smart that the third act was quite small because Mendes had a chance to play upon what he already knew. That is, the quiet power in small dramas that feel personal. I liked that the last act felt messy, not at all slick or adrenaline-fueled as we come to expect from a 007 picture. Also, Scotland, as shown in the film, is so beautiful, it made me want to go there.

    • I think there’s “enough” Silva. But you’re still right– we could have used more. Bardem’s performance is so good that it’s almost like he’s spoiling us, particularly in that introductory scene. The reaction you had mirrors my own; I was just riveted by the entire uninterrupted sequence.

      I feel the same way about the third act, too. Particularly regarding Scotland, which just looks lovely through Deakins’ lens.

  26. Great review. I’m yet to watch Skyfall, so can’t comment too much on it. But there’s just something about Daniel Craig’s Bond that leaves a lot to be desired. Don’t get me wrong, I think Daniel Craig is a terrific actor, just that he doesn’t entirely portray the suave, cool, gadget-under-my-wristwatch type of Bond that I grew up watching :). He may be more faithful to the Ian Fleming novels (I haven’t read them either), and perhaps a tad closer to reality than science fiction (Invisible car? Surely you’re joking Mr Brosnan!), but then again, when did I watch a movie to witness everyday people doing everyday things (Sideways comes to mind, don’t know why I even watched it!) 🙂

    • Well, sometimes the everyday things can be just as interesting as the those things which you DON’T see everyday, but that’s another thing entirely.

      Thing is, Bond– even under the guise of “gritty realism”– isn’t an ordinary guy. I don’t know many people who can cling to an elevator as it launches countless floors to the top of a highrise and then defeat a lethal assassin in the dark with only the light of a flashing gun muzzle for visibility. Or kill a man with a komodo dragon. He’s not pulling exploding pens out of his ear, but he’s still superhuman compared to the rest of us.

  27. how right you are! excellent film, I highly recommend it to anyone who has even an inkling of wanting to see it, and even those who are violently opposed. Quite easily the most sinister and compelling bond villain I’ve ever seen. Well done Mr. Penelope Cruz!

  28. I thoroughly enjoyed the changing of the guard, and am looking forward to how the franchise embraces some fresh faces in coming films.

  29. Such an insightful piece! Well done. I freakin’ loved this film. I mean with all the pedigree attached, I can’t believe I had any doubts it would be great. Deakins blows me away once again. The Shanghai sequence is just stunning, finally some true espionage. This and Looper are tied for my faves of the year, astounding filmmaking all around.

    • The Shanghai sequence might be my favorite in the film, though I’m very attached to the climax too, if only because of how great Scotland looks through Deakins’ lens.

  30. Pingback: Why I Loved Skyfall (Spoilers) | Randoms of Rosie

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