PG Cooper: Skyfall Review

Posted: November 11, 2012 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Release date: November 9th, 2012

Running time: 2 hours and 23 minutes

Written by: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and John Logan

Based on: The character James Bond, created by Ian Fleming

Directed by: Sam Mendes

Starring: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, and Judi Dench

Skyfall is an interesting case of two forces that’ve lost their way finding each other. First: the James Bond series. Despite being successfully reborn with 1995’s Goldeneye, the series would quickly begin to decline with each subsequent Pierce Brosnan film being worse than the one before. This hit its peak with 2002’s Die Another Day. Producers were forced to rethink the character and series and the result was 2006’s Casino Royale. Casino Royale reinvigorated the Bond series in a big way, stripping things down to basics. Daniel Craig broke out as one of the best Bonds ever and the series seemed to be heading in the right direction. Unfortunately, 2008’s Quantum of Solace was not very well received and is hated by a lot of fans to this day. A series of financial problems kept Craig’s third Bond outing in development for a long time. Once again, the future of the series was in doubt.

Second: director Sam Mendes. Mendes started his career as a filmmaker off extremely well with 1999’s American Beauty. The film was a huge critical hit, winning Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director for Mendes. Mendes was seen as a hot new talent. His next film was 2002’s Road to Perdition. Despite receiving good reviews at the time, the film was passed over for the most part by the Oscars and seems to be forgotten by the general public. 2005’s Jarhead had its supporters, but was mostly considered a disappointment. This pattern continued with 2008’s Revolutionary Road. Mendes hit his low point with 2009’s Away We Go, a film which very few saw and those who did were not impressed. Mendes had gone from “hot new talent” to a has-been.

I want to make it clear that I had faith in both Bond and Mendes. The James Bond franchise had hit far lower points than Quantum of Solace and bounced back, so I knew Bond wasn’t dead yet. I also always admired Sam Mendes as a director. I love American Beauty, Road to Perdition, and Jarhead. I’m not a fan of Revolutionary Road, but it isn’t a bad film. And while I haven’t seen Away We Go, I doubt it’s so bad that I would have lost faith in Mendes. I definitely expected both forces to return, and Skyfall is a return to form for both.

On the surface, the story is simple. An enemy from M’s past returns seeking vengeance. So Bond needs to stop him. Despite this simplicity, Skyfall has one of the best stories of any of the Bond films. The plot is designed so that the characters can be examined on a deeper level. Bond, M, and even the villain Silva are examined on a much deeper level than usual. We learn about who these people are and there’s a lot of dimension to them. The film manages to find a great balance of Bond being human and relatable, while still being the superspy badass audiences know and love. Silva is a villain with interesting motivation and one actually sympathizes with him. Even M is in a more vulnerable position than usual.

Another reason the plot works so well is the pacing. Simply put, Skyfall is paced perfectly. It contains just the right balance of story, characters, and actions, and it knows when to employ what. Everything flows together very naturally and builds to one hell of a finale. Some might be intimidated by the near two and a half hour runtime. I assure you it isn’t an issue.

Skyfall also has some of the best action scenes I’ve seen all year. Instead of relying on big stunts, most of the action is more grounded. Chases, fist fights, and shoot-outs make up the bulk of the action. None of it becomes boring or tedious either. There’s enough variety sprinkled throughout the various set pieces to keep things fresh. Another positive is none of the action feels shoe-horned in. All of it advances the plot and characters. Overall, the action manages to be fantastical while still maintaining the grittier and more realistic feel the Daniel Craig films have prided themselves on.

Based solely on the technical merits, Skyfall might just be the best Bond film of the franchise. Arguably one of the film’s highest achievements is Roger Deakins’ award worthy cinematography. Whether it is towering skyscrapers or natural landscapes, Skyfall constantly looks gorgeous. Bond has never looked so good. Credit is also due to composer Thomas Newman for crafting an exciting score which I greatly enjoyed. The trademark opening credits are fantastic as well. Adele’s song is good, but the real star here is the visuals, which not only look awesome but are also thematically important.

The cast is good across the board. Daniel Craig is still an excellent James Bond and further solidifies himself as Connery’s true successor. Craig manages to be the suave and badass secret agent that Bond is, but he also feels like a real character. Craig captures these elements perfectly and helps Bond feel like a real human in addition to being an icon. Javier Bardem is also great as the villain Silva. Bardem is evil and menacing, but also entertaining and really fun to watch. He feels a lot like a classic Bond villain. Judi Dench gives her best performance as M. She has to show more dimensions than usual, and Dench pulls this off flawlessly. Good performances are also given by Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Albert Finney, and Ben Whishaw who makes a great new Q.

Perhaps Skyfall’s most impressive accomplishment is the way it combines the classic Bond elements with the strengths of the Craig films. Skyfall brings back Q, the gadgets, the music, the quips, and other elements that have been missing lately. The great thing is the film manages to integrate these elements into Craig’s world seamlessly. What’s more is that while the film features several of the classic Bond elements, they’ve also been inverted in really interesting ways. Being the 50th anniversary of the series, Skyfall also features a few references to the films of old. Unlike Die Another Day however, these references are actually really clever and are not intrusive to the film. In fact quite the opposite is true; several references are actually worked into the story. It’s amazing how Skyfall is in many ways a classic Bond adventure yet still maintains its own identity.

I think it’s pretty clear I love this film. It’s one of the strongest films I’ve seen all year and is the best work from Sam Mendes since Road to Peridtion. Arguably the most important question of all is how does Skyfall rank among the rest of the series. Well, I wouldn’t call it the best Bond film ever, but it’s certainly in my top five. Skyfall is a huge triumph for all involved and a confident step for the future of Bond. I can’t what to see where the series goes from here. My only concern is they may have set the bar too high; Skyfall will be incredibly difficult to top.

Rating: A+

  1. I can’t wait to see this. I’m really bummed that I had to pass seeing it opening day.

  2. vinnieh says:

    Fantastic review, I’m going to see this soon and I’m really excited.

  3. ckckred says:

    Loved it as well. One of the best James Bond movies and it would probably make my top 5 too. Nice review

  4. Saw this movie yesterday, and I very much agree with your review. A great addition to the Bond franchise, and a great film overall. :)

  5. CMrok93 says:

    Good review PG. I had a great time with this flick, even though I don’t think it’s the best Bond movie of all-time, like everybody’s praising it to be. It’s just very, very good and that’s it.

  6. Great review. Totally agree with you on Deakins’ cinematography, it was a stroke genius getting him on board. I can’t agree with you on the titles though, I really didn’t like them. I don’t know why, I just wasn’t a fan.

  7. I agree, Skyfall IS paced perfectly. You get huge action set pieces, then sufficient set up for the next, then another huge action set piece. :D It definitely is also the best Bond film in terms of cinematography, etc. No doubt. Its gorgeous.

    I might say that the nods to the old franchise weren’t entirely seemless, LOL. Not that I minded them, but some of them stuck out pretty bad, I thought. Mainly M’s old office… but, no biggie.

    I still love this flick and you’re not wrong in proclaiming its merits. Its exceptional. :D

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