Since every film critic and blogger has already pledged their undying love and firstborn child to Skyfall, I feel like I need to take a different approach to reviewing it. I could do my usual complaining, but after wracking my brain, I found that I had very little to complain about. It was a solid Bond movie from start to finish, and a welcome addition to the franchise. So, I think I’ll just throw out random thoughts I had and leave it at that.
Where the fuck was the Opening Gunbarrel Sequence? Oh, at the end again. For 20 films, they always opened through the point of view of a gun, with Bond firing a shot, and blood spilling down the screen. The last movie, Quantum of Solace, which was kind of a piece of shit, inexplicably moved the sequence to the end. Skyfall does the same thing. Director Sam Mendes stated he wanted to have it in the beginning, but thought it looked ridiculous paired to the opening of the movie with Bond walking out with his gun raised. I guess that makes sense, but throwing it onto the end makes it feel like an afterthought. I have always liked the traditional opening, something that no other film series has, and to just tack it on at the end feels shameless.
The opening credits were designed by Daniel Kleinman who did the opening credits for all the Bond movies from Goldeneye through Skyfall, with the exception of Quantum of Solace, which again makes that movie stand out as kind of shitty. The credits, again, were fantastic. He has really upped his game with Skyfall, making a visual feast with beautiful girls, flashy effects, and thematic elements that tie in with the plot of the film. The only part of the opening credits that falls flat is the title song “Skyfawwll” performed by Adele. The song is a boring dud, just like its singer.
The major action sequence of the movie took place before the opening credits with Bond chasing down a bad guy in Turkey on a motorcycle and later on a train. It was a very cool scene. It was originally slated to have appeared in Goldeneye, but got shelved because that movie was already jam-packed full of action sequences. This is also the only part of the movie that feels like a “classic” Bond movie. It becomes a much smaller, more introspective film once this part ends. And that’s certainly not a bad thing. It signals to the audience that this is going to be a different kind of Bond movie.
Skyfall features the greatest cinematography in Bond history. Hell, I can’t remember the last movie I watched that had cinematography this amazing. Each location is stunning. If Roger Deakins does not win all the awards this year, he will have been robbed. The gritty dirt of Turkey, the sleek and cold modernity of Shanghai, the interplay of dark and latern-lights of Macau, the mysterious ruins of Hashima island, and (my favorite) the misty, muted splendor of Glen Etive in Scotland are all gorgeous in their own right. Usually, Bond movies go to exotic locations simply to get a travelogue feel. However, Skyfall showcases the locales as having distinct personalities, and each feel just as integral to the story as any of the characters.
We get a continuation of the realistic angle of Daniel Craig’s movies. Skyfall is a tale of vengeance. The other Bond movie it reminds me the most of is For Your Eyes Only. Both deal with revenge, both are very much set in the real world, and neither have an over-reliance on flashy gadgets or ridiculous scenarios. While I’m not the biggest fan of For Your Eyes Only, I think I can appreciate its tone more after having seen Skyfall. This movie represents a back-to-basics take on the Bond film. Realistic gadgets, realistic action sequences, and real consequences for the heroes and villains. Perhaps best of all is the introspective nature of the movie. Bond doesn’t just go from Point A to Point B, kill people, and repeat ad nauseam. Here, we learn Bond is older, grappling with irrelevance, and also has demons in his past he needs to exorcise. This becomes clear when we get to his childhood home of Skyfall Lodge, which certainly is a dreary, wet, unwelcoming place. Trading the glamorous for the rundown was a welcome change.
One thing in the movie that makes no goddamn sense is when Bond is being interviewed by an MI6 psychologist. They do word-association, and when the psychologist says “Skyfall”, Bond suddenly looks constipated, answers, “Done”, and then storms off to find a toilet. The movie makes it seem like this is a mysterious codeword or something, like this is a vital part of Bond’s mission. But it turns out Bond is just acting pissy about his childhood home. A totally overblown and irrelevant part of an otherwise great scene.
People made a big deal of Q returning. Here, he is played by Ben Whishaw. I felt sort of “whatever” about him. He didn’t do a bad job, but I wasn’t impressed. He is an easily forgettable white British male. Obviously, no one will ever be able to replace Desmond Llewelyn as Q. He originated the role, and played it for decades. He will always be Q. The new Q might turn out just fine in later films. Maybe I need to get over the fact that Llewelyn is dead and we can’t resurrect him to play Q again… yet.
I liked Moneypenny’s return, and I didn’t see it coming. As the opposite of that, M’s death was telegraphed almost from the beginning of the film. When she finally died, her dying in Bond’s arms was a cheesy bit of ridiculousness the somber film could have done without. It would have been more meaningful if the villain had killed M in the government building shootout. However, I’m not complaining that much, because the rest of the film was excellent.
Javier Bardem totally rules as the villain. Mostly because he’s FAAAAABULOUS! I can’t recall Bond ever facing off with a FABULOUS villain before, but it totally works. (The gay henchmen in Diamonds Are Forever don’t count.) I wonder if he’s meant to be a reference to the villain in the Casino Royale novel, who wanted to fuck Bond. Bardem manages to simultaneously be flamboyant and menacing. His scenery chewing gets a few big laughs, but never goes so far over the top that he becomes a self-parody. His motives are fleshed out more than any Bond villain before him, and you can really feel his pain. I was ambivalent about him: on the one hand I knew he had to go down because he’s the bad guy, but on the other hand, he went through some serious shit and was treated like crap for it, so I wanted him to get his revenge. Anyway, as a fashionable, menacing, fierce, and calculating villain, he certainly ranks as one of Bond’s greatest adversaries. Oh, and did I mention that he’s FABULOUS?
When I reviewed shitty ole Quantum of Solace, I said this: “…at the end Bond learns a bit of restraint. This leads me to believe that over the course of the next few films, Craig will transform Bond into the super-cool/sauve secret agent we fell in love with.” The final scene of Skyfall lends some credibility to this. The famous office M had used through all of Connery and Moore’s films returns. It wasn’t there for Casino Royale or Quantum of Solace (historically Bond’s first two missions), and now it’s back. So, things have come full circle with Bond settling into all the familiar trappings of the classic movies. Craig’s Bond is still the “tough Bond” who is very physical, but he turned the charm factor up from the last two films. He beds more girls, throws out more quips, and seems to be having more fun than before. I think by the end of Skyfall, he has become the super-cool/suave secret agent of the older films. While Craig has a style all his own, I think he has brought the character from his rough-and-tumble beginnings to the 007 that everyone loves.
Overall, Skyfall was a great Bond movie. A lot of people have already said this is the best Bond film of all time. It doesn’t deserve that ranking. Top 10 certainly, but it doesn’t surpass From Russia with Love or Goldfinger. Regardless of how you rank things, when all is said and done, this is a Bond movie that everyone should watch.