Skyfall

Skyfall ★★★★

Alex E's James Bond-a-Thon #23
Skyfall (2012)

"Welcome to Scotland!" - Kincade

Now this is how you celebrate 50 years of James Bond! 2012's Skyfall shows real artistic merit whilst also being a great James Bond adventure that really develops James Bond as a character, and welcomes us to the new Daniel Craig era of Bond films. Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli really went above and beyond for this one by recruiting a talented cast and crew to work on this and it shows.

James Bond's (Daniel Craig) loyalty to M (Judi Dench) is tested when her past comes back to haunt her in the form of Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem). When MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.

To start the film we get no gun barrel sequence again, argh I hate it! But I forgive it seeing as we get a really great opening with a nice shot of Bond, Bond is in Istanbul and is pursuing Patrice (Ola Rapace), who has stolen a hard drive that contains details of MI6 agents. Bond is not alone as we get introduced to Agent Eve (Naomi Harris) who assists Bond out in the field, a great motorbike chase ensues that leads to a great fight between Bond and Patrice on the top of a moving train, and Eve has a shot at Patrice and M communicating over earpiece tells her to take the shot, the shot hits Bond and he falls to his "death" and lands in the water below the train tracks with Patrice escaping. I don't like it when they use the Bond is dead trope but it's been so long since it's been used so I can forgive them. This leads into a great title sequence showing a lot of cool stuff underwater, including clever references and foreshadowings of what will happen in the film. I'm glad Daniel Kleinman returned and we get a great title sequence again after Quantum's proved to be devoid of taste and style whereas this one has both.

Daniel Craig has his best performance here as James Bond, it feels like the Casino Royale James Bond but with more character and development on display. I appreciate the subtle moments of humour while managing to still keep the serious tone, I also love how the writers touch on the fact that Bond isn't what he used to be and may be getting older and Craig plays it so well. This is one of a few times that they have made Bond feel like a real character, what can I say about Craig's Bond that I didn't touch on in my Casino Royale review, he's charming, handles the action scenes with pure ease and feels faithful to Ian Fleming's James Bond. He is my third favourite Bond behind Connery and Dalton since I feel they bring more to the role in their respective films, but I think Daniel Craig is the best way to go for James Bond still to this day since both me and my Dad are big fans of Daniel Craig as James Bond. We have some good supporting characters here as well including Ola Rapace as Patrice, a mercenary under Silva's command, the scene where him and Bond are fighting in the building in Shanghai at night is a great example of filmmaking with the less is more approach for fight sequences and it works so well under Mendes' direction. Rory Kinnear appears once again as Bill Tanner and gets a bit more to do but I like him in this minor supporting role. Also alongside those two I think Bérénice Marlohe is beautiful yet sympathetic as Sévérine, Raoul Silva's associate and mistress. The scene where her and Bond are talking is one of my favourites, and shows how cool Bond is under pressure when the bad guys are around him in the casino in Macau. It's a shame we don't get a real Bond girl that Bond can be involved with romantically for the whole picture but oh well. Last but not least I love the sequence of James Bond on the boat slowly approaching the casino in Macau thanks to Thomas Newman's music and the whole feel of it all. The special effects are good are still hold up but you know what is CGI and what isn't.

After 3 films in the Craig era of Bond films we finally get Q (Ben Whishaw), a fresh new take on the character with Ben playing the part as a technological genius who can still have good banter with Bond. He has a great introduction as well as the scene where him and Bond are talking to each other in the art museum before Bond goes off on his mission, also the Walther PPK is back as Bond's weapon of choice hooray. Alongside that we later find out that Agent Eve is in fact Eve Moneypenny which is very welcome, the shaving scene with Bond and Eve is great for creating flirtatious vibes whilst not being too silly and connects Bond and Eve together. We also get introduced to Ralph Fiennes as Gareth Mallory, chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament who later becomes a bigger part in the whole Bond saga. Fiennes is a terrific actor and his presence is very much welcomed here. Let's face it this is Judi Dench's movie, the writers finally decided to get the best out of Judi Dench and the M character with the story revolving around her which mostly takes part in the second half but it's set up nicely in the first, Judi gives her best performance allowing her character to feel more humanized and a sort of Mother figure to James Bond which I like, M has always felt like a parental figure to Bond and I'm glad to see it got made full use of here. Near the end of the film James Bond has to protect M from Silva and does so by going to his old home, Skyfall in Scotland. Here we meet Albert Finney as Kincade, the gamekeeper of the Skyfall estate. He gives a fatherly sort of vibe to Bond and I like his addition a lot here.

As for the villain, he's one of the best villains in the Bond series as Javier Bardem takes on the role of Raoul Silva, an ex-MI6 operative-turned-cyberterrorist. He makes an impression right from the moment he is introduced, and let's look at that first scene that his character first gets introduced with Bond tied to the chair, it's all done in one shot with Silva walking towards the camera and all the focus is on him, and his dialogue about rats keeps you hooked as he comes closer and closer to Bond and to the camera. Javier Bardem is a fine actor and he makes Silva feel manical yet his motives feel justified, although M does have her reasoning for letting him go due to him overstepping the line. I will say his perfectly timed escape plan is a bit out there, like how did he know when the train was going to come? But oh well I love it because I get Hannibal Lecter and Silence of the Lambs type vibes from the whole scene. I also like the marksman scene with Bond and Silva due to how silent the whole scene is and how Silva trying to play mind games with Bond after he tells him that Bond failed his MI6 tests.

The writing in Skyfall is great and Robert Wade and Neal Purvis redeem themselves from Quantum, John Logan also joins the writing team and the writing is solid throughout and creates a great spy thriller tone while also keeping the Bond comedic elements intact. Ian Fleming would be proud of how this film honours James Bond, it has really great subtle references to previous James Bond movies, gives us the returning Aston Martin from Goldfinger and really is the gold standard for how to make a proper James Bond anniversary film to celebrate the fact that James Bond has gone 50 years and is still going strong as we see from the ending of the film. The gun barrel at the end is good, Craig has a good walk on and the barrel looks very stylish but is more of a homage gun barrel than an actual one. Stuart Baird and Kate Baird's editing is great throughout, sure there are a few things that could have been done better but let's face it, the editing in James Bond films just has gotten so much better over time from where we first was with Dr. No in 1962. One thing that Quantum failed at was it's bland production designs but Dennis Gassner provides us with some nice locations here and very lively ones with atomosphere to them, they are great to look at and I love the locations that were used. What is the best James Bond film from a cinematography point of view? Well it is this one with Roger Deakins providing us with a beautiful and visually stunning looking film throughout, every frame is just a work of art and has a great mixture of orange and blue colours on the palette. The film is just so virtuous and is a treat to watch on Blu-ray, I could go on and on why this is the best looking Bond film but let's face it Roger Deakins is one of the best cinematographers working in the film industry and would be my go to guy if I was making a movie.

Sam Mendes shows he has what it takes to direct a Bond film, one of Sam's key strengths is the focus is always on the story at hand first and allows the characters to shine through making them memorable. The camera work is truly sublime especially during everything involving Silva, as for the action scenes he does a good job with them and each one of them is entertaining and memorable. I will say that I completely adore how Sam Mendes shot the final battle at Skyfall, it is done so well and is one of the best action scenes in a James Bond film. Is it the best final action scene in a Bond film? I don't think so but it's the best to look at in terms of camera work and Deakins cinematography shining through at every moment during it, I love it.

Thomas Newman produces a classy score with majestic violin work, he also makes the film feel like a spy thriller and adds emotional value to the film as a whole. As for the main theme song, Adele is such a fantastic vocalist and Skyfall warrants casual listening due to how good that song is. I've always been a fan of Adele's work and Skyfall feels like your classic Bond song with great lyrics, piano and orchestral throughout.

For me Skyfall has two weaknesses that do hold the film down to a 4 star rating for me, one being the fact it does feel like a long film to watch and could have done with shortening the run time. The other one being that Skyfall is the jack of all trades Bond film but a master of none, it's a great film don't get me wrong but it doesn't have the best villain, the best story, the best music, the best action as well as other things but yet does such a good job with each one. For me I think the seven James Bond films that I prefer over this have some of these areas covered better than Skyfall does, this is still top 10 Bond for me but I do prefer other Bond films over it for different reasons. That being said when my Dad and I next watch a Bond film, this will be the go to since it just feels like a great choice to watch due to the fact it does so many things right, does it do them perfectly? No but it still does a great job at them nonetheless.

Overall 2012's Skyfall is a great celebration of James Bond and provides us with a great Bond film, I do think people do overpraise it but hey that is what makes being a Bond fan so fun is we all have different opinions on the James Bond series. To sum this up if I had to pick one James Bond film that celebrates everything good about James Bond that you can show to a casual movie go-er, it would be 2012's Skyfall.

8.5/10

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