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Skyfall (The Ultimate James Bond Fan Review)

[Deborah Lipp, author of "The Ultimate James Bond Fan Book", has been counting down to Skyfall right here with 007 lists (best films, songs, femme fatales, secret codes) and after last night's midnight screening, fresh off the presses, her review! - Editor] 

This is one of many reviews of Skyfall I will ultimately write. At some point, there will be a spoiler-laden analysis. At some point soon, I'll see the movie again and have further thoughts. At some point, I'll sleep. But for now, what you're getting is the 10 a.m. review of the movie I left at 3 a.m. So, before I get too punchy or too detailed, here's the part you want to know: You're going to love this movie.

There's a lot to love about Skyfall, but what's going to make you sing its praises is the overwhelming feeling of Bond is Back. MORE...

The Daniel Craig era of James Bond movies has been somewhat tainted by the stink of reboot. Casino Royale is almost universally acknowledged as a great movie, while opinions on Quantum of Solace are far more divided. But, since 2006, we've been in a kind of process of fixing, changing, updating, or re-imagining 007, as though the franchise was flipped into the air like a coin or, I dunno, a pizza. Well, with Skyfall, Bond has landed on his feet (I know, pizzas don't have feet—just go with it).

There's plenty of action here: Car chases, foot chases, hand-to-hand combat, trains, helicopters, and even a bit underwater. The pacing works; it doesn't build itself to a frenzy that assaults and then numbs the mind, as Die Another Day's last forty minutes did. Instead it balances explosiveness with silence, fighting with stalking, and drama with wit. There's been precious little wit in the Daniel Craig movies, and Skyfall corrects that. Many people will say, and have already said, that this is a very Ian Fleming story. Certainly Javier Bardem's Silva is a very Flemingesque villain—bizarre, distorted, lunatic, and homoerotic. The previews gave me cause for concern, but Bardem's performance hovers right at the top without going over; it borders on camp yet doesn't quite don the feather boa. It's kind of genius. Severine is also a very Fleming-style woman, with a Fleming name.

But rather than say this is an updated Fleming movie, I'm going to twist around and say it's a modern Connery. Like Connery, Craig's Bond is both very serious and somewhat bemused. He is both deeply loyal and a bit anti-authoritarian. The role is entirely Craig's own, imitating no one, but the comparison is there for any fan to see.

Skyfall is a movie with a visual panorama to rival Thunderball. It travels the world, specifically visiting Turkey, Shanghai, and Scotland, and this time, it visits real locations, as opposed to one country dressed as another, a pet peeve of mine that tainted Casino Royale. The cinematography by Roger Deakins is often gasp-inducing. It both looks like and sounds like a James Bond movie; Thomas Newman's score incorporates the James Bond theme and Adele's "Skyfall" theme with elegance that would make John Barry proud.

I am not going to reveal the plot at all, except to say it was impressive in its surprises, while still adhering to Bond tradition in a way that the earlier Craig movies didn't quite grasp. There are also a number of homages to past Bond films: I caught references to From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever, and Live and Let Die. You wouldn't think a Live and Let Die reference in particular had any place in a modern Bond film, but it worked perfectly.

There are few weaknesses in Skyfall. One important character's fate was left unresolved; I don't think it's too much to ask for the audience to know if someone is alive or dead, especially if that someone is unlikely to return for another movie regardless. There are no interesting henchmen or secondary villains; Bardem steals the show and the rest of the bad guys are interchangeable. But here's what's important: When the closing credits said "James Bond will Return," I thought 'yes, yes he will'. It's the first time in a while I've been so sure.

If you're interested in a copy of "The Ultimate James Bond Fan Book", please contact Deborah directly.

Nathaniel's take on the film is here.

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Reader Comments (18)

Since this review upsets me, I will restrict myself to a few things. There are actually very few action sequences in Skyfall, and what little is there almost completely avoids spectacular Bond action choreography and is also shot in a matter of fact style that recalls Don Siegel but certainly not 007. Silva might be a Flemingesque villain, but Javier Bardem's actual performance isn't much more than a hideous imitation of the Ledger Joker. Craig's been imitating Dalton since day one, and it doesn't look as if he'll stop anytime soon. There's very little of Istanbul, Shanghai, and Macau in the final film, and what little is there is either shown at night (Shanghai and Macau) or presented as any old filthy backyard in Pittsburgh (Istanbul). Newman's score actually makes disturbingly little use of both the James Bond theme and the Skyfall theme, and in spite of an insane runtime of 143 minutes, there isn't much plot to reveal. And where precisely was the wit in this film? All in all, Skyfall isn't "Bond Is Back", it's "Bond Is Fired".

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWilly

I thought it was good, but incredibly overrated. It's filled with so many flaws.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

It may be on a level with "Quantum of Solace" but Casino Royal shoots both out of the water.
Was I the only one who hated the new Q and his introduction as equally arrogant and incapable

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterskyfly_to

I caught a GoldenEye reference too!

I really liked Skyfall even if the ending was essentially spoiled for me through the internet (on a freaking FASHION site!!). I still have a hard time placing it over Casino Royale though i totally blame Eva Green/Vesper Lynd for that.

I'm not sure what Willy means because i thought there was a decent amount of action. Also, the cinematography/locations were so beautiful. I wanted to go everywhere in the movie....and they fixed that shaky cam issue from Quantum of Solace so that was a huge plus.

I was surprised behind the true meaning of "Skyfall" and was surprised that they actually went there. Didn't mind, but surprised. I could've done without that associated character though.

I still don't know about Bardem. I'm undecided. His character seemed a bit all over the place. but three cheers for homoeroticism!

and the thing i loved the most? The opening credit sequence. Kept my eyes on the screen the entire time and the song (which i played a million times since it came out) sounds even better in a theater.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDerreck

I had a ball. Bardem does steal the show as he always does. I would love to see more of his character in another chapter, but I don't think he will be interested in repeating.

I loved the opening chase, the cinematography and also the ending, which is almost Shakespearian. The only thing I didn't like was the opening credits sequence. Too long, too red.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Derreck, maybe you should rewatch. Between the opening scene and the final siege, there's the Shanghai silouette fight (about 30 seconds), the Bodyguards and the Komodo dragon (about 1 minute), Bond killing Silva's henchmen on the island (about 15 seconds), and the assassination on M (about 1 minute). Additionally, Bond is running a bit when Silva escapes, but that hardly qualifies as an action sequence. In any case, what counts is not the amount of action but the way it is done, and that's even more disappointing. I also don't think that there's any need to cheer the homoeroticism, cause that's a frequent trait for Bond villains, at least it's implied several times. By the way, I caught three Goldeneye references and at least as many Live And Let Die references. Be that as it may, I also loved the opening credits scene, cause it was one of the very few things in this film that was done in a classic Bond style (both song and visuals).

November 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWilly

I saw Skyfall this weekend.

Whenever Ralph Fiennes appears in a movie, I think Eeww, I hope his character dies in the first 30 minutes. And a messy death at that.

For all the talk of rebooting the Bond character in the post Roger Moore days, the stroke of genius/luck in changing Bond's character was casting Judi Dench as M. Suddenly, Bond was no longer a misogynistic dinosaur, but a man at ease with a woman boss, who could have a long history of being friends and colleagues with a woman. It also sharpened Bond's acting skills to work with one of the best actors ever to be associated with the series.

The pre-Dench days with a male M were so drearily old boy, limiting Bond as a character.

Everyone tried so hard in Skyfall, I have to give them credit. But when they raced on the roofs of the Istanbul bazaar, I thought, I saw this with Clive Owen in The International, but ther it was at the end, had real characters and meaning. I thought why did I like the action in Cloud Atlas so much better than here? But the Bond series is famous and pioneering for its long action sequences. It is what it is. I can respect that.

November 10, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteradri

Well I for one was BORED throughout the entire first half! Very disappointed in this Bond... :(

@Skyfly_to: My reaction exactly! Q who? Ugh!

November 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCrazyCris

@adri I tought I was the only one with that opinion of Ralph Fiennes! And I really don't know why everybody are so excited about all things Bond these days. I guess its a form of nostalgia and I do understand it somewhat but in the end Bond films are not that important in my opinion.

November 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChinoiserie

Darn! I saw Skyfall today and until I showed up here, I could have sworn I totally enjoyed the movie. No it wasn't great art, it was just a good Bond film with some nice referential stuff (Hello Aston Martin Goodbye Aston Martin). Craig was good, Bardem stole the scenery, curtains and carpet. Q was cute in a BBC Sherlock sort of way. Sorry about M but I'll take Ralph anywhere he wants to appear. Sometimes as with a 5 cent cigar, you just want to put brain on pause and watch the movie while eating popcorn.

November 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

We saw the movie last night. Very good and may be one of the best. In addition to the film references noted, I picked up several references to The Man With The Golden Gun, the unofficial movie Never Say Never Again, and Goldeneye. Featuring the DB5 in a prominent role and then destroying it could be a metaphor for the character. This is a new Bond, steeped in the old, but thoroughly new. As for Fienes, what does one do after playing the erstwhile destroyer of the universe ? Become the saviour of the free world !!! In any event, his character can negotiate the cooridors of politics while also having Bond's respect. Interesting to see what they will do with Fienes going forward.

Bardem enjoyed his role. You can see it on his face. More than a little camp and thinly disguised rage hiding behind a deft smile and blond hair. He made the movie and will go down as one of the best bond villions. He will not be back unfortunately.

An interesting development is to see that the Bond franchise has taken note of other anti hero franchises, notably "Bourne" and "Batman". You can see it in the depiction of the characters, the inner turmoil so close to the surface. The idea that one exists in the shadows and will be viewed as both enemy and savior. And above all, a character that is unsuited for everyday life.

Did anyone else notice that at times Bond looked like Red Grant ?

My wife just pointed out that the true "Bond Girl" in Skyfall was "M"- Judi Dench. A fitting sendoff.

November 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterrl1856

Nathaniel -- I've already seen this one, but I really hope spoilers get deleted in the future, specially when they are on purpose.

November 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Might be in the top 3 bond movies of all time!
I will have to see it again to be sure!

November 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarl

Overrated movies must be very popular these days. First there was "PROMETHEUS" and now, "SKYFALL". Not only was it marred by sloppy writing, but also a sexist portrayal of its female characters. Very disappointing.

November 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLee

I remember when Daniel Craig was announced as the new Bond. I was astonished and couldn;t see it, especially I just didn;t see anything Bondlike about other performances but it shows how good he is as an actor to go from Layer Cake to Bond.

I loved Skyfall.

So Casino Royale was the bomb for me, Quantum I didn’t like quite as much but still good…and I did love Skyfall but I had some thoughts pinging around, without spoilers:

So much about AGEING and INFIRMITY in this movie…and being Broken.

M seemed so small, dry and frail at times; I had wondered if their was some GCI element to this because she went from being Huge as a character in past flicks to someone greatly in peril in more ways than one. Ageing mom.

Bond in Casino Royale was back as Serious Bond, and really, it is only in Skyfall where I saw any of Bond as a bit over the top or humorous rather than serious.

Bardem is always a good villain. He just looks and sounds like a bloke you would not turn your back on. And so many baddies helping Silva in London, we know we will hear from his organization again.

It was my son’s first Bond in the theater (son will be 13 in May). He is now officially On Board.


November 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKate

Kate & Peggy Sue -- sorry about that. I do need to do a better job of policing comments. especially this time of year when people get crazier ;)

November 19, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

that's okay : ) see you on FB! [I had already seen it, but many readers likely not]

November 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKate

If you think Fleming would waste his typewriter ink on a novel about an elder dame (in this case, M) being stalked and hunted by a former employee, then you, my dear, don't know Fleming! The villain's cyanide disfigurement and the Komodo dragons scene may qualify as the requisite "element of the bizarre" that Fleming always used, but this movie has nothing in common with the taut cold war espionage thrillers of old. None at all. The simplistic plot is pretty much just about a gay stalker. A beautifully shot albeit very crap Bond movie imo.

March 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMovie_Lover78

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