[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.