- Rated PG-13
- Buy the BD
All photos © Columbia Pictures
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
ust like a good scotch, it’s amazing what a little time can do for a movie's quality. After the drab and disappointing “Quantum of Solace,” it was imperative that the next James Bond film didn’t follow suit, and although the MGM bankruptcy fiasco that put the series' 23rd official installment indefinitely on hold was certainly worrying, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Not only did the extra time afforded to director Sam Mendes and his team allow them to work out any kinks in the story, but the decision to hire an unconventional choice like Mendes has brought a level of prestige never before seen in the franchise. “Skyfall” has just about everything you could want in a 007 film – action, intrigue, style and even a little humor – but it’s also more character-driven, resulting in Daniel Craig’s greatest Bond adventure to date.
The film opens mid-mission as Bond (Daniel Craig) and fellow field agent Eve (Naomie Harris) navigate the streets of Istanbul trailing a mercenary who’s stolen a hard drive containing the identities of every NATO agent embedded in terrorist organizations around the world. But when Bond is accidentally shot by Eve while trying to retrieve the hard drive atop a moving train, the thief gets away and Bond seemingly falls to his death. Presumed dead by his boss M (Judi Dench), Bond returns to London after he learns that MI6 headquarters has been attacked. While M is pressured by her superiors to gracefully retire in light of the recent events, Bond tracks down the man responsible for attacking MI6: a bitter former agent turned cyber terrorist named Silva (Javier Bardem) with a personal vendetta against M for something that happened in the past.
The James Bond movies usually live and (let) die by their villains, and if it weren’t for Javier Bardem’s platinum-haired baddie, “Skyfall” probably wouldn’t have been nearly as enjoyable. Silva is definitely one of the more interesting Bond villains in the series' history – equal parts menacing and campy – and though he doesn’t even appear until the midway mark, Bardem makes the most of his limited screen time, including a great introduction, which features one of the best bad guy monologues in recent memory. It’s also refreshing to see a Bond villain that isn’t obsessed with taking over the world or anything ridiculous like that, but is just after some good old-fashioned revenge, and it's the personal nature of his scheme that distinguishes him from 007’s rogues' gallery.
It’s hard to imagine that Bardem would have been interested in doing a Bond film if it weren’t for the involvement of Sam Mendes, and the same could probably be said for a lot of the other talent as well, including Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes and Ben Whishaw. Fiennes doesn’t have a whole lot to do as Gareth Mallory, the man selected to replace M as director of MI6, but he’s exactly the kind of actor that you could imagine taking over for Judi Dench eventually, while Whishaw is perfectly cast as a young Q, already striking up a great chemistry with Daniel Craig in his first appearance as the beloved character. The return of Q to the Bond film series also means that 007 has been provided a few gadgets this time around as well, but in keeping with the more grounded approach of Craig’s tenure, the gadgets are kept within the bounds of reality.
Having a director of Mendes’ caliber behind the camera is something that the Broccolis should strive for more often, because it’s clear from the start that “Skyfall” is in a totally different class than past installments – one that can boast eight-time Oscar-nominated cinematographer Roger Deakins among its crew. Although there were initial concerns about Mendes’ lack of experience in the genre, he proves himself perfectly adept at shooting action with a stunning opening sequence that features, among other things, a motorcycle chase across the rooftops of the Grand Bazaar. Mendes also brings back some of the humor that was missing in Craig’s first two outings (though the film is still pretty dark), and there are a few clever callbacks to previous Bond movies that fans will love. Above all else, though, “Skyfall” is just a great action film, and a shining example of what can be achieved when you combine blockbuster filmmaking with prestige talent.
Single-Disc Blu-ray Review:
It may not look like much, but Fox’s Blu-ray release of “Skyfall” has some pretty good bonus material. The audio commentary with director Sam Mendes is definitely worth checking out, and to a lesser degree, so is the other track featuring producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson and production designer Dennis Gasner. The real treat, however, is the 13-part making-of featurette “Shooting Bond.” Though not nearly as in-depth as its 60-minute runtime would suggest, it covers every major aspect of the film, from the title sequence, to the characters, to location shooting, to the music and more.