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Movie Review: Skyfall

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Skyfall PosterIf the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has any sense of objectivity left, they should look to Skyfall for an award for Best Director, or at the very least Best Cinematography. Director Sam Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins have crafted not only the best looking film of 2012, but easily the best looking 007 ever made. Skyfall is nothing short of absolutely magnificent, with a quality to the direction and photography that is truly Oscar caliber.

I hear claims that Skyfall is the best Bond film ever made, and I think that could be true – at the very worst it comes in second, just behind Casino Royale (2006). In a way the two films are similar: Both give us a look at a James Bond that feels real, suffering from the same human condition as the rest of us. It’s a take on the franchise that I’m glad Sam Menders decided to keep, especially considering Skyfall feels as though it was made to celebrate Bond’s 50-year film history.

Somehow the creators behind Skyfall have managed to make an ode to franchise, while simultaneously maintaining the film’s distinct identity. The Aston Martin DB5 famously driven during Goldfinger (1964) makes a triumphant return in Skyfall, complete with cheesy machine guns hidden below the headlights. Moments like these exist to provide fan service, but still fit in with the mood of Skyfall, which portrays Daniel Craig’s Bond as an aging relic refusing to accept his limitations.

As Q (yes, Q has returned) reminds Bond during their first meeting, MI6 doesn’t make exploding pens anymore. It’s these type of references that keep reminding the audience of the evolution of the franchise, and it all adds to the feeling that Skyfall is a complete reboot for the series.If this is a new starting point for 007 and the rest of MI6, I think the future looks bright, assuming the series doesn’t have another speed bump like the dismal Quantum of Solace (2008).

The villain, Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) is a ruthless genius who seemingly has unlimited resources, much like your typical 007 terrorist. However, the dark story surrounding his past is enough to make him seem human – insane, but human. A deep, well-developed bad guy is something not typical of the series, but it only works to the advantage of Skyfall. A great character, matched with a stellar performance by Bardem, is enough to make Raoul Silva one of the top Bond villains of all time.

Explored in this film is also the past of James Bond, who Daniel Craig reprises with such perfection that it’s impossible to imagine anyone ever taking the mantle in his place. We get to know James in this movie. I genuinely found myself caring for him in a way I never have before, especially when the details surrounding his upbringing come to light.

The suave spy who drinks dry martinis has become a bit of a tragic figure in Skyfall. James often looks like little more than an alcoholic, whose body and mind has been broken by the weight of a very difficult life. Somehow James Bond is made into a complex character typically only seen in great works of literature. This is something Casino Royale opened the door for, but Skyfall seems to have perfected.

Reprising her role as M is Judi Dench, who is virtually the co-star of the film, since the plot is so deeply entwined with her actions. For the first time we get to see her guilt, her fears, her genuine concern for Bond. She feels so human, fragile, and genuine that she’s almost unrecognizable as the same face from Goldeneye (1995).

All things considered, Skyfall may very well be the best film of 2012. This is a complete rebirth for the characters and series, which has somehow survived 23 film releases. I hope the growth of the characters continues into the next film, but I’m not holding my breath. If this is to be the last Bond film ever made (and the end credits promise that it won’t be), I would be completely comfortable with that. Skyfall is a masterpiece of quality craftsmanship. You’ll likely never see a 007 film that’s this good ever again, which makes me almost wish that James Bond would retire.


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About Chad Michael Van Alstin

Chad is an award-winning libertarian opinion columnist. He's done with that now. Having earned himself a B.A. in Mass Communication, Chad now spends most of his time as a wage laborer, killing the pain by consuming as many video games and movies as possible. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadVanAlstin
  • unhappy movie goer

    this wasn’t good…it was slow, no new gadgets…overall I passed out in my seat….get with it bond makers quit making shit! bond needs fun toys and more action…you have made dramas out of one of the greatest spys to ever be on the silver screen…Ian Fleming is rolling in his grave! overall i say two thumbs way down….epic fail

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  • der bajazzo

    Mediocre plot, opening section was quite good but thereafter became totally boring.

    The best looking 007 ever made? What an imbecilic statement. Apparently you have never seen the early Bond classics with Connery and Moore.

    Certainly not worth the admittance charge.

  • Albertson. Tom albertson.

    Skyfall sucked. Give me QOS any day.

  • Mr G

    The article above is clearly a marketing move from a PR department or person.
    Personally, I think direction was not so good, resulting in sequences which will drive any audience to sleep. The last part of the movie – at the Skyfall location – is merely a crib of movies like Straw Dogs.
    I had a very distinct feeling during the movie that the producers, writers and director had difficulty in coming up with new ideas.
    Off course Sam did a good job directing the movie – but then why is the pace sometimes so slow only eating popcorn will keep you awake?
    Why in 2012 revert to the first Aston Martin with limited capabilites? There were Astons in later movies with missiles. They could even go ‘invisible’.
    I guess, as technology advances, it becomes harder to write Bond movies (which have always been extremely innovative in the technological field). Today, a kid with a smart phone probably has more technology at his/her fingertips than Bond ever had.
    But, that is not an excuse for filmmakers.
    Bond is no longer pure escapism (or fantasy). Instead, the filmmakers are trying desperately hard to make Bond real. Why? Don’t they realise that the magic of Bond was always the unreal, the fantasy? Can they not afford to pick the brains of some really geeky people to introduce NEW, truly innovative concepts?
    The new Q scrolls through screens of antiquated programming that has absolutely no meaning to viewers. ‘Minority Report’ did the same, only much better.
    I have watched the movie twice now. I am sorry that I cannot change my perception. The media does its best to hype it as the best Bond movie ever, which understandably is a marketing and PR effort squeezing the last few dollars from a dying brand.
    Point is: it doesn’t have to be dying. Just sack the unimaginative writers and think 2015 or 2020. And don’t dump scenes that have been excellently executed in old movies as something new in Skyfall.
    This movie should not rate higher than 4/10 in my opinion.

  • Uhhh…I’m not affiliated with the filmmakers or movie studios in any way. Just to clear that up.

  • Grahm Dell

    I agree with this review and the box office figures and the majority of critical response seem to support it also. After the panning of QoS and poor performance, hopefully the producers will continue making Bond films in this style which is more in line with the novels and the Connery classics.

    Goldfinger is fairly light on action as well for example.