FlixChatter’s Double Review: SKYFALL

It’s no secret that this is one of the top five 2012 films both Ted and I have been anticipating. Nice to see that the world seems to have been ‘gripped’ by Bond fever, as Skyfall has grossed over $500 million worldwide since it opened in the UK on October 26, and nearly $90 mil in its opening weekend here in the US.

So, with all the buzz and our own feverish excitement over its release, does this movie live up to our expectations? Well, read both Ted and my review below:

Ted’s Review

After a four year absence, Bond is back on the big screen and I think it’s maybe the best Bond film ever. Daniel Craig is back as 007, Sam Mendes stepped in as the man in charge behind the scenes, he brought in his usual team to work on this latest Bond film, including the great cinematographer Roger Deakins and the always excellent Thomas Newman as the new composer.

The film starts out with a spectacular chase scene involving Bond and a new agent played by Naomi Harris, they’re after a hard drive containing the names of MI6 undercover agents all over the world. They failed and Bond is presumed dead. A few months later, MI6 agents are being kill off one by one and M (Judi Dench) is being question by Security Chairman Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), a great addition to franchise in my opinion. Mallory suggested that M should think of retiring because she might lose her step when it comes to the intelligence business. Of course M refused and she wowed to find who’s responsible for these agents being kill off. We then see Bond living in some tropical beach, drinking and sleeping with a beautiful woman. He later learned that other agents are being murder and decided to come back to MI6 and wants to know who’s behind these killings. Since he’s been gone for so long, Bond is out of shape and not as sharp but M sent him out to the field anyway.

I don’t like to go deep into the plot in my review so I’m going to highlight what worked and what didn’t in the film.

Let’s start with what I thought work great in the film:

Daniel Craig and Judi Dench: This is a more personal Bond film and both Craig and Dench did a marvelous job in their respective role. Craig now really owns the Bond character, in this film he’s not the super hero agent we’re used to seeing. He’s a drunk, he gets hurt and he didn’t always save the girl. In an interview, Craig said he really want to bring the character more to reality and so he went and read some of Fleming’s earlier Bond novels. To me he really nailed what Fleming was going for in those novels. Dench played a prominent role in the movie and believe it or not, she was actually the Bond girl in this film. Her performance was the best in the series and I was glad she appeared in the film as much as she has.

Sam Mendes, Roger Deakins and Thomas Newman: When Mendes was hired to direct this film, I was a bit skeptical because he’s never directed an action film before and when a more artsy director took over the franchise, it doesn’t always turned out well. The World Is Not Enough was directed by an artsy director and it’s one of the worst Bond films ever. But I was wrong, Mendes did a great job. Like what Brad Bird did with M:I-Ghost Protocol last year, Mendes decided to bring the franchise back to the old school style while infusing some 21st century action sequences. Speaking of action, Mendes was able to build up a great suspense before showing those awesome action sequences.

I particularly liked the sequence in Shanghai where Bond went after an assassin, the scene was set in a high rise building and the way Mendes staged it was so suspenseful and when Bond finally went mano-a-mano with the assassin, I got goose bumps. I loved that sequence. Since this film marks the 50th anniversary of the franchise, Mendes decided to throw in some homage from the previous Bond flicks. From Oddjob in Goldfinger, Bond jumped on top of an alligator, exploding pen and so on; Bond fanatics will get a kick out seeing those scenes, I know I did.

Of course Mendes can’t do it alone, with his right hand man Roger Deakins doing the shooting, this may be the best looking Bond film ever. Seriously every scene in this film was so gorgeous to look it. The film took place mostly in London and the way Deakins captured the look and feel of that city, I felt like I was there. Also, I always felt London is one of the best cities to capture on films, (NYC is my favorite in case you’re wondering). If you get a chance to see it on the real IMAX screen, I highly recommend you do that. Mendes and Deakins decided to open up the film’s usual aspect ratio of 2.39:1 to 1.90:1 to take advantage of IMAX’s tall screen. It was such a pleasure seeing this gorgeous film on the best format, can’t recommend it enough.

Last but certainly not least is Thomas Newman’s theme, the soundtrack’s more epic and fit the film so well and yes the Bond theme is finally play during the movie not after like the previous two films. Mendes said in an interview that Nolan’s The Dark Knight was a huge influence on this film so some might think the soundtrack kind of similar to that film. In fact if I didn’t know Newman was the composer, I would’ve thought it was Hans Zimmer.

What didn’t work:

Javier Bardem and the Bond girls. My complain with the franchise is that it never has a truly great villain and unfortunately that trend continues. Some critics said Bardem’s Silva is the best Bond villain ever and I strongly disagree with that; sure he’s menacing and probably the most grounded villain in a Bond film; he’s not planning to take over the world or destroy it, he just wants vengeance. But I thought he’s underused and the showdown between him and Bond was kind of anti-climatic. I was hoping for a fist cuff showdown like in From Russia With Love but it never happened.

The Bond girls in this one wasn’t used like in other films. As I mentioned earlier M was basically the Bond girl, so the two lovely ladies weren’t in the film that much. But you can bet Naomie Harris will appear in the Bond franchise in many years to come.

Those are my only two complaints, otherwise it was just a great action film and again I believe it’s one of the best, if not the best Bond film ever. I’ll for sure be seeing it again on the big screen a few more times.

Some people complained that the climatic showdown was too much like Home Alone meets Strawdogs, well it’s a fair comparisons but I’d like to give my personal opinion of that sequence and its title. If you haven’t seen the film, I recommend you don’t read any further because it contains spoilers.

The film’s title refers to Bond’s birthplace and in a way it’s his battleground. To me, it represents a place where M hires a infant James into the secret service and as irony has it , this is the place where it all comes down for a rebirth of 007 and demise of M. You see Casino Royale was a reboot of the franchise and Skyfall is the reboot of 007 himself, when the new M asked Bond near the end of the film if he’s ready, Bond reply with a resounding yes and so we’re now back into the normal Bond template. Is that a good or bad thing? We’ll have to wait and find out what the filmmakers will give us in the upcoming Bond films. If the Bond producers hires another quality director to direct the next one, then I’m sure we’ll get another great Bond film. I know that Chris Nolan and David Fincher are free and I’m sure they can make a great Bond flick. Hey a fan boy can dream right?
– review by Ted S.

4.5 out of 5 reels

Ruth’s Review

Some of the best Bond films start out with an exhilarating opening sequences, and Skyfall follows that tradition. Bond is on a mission in Turkey to recover a stolen hard drive containing a list of nearly all undercover NATO agents in terrorist organizations. Soon Bond and fellow field agent Eve get into a massive car/motorbike/foot chase, wreaking havoc all over the place as Bond often does, before he jumps on top of a moving train. It all seems like a typical 007 action stuff… that is, until the super spy himself actually gets shot and falls into the water. It’s no spoiler as it’s all over the trailers and TV spots, often preceded by Judi Dench’s M shouting to Eve, ‘Take the bloody shot!’

Presumed dead, Bond is free to retire on some island somewhere, but his holiday is short-lived when he learns that MI-6 headquarter has been attacked, both in the physical and cyber world, prompting his return to England. The message in M’s hacked computer repeatedly says ‘Think on your sins,’ which seems to suggest that this attack is a personal one. Just how personal? Well, it’s best for you to find out on your own. Let’s just say that Bond’s loyalty to his boss is tested beyond what he could ever imagine and the mission has become very personal for him, too.

There are tons to appreciate in this film, thanks to a first-rate team starting with the Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes and his team of writers: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan. The sharp script allows for a thrilling action, snappy dialog, and just the right amount of whimsy without resorting to copious one-liners.

I think it’s great that since this year marks the franchise’s 50th anniversary, Skyfall is one of the most personal Bond films ever as it touched upon who he was before he became the secret agent we’ve come to know and love. I always enjoy seeing the more ‘human’ side of our super spy, it certainly makes for a thrilling and also poignant story. Daniel Craig is even more confident in his third outing, but he also has the right amount of vulnerability to balance that grit, which adds more depth to Bond the way Timothy Dalton did with character two decades earlier. Clearly people are much more ready for such an interpretation now.

As we’ve been talking about Bond villains as part of the 007 Chatter series, suffice to say that Raoul Silva will NOT end up in the WORST list. Though the personal vendetta motive of the villain is hardly groundbreaking, it still feel fresh thanks to Javier Bardem‘s performance. Creating a genuine tension between Bond and his villain is no small feat as we’ve seen it so many times before. Yet the encounter between the ever-so-creepy Silva and Bond is quite fascinating, what with the homoerotic intimidation that treads between sinister and amusing.

My favorite part in the film is the relationship between Bond and his boss, M. They’re not always in the best terms as you could tell in their blatantly snarky banters (remember M once called Bond ‘a sexist, misogynist dinosaur!’), but it’s obvious they respect and care for one another. I tell you, it’s the Bond producers’ best casting decision ever to have an acting juggernaut Dame Judi Dench play that role, and Mendes makes the most of her amazing talent. No doubt this is the meatiest role ever written for M in the entire Bond history, you could say she’s the co-star of this film given the large amount of screen time. Ralph Fiennes, Ben Wishaw as Q and Albert Finney makes up the stellar supporting cast, making this the best cast in the James Bond series to date!

Whether this movie will be the best Bond film ever is arguable of course, but it could easily be the most picturesque Bond film ever, thanks to (yet another) Oscar-nominee Roger Deakins. He created one glorious, picture-frame-worthy shot after another, starting with the very first one of Bond’s silhouetted figure entering a building in Turkey. The scenes in China, especially the fight scene in a Shanghai skyscraper with the electronic billboard as a backdrop is breathtakingly gorgeous. The lush scenery in the Scottish Highlands is one of the major highlight as Bond returns to a place from his past.

So, how do the two Bond girls fare? Well, Eve definitely belongs in the BEST Bond girl category. I really like Naomie Harris as the smart and strong field agent. She’s bad ass but still has a feminine and flirty side. She’s a knockout too, especially in that gold dress in the Macau casino. Unfortunately, I’m not too fond of Bérénice Marlohe‘s Sévérine. Yes she is beautiful to be sure and that dress she wears at the casino shows off her killer figure. But her overacting makes me squirm, I think the dialog between her and Bond is the weakest part of the film. Good thing she didn’t have much screen time to drag the movie down further.

Final Thoughts: Well, looks like the ever-so-lucrative 50-year old franchise is going stronger than ever. Skyfall is not just a good Bond film, it’s a good film, period. I think Sam Mendes and co. did a smashing job in creating a 21st century Bond movie that strikes a nice balance between high drama and high octane action. I certainly welcome a more emotional Bond film, and I’m glad Mendes is not afraid to give us that.

So to answer the question whether this film lives up to my already-lofty expectations. The short answer is YES, though I think I still rate Casino Royale as the best one amongst Craig’s Bond films so far.

4.5 out of 5 reels

So what are your thoughts of Skyfall? Did it meet YOUR expectations?

58 thoughts on “FlixChatter’s Double Review: SKYFALL

  1. Couldn’t agree with you more Ruth. Visually, it is just absolutely amazing. The best visual work in the franchise! Judi Dench was phenomenal, but so were all the supporting actors. The addition of Ralph Fiennes and Javier Bardem are my favorite. No doubt it is the best cast ever for a Bond film, and I am so excited to see what’s to come!

    1. Indeed! The cinematography is so beautiful it’s almost distracting. Glad to see such an acclaimed cinematographer making the most of all those exotic locations. I do hope future Bond movies will have a great cast like this one!

  2. Great article. It was interesting reading how you both enjoyed different aspects of the film. I’m particularly intrigued, having not see the film yet, with you reaction to the villain in Skyfall. It would also appear you differ over your appreciation of the Bond girls in this. Good stuff Ruth and Ted.

  3. I haven’t seen Skyfall yet, but you have just added two more positive reviews. The one thing I hadn’t heard praised yet is the cinematography. Apparently is was intentionally low-key in the past so as not to detract from the action. That’s what one DP said in an audio commentary at least. I never completely agreed with that so I’m pleased that’s changed. Especially after QoS which looked too self-consciously “gritty” and visually monotonous.

    I hardly need to mention that I’m particularly excited about Bond following closer to Fleming’s 007, with more depth of character and emotion showing beneath the surface.

    Thanks for the reviews.

    1. Hey Marcus, we both praised the cinematography. It’s impossible not to, it’s one of the best thing about this movie. It’s just so striking right from the very first shot up until the end. It is distractingly beautiful but hey I don’t mind it, I mean the way Deakins filmed it in Shanghai actually enhances the fight scene.

      Btw, I’ll post your 2nd part of your article this week yet, thanks again for that!

  4. Great reviews. Specially agree with yours, Ruth. I think Bardem was superb and so was Judi Dench in a much bigger, more important role. I do think Bérénice Marlohe overacted a bit but maybe it comes down to her role being so tiny. Maybe she wanted to make a good impression in a few minutes of screen-time and it backfired? One thing’s for sure, she looked gorgeous and so did the movie. Just stunning.

    1. Hi Fernando, yeah I guess I could see her overcompensating for her minimal screen time. She looked gorgeous but her character is barely written at all, we have no idea why she worked for Silva, etc. She reminds me of the girl in the opening sequence of Tomorrow Never Dies, stunning but forgettable.

  5. Two great reviews! Personally, I thought Silva was a great villain and Bardem portrayed him superbly; his opening scene is absolutely fantastic. Ted brought up my exact thought about M being the Bond girl this time around, the other two were only really there for eye candy. And I’m afraid I don’t agree about Naomie Harris. I thought she was pretty weak, although that could have been the script rather than her acting. Still, I liked her reveal at the end (not like that!) 🙂

    1. Hi Terry. I was skeptical about Bardem when I first saw a clip of him but I thought he was great. Ha..ha.. about M as the Bond girl thing, I don’t mind it at all. She’s perhaps the woman Bond cares for the most aside from his dead wife Tracy. No love for Naomie? I really do like her, and I do hope she’ll stay around in the next Bond films!

            1. Yep, a throwaway character is right. I think if we eliminate her role, the story would still be intact! Her overacting really bothered me, I think both being French, Berenice definitely can’t hold a candle to Eva Green!

                  1. Me too. Bond girls in this film are the most disappointing thing. I’m glad that Eve did’t have much thing to play and Severine was killed off soon enough. I could not stand her overacting style. No way near the interesting characters Vesper and Elecktra

  6. There you go, too much anticipation can be good or bad. Glad to see this turned out good in both your books. I’ve already seen this twice! That’s how much I enjoyed it.I know what big fans of the franchise you were, so I was really anticipating your review to come out.

    1. Hi Asrap! Wow, cool that you’ve seen it twice man. I don’t know if I’ll have time to do that right away but maybe towards the end of its theatrical run. Yeah, it’s nice when a movie lives up to the hype.

  7. Two excellent reviews there guys and I’m glad to hear both your thoughts on the villain Silva and the anticlimactic ending. This was a major gripe for me but otherwise a good film. It’s still Casino Royale for me too though.

    1. Thanks Mark. I actually didn’t think the ending was anticlimactic. In fact, it ends in a rather poignant note as it Bond deals with a personal sacrifice and mourning yet another person he holds dear. Overall I do still prefer Casino Royale so I’m with you on that one, Mark 🙂

        1. Fair enough Nov, well that is until Benny or Cilli stars in one right 😉 Btw, I saw The Whistleblower w/ Benny in a small role, he’s kind of wasted in it though.

          1. Hahaha…so true!!
            Maybe one of them can be the baddie there 😉
            I have seen the whistleblower’s Benny’s part in youtube…not interested to see the whole movie tho

  8. Ted S.

    My complaint with Bardem’s Silva is that he’s too similar to Anton Chigurh and I wanted to see a different character. Who knows I might change my mind when I see the film again but I still think Silva’s underused in the film.

    As for Bérénice Marlohe, well she’s just can’t act. I don’t know maybe Mendes should’ve push her harder to get a better performance out of her but her character’s so minor, it didn’t bother me that much.

  9. WOW. Ted. Hating on Bardem’s Silva? That almost derailed me! LOL Bardem was incredible…

    Glad to see you both pointing to the incredible cinematography. I think that that registered with everyone… its hard not to pick up on, its so evocative, you know?

    1. I know!! What’s up with that, Ted? He..he.. well, I guess it’s a good thing I haven’t seen No Country For Old Men, but even from what I’ve read and clips I’ve seen of Chigurgh, I think there are some major difference between him and Silva. He’s more of a sad character, not just psychotic, whilst Chigurgh is definitely mental.

      OH yeah, the cinematography is absolutely stunning. I’d love to see Deakins get an Oscar nod for his work here. It’s great to see all those great exotic locations captured so beautifully, and they do enhance all the action sequences I think.

  10. Wonderful reviews. I’d give it the same rating, but Casino Royale is still my favorite Bond film too.

    Oh, Ruth, just a heads-up: you credit Deakins as an Oscar-winner, but he hasn’t actually won one. He’s been nominated 9 times though. (That’s just the Oscar nerd in me coming out.) 😉

    1. Yeah, hard to beat Casino Royale, but this one is pretty close. Hmmm, I might’ve gotten my Oscar source incorrectly, somehow I thought he won for American Beauty. Ok I’ll update that part with multiple Oscar nominee 🙂 Thanks Josh!

  11. Ruth and Ted: Definitely liked the film agree with you about Severine’s role in the film – kind of not needed for my part. I love Naomie Harris so glad to see her in such a high profile role.

    Ted: I liked Bardem’s Silva. Often villains in these types of films are pantomime and at least in these movie I felt like there was good motivation for his dastardly ways. I also had my reservations about Mendes doing the film initially but those were quickly allayed.

    Overall a really fun film that I would not mind seeing again 🙂

    1. I really, really like Naomie Harris and nice to see a Bond girl who’s got both beauty and brains in equal measure. She’s not a woman Bond could simply take advantage of, so in a way she’s like Vesper, but without the problematic ex-boyfriend-loyalty thing going on, ahah.

      I thought Silva is an intriguing villain because he’s not deranged simply because he’s power-hungry or ‘want to watch the world burn’ like the Joker. That’s why he’s more of a sad character which could be just as dangerous as he’s so consumed by bitterness to have anything left for common sense.

  12. I’m going to hold off on reading these reviews until I see this on Friday, but I’m glad to see that both of you enjoyed it so much. Sounds like this is one of the best Bonds yet!

  13. Yes Ruth, I thought Berenice Marlohe gave a really amateurish performance. Like when she was trying to convey fear by shaking hands.. that was horrible lol.

    As I said on Nick’s (Prigge) review, it was a good movie but I wasn’t blown away. I think the movie left off some strands from the previous two films (like Bond’s remorse for Vesper’s death…). Berenice Marlohe’s character death was ridiculous. Both in the fact that it had absolutely zero impact on Bond and the fact that I didn’t even realize she was dead until I read some reviews lol (Can’t they show a little blood at least???)

    1. Amateurish is right, Cas. I mean she was believably sultry, but that’s about it. As soon as she started to convey her fear it just fell flat. As I mentioned in a previous comment, she reminded me as the girl in the opening of Tomorrow Never Dies when Bond said, ‘I can protect you’ and she replied ‘No, not from him.’ Same formula, except that in this one I didn’t expect her to be such a throwaway character.

      Ahah yeah that blood thing, it’s like Matthew Modine’s character in TDKR when he lied there on the ground after being shot multiple times and there’s no trace of blood on him either!! How expensive is fake blood really, considering the $200 budget, LOL!!

    1. I’ve said this to you before matey, you’re missing out 😀 The Bond franchise is not going anywhere though, so there’s always time to jump on the bandwagon, he..he..

  14. I love this dual review here Ted and Ruth. I also like that you make the connection that M is the Bond Girl in this film. that’s true and I hadn’t thought of that.

    I had an issue with the ending, Ted, that’s very much like how you wrote others talked about it. However, I really appreciate the other thought you bring in the “rebirth” theory of Bond. Hadn’t looked at it that way. Thanks.

    Ruth, you’re right, this isn’t just a good Bond film, it is a good film period. Glad to see that differentiation made.

    Great reviews both of you. I liked it myself, but still have some reservations about it myself.

    1. Ted S.

      Thanks T.

      Yeah I didn’t expect M to be the main “Bond girl” in the film but it fit the story and it turned out well. I figured they would do the actual reboot of Bond one of these days and sure enough it happened in this film. Hopefully the next few films won’t go back into the silly route that plague the franchise for years.

  15. Glad you like the movie! I agree with pretty much everything, but the dialog between Severine and Bond – I really liked that part, I thought she perfectly communicated her fear in that scene. Eve on the other hand – she was kinda too cute and not sexy enough, I guess since she is Monneypenny that is actually perfect 🙂

    1. Ted S.

      If the actress was more talented, I think that scene between Bond and Severine might’ve worked better. Unfortunately Bérénice Marlohe overact that scene, as mentioned earlier, maybe Mendes should’ve help her out since she’s not a strong actress. But maybe Mendes realized he couldn’t do much and just went with it. I would love to find out how many takes they had to do to get that scene right.

  16. Skyfall beat the hell out of my expectations. I agree with Ted that Bardem was underused, I could have had plenty more of him! But he was amazing when on screen. And I loved that it got all Home Alone meets Straw Dogs at the end! Definitely one of my favourite Bonds!

    1. I think it’s bold for the filmmakers to make M be the ‘Bond girl’ so to speak and I think the story is a strong one. I think Severine feels more of a ‘filler’ to me but I do like the twist on Naomie Harris’ Eve!

  17. PrairieGirl

    Finally saw Skyfall this weekend and was totally enthralled. I was immediately impressed with the cast before the opening credits had barely begun. They’ve all been mentioned in your reviews except for Albert Finney as the Skyfall resident caretaker, glad to see him back and in such a prominent film. I liked the straightforwardness of the plot, you hardly ever had to try and figure out what was happening or why, but it never seemed predictable.

    I really like the spin they put on Bonds age (also M’s)… they confronted the obvious, but in the end Bond shows he’s still got it. The connection with Bond’s childhood home really brought depth to his character, and the out-of-the-way Scottish location seemed perfectly appropriate. I certainly wasn’t prepared for the unexpected outcome in the chapel at the end. And as we’ve all become accustomed to, the shooting locations are superb. I wasn’t expecting to like this film as much as I did. I’ll no doubt be seeing it again.

    1. Hi Becky! Glad you enjoyed Skyfall! I haven’t seen it again after my theatrical viewing months ago. I need to go back and rewatch it.

      I love the personal spin of the plot and including Bond’s childhood home. I guess knowing Bond is Scottish makes Sean Connery’s casting even more appropriate, no? I think Craig is great as Bond but at the same time I still think the new Bond should be ‘dark’ again like Connery and Dalton 😉

      In any case, yeah I love Judi Dench’s M and glad she got even more screen time here!

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