FlixChatter Review – 1917 (2020)

When I heard that Sam Mendes, the Oscar winning director of American Beauty and one of my favorite “James Bond” films, Skyfall, was releasing a World War I film, I was beyond intrigued. Centered around the spring of 1917 during the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line during Operation Alberich, Mendes wanted to incorporate a story his grandfather Alfred Mendes told him about a messenger and his heroic task during the war. The film, appropriately titled 1917, is takes place on the front lines in northern France, as the British 2nd Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment is planning to mount an attack on the retreating German forces. The Germans have mounted a retreat to the Hindenburg Line, but are planning to ambush the 2nd Battalion, a company battalion of 1,600 men, in hopes of catching the British forces by surprise.

Colin Firth in 1917

The movie opens on two young British soldiers, Lance Corporal William Schofield (George MacKay) and Lance Corporal Tom Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) napping underneath a tree at the edge of the British trenches in northern France. Suddenly, Lance Corporal Blake is awaked by his commanding officer, telling him to pick a partner and report for further instructions from British General Erinmore (Colin Firth). General Erinmore tasks the two Lance Corporals to deliver a message to halt a British force of the 2nd Battalion before they walk into a trap laid by the German army. The General informs Blake and Schofield that among the 1,600 men of the 2nd Battalion is also Blake’s own brother, Lieutenant Joseph Blake (Richard Madden), and that they must to do the impossible: cross over No Man’s Land, evade enemy forces, and stay alive long enough to deliver a message to Colonel Mackenzie (Benedict Cumberbatch) at the front line that his 2nd Battalion is walking into a trap, set by the German Army.

Dean-Charles Chapman + George MacKay

After Blake and Schofield cross into No Man’s Land, with some careful instruction from a Lieutenant Leslie (Andrew Scott), they reach the original German front, finding the trenches abandoned. Their worst feelings come true, as they find that the abandoned trenches turn out to be booby-trapped by the Germans in hopes of killing as many British soldiers as possible. Thanks to some (extremely large) rats who set off one of the booby-traps, the ensuing explosion almost kills Schofield. Thankfully, Blake is there to help Schofield out and they manage to run out of the collapsing bunkers just in time. Having to take shelter in ruined buildings, and sidestepping over unseen obstacles, Blake and Schofield arrive at an abandoned farmhouse and witness a dogfight between British and German planes nearby. SPOILER ALERT (highlight to read) – As a German pilot is shot down and crash lands near them, Blake and Schofield try to rescue the pilot from the burning wreckage, but the German soldier turns his knife on Blake and mortally wounds him.

As Schofield is now tasked to deliver the message to Colonel Mackenzie alone, he is picked up by a passing British contingent and dropped off near the bombed-out village of Écoust-Saint-Mein. Dodging snipers and climbing over collapsed bridges, Schofield is injured and gets knocked out by a ricocheting bullet. As he wakes up hours later, it is nightfall and Schofield tries to navigate the bombed out and collapsed buildings of Écoust-Saint-Mein, as the German soldiers set fire to large building, creating a giant blaze in the middle of the night and helping Schofield light the way around the town. Unfortunately, he also becomes the target of numerous German snipers, managing to evade them before he finds shelter in an abandoned basement, where he stumbles into the hiding place of a French woman and an infant. He leaves them some canned food and milk he had found at the abandoned farmhouse that he and Blake had found.

Bound by completing his mission, Schofield leaves the woman and infant, but not before learning that the place he is looking for is just down river from the village he was in. He runs past more German soldiers and snipers, and ends up jumping into the river, going over a waterfall and finding more dead bodies of soldiers from both sides. In the morning, he comes across a part of the British 2nd Battalion, as they wait and prepare to go into battle.

From them, he learns that they are actually a part of the second wave, and that while attack has already begun and Blake’s brother is among the first wave to go over the top, he still has time to reach Colonel Mackenzie before it’s too late. He sprints across the trenches and actually climbs onto the battlefield to reach Colonel Mackenzie, who is at first reluctant to call off the attack, but ends up relenting and follows General Erinmore and British Command’s instructions. Schofield is left to find Lieutenant Joseph Blake, SPOILER (highlight to read): and to inform him of his brother’s death. Lieutenant Blake thanks Schofield for his efforts and leaves Schofield to sit by a tree, finally able to rest after successfully completing his mission.

 

For 1917, Mendes collaborates again with award-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins, award-winning composer Thomas Newman and co-wrote the screenplay with Krysty Wilson-Cairns. Mendes and Deakins decided to shoot the movie as one long take, without cutting between scenes. Since it’s told from the point of view of Blake and Schofield, Mendes and Deakins rely on lead actors George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman to take the audience from the trenches, to the battlefields and abandoned farmhouses and other building. Both MacKay and Chapman tackle this challenge with much success, but it is really MacKay that makes the emotional connection needed to make his character relatable yet resilient. Chapman plays on the youth and inexperience of Lance Corporal Blake to make it seem like he needs Lance Corporal Schofield to succeed.

Even though we don’t see much of Benedict Cumberbatch, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden or Colin Firth, they each fulfill their roles to advance the plot line and bring the notion of familiarity and comfort to the audience, who has been carrying along with the two relatively-unknown lead actors. Not knowing the fates of the two lead British soldiers was a clever tactic used by Mendes, and losing one or both soldiers in battle would not be as big of a setback to the viewers if their message would somehow end up reaching its destination. Had Mendes cast household recognizable actors in those roles, it would have been much harder for the story to develop in the direction that it did. Thomas Newman’s score is also very memorable and fits perfectly into the wartime arc of the movie.

This is one my top-10 movies of the year and I’d be surprised if it didn’t get nominated for multiple Academy Awards. It just won the Golden Globe Award for Best Drama this past Sunday, and Sam Mendes won the Golden Globe for Best Director. I’d also like to see nominations for Thomas Newman’s score, Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns’ screenplay and perhaps most of all, Roger Deakins’ cinematography.

This is a deeply memorable film that will be remembered as one of the best World War I movies of all time, and it ranks as perhaps one of the best war movies ever made. It is not to be missed, especially in an IMAX theater and I give it my wholehearted, unabridged endorsement.

– Review by Vitali Gueron


Have you seen 1917? Well, what did you think? 

BEST OF THE DECADE LIST: 20 Best Shots of the 2010s

Happy first weekend of the New Year, folks!

Everyone loves lists right, and since we’re entering a new decade, it’s a great excuse to make loads and loads of lists 😀 I’ll be working on various Best of the Decade throughout the year, and I thought I’d start with cinematography since Brittani just listed her 10 top best of 2018 over at Rambling Film blog (hey it’s also her blog 10th anniversary so head over and wish her a blog anniversary!)

I chose these images based on instinct… the one I think is the most indelible and leaves a lasting impression, as a film likely has a bunch of beautiful visuals (esp. those shot by the legend Roger Deakins!) Most of these films have the best cinematography of the decade, but I consider these images iconic in that people would likely know right away where it’s from. Now, it’s tough to whittle it down to just 10 and as we’re entering the [roaring] 20s, there’ll be plenty of Top 20s list this year.

So without further ado, here are my picks in the order of the film’s year of release:

Inception (2010) 

DoP: Wally Pfister

Life of Pi (2012)

DoP: Claudio Miranda

Skyfall (2012)

DoP: Roger Deakins

Gravity (2013)

DoP: Emmanuel Lubezki

Ex Machina (2014) – dance

DoP: Rob Hardy

The Assassin (2015)

DoP: Mark Lee Ping-bing

Sicario (2015)

DoP: Roger Deakins

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015)

DoP: Robert Elswit

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

DoP: John Seale

La La Land (2016)

DoP: Linus Sandgren

Moonlight (2016) 

DoP: James Laxton

Rogue One (2016)

DoP: Greig Fraser

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

DoP: Roger Deakins

Dunkirk (2017)

DoP: Hoyte van Hoytema

Shape of Water (2017)

DoP: Dan Laustsen

Cold War (2018)

DoP: Łukasz Żal

Black Panther (2018) 

DoP: Rachel Morrison

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

A Hidden Life (2019)

DoP: Jörg Widmer

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019) 

DoP: Dan Laustsen

Hope you enjoy my list. Now it’s your turn, what’s some of your favorite shots of the past decade?

BLADE RUNNER 2049 review

I’ve seen the original Blade Runner countless times, I’ve bought the movie on VHS, Laserdisc, DVD, Bluray and recently 4K Bluray Disc. So yes, I’m obsessed with it and to say that this sequel is my most anticipated movie of the year is an understatement. Back in the early 90s, Ridley Scott was rumored to have pitched a sequel idea to the studio folks but he couldn’t get it off the ground mostly because he’s been churning out box office duds at the time. Now finally we get to see a sequel to one of the most influential sci-fi films of all time.

Set 30 years after the event of the first film, LA is still a hellhole with constant rain and cloud looming over the city. Many of its citizens are now filled with new breeds of replicants and Blade Runners are still active and hunts down the older models of replicants who are considered illegals. As the movie opens, one of the Blade Runners K (Ryan Gosling) has found his target, a replicant by the name of Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista). Morton is living outside of the city and wants to be left alone but since he’s illegal, K was forced to retire him. After surveying Morton’s place, K found out about something that could put society into chaos. He informed his boss, Lt. Joshi (Robin Wright) and she ordered him to find out everything he can and get rid of any evident so no one can know about what he’d found.

Unfortunately for K and his boss, the city’s new replicant creator Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) knew what K has discovered and he order his right-hand woman Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) to shadow K’s every move. As K digs deeper, it leads him to an old Blade Runner Deckard (Harrison Ford) who’s now living in an isolated location way out of the city. I think that’s all I can say about the story of this film, it’s got some good surprises and fans of the original film will be very pleased with the final results.

Dennis Villeneuve has created a world that’s similar to Scott’s vision but he enhanced it with his own style. Clocking in at around 2 hours and 40 minutes long, it’s a bit too long but Villeneuve did an amazing job of setting the mood and reveal the surprises as the story progresses. Roger Deakins should finally win an Oscar for this film, it’s one of the best-looking films ever made, you need to see it on the biggest screen you can find. His lighting and shot of each sequence is drop dead gorgeous. The script by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green is pretty good, they introduced some new ideas and I thought the story is much better than the original film. Although, I’m not exactly sure what kind of “message” they’re trying to say in this film. The score my Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch is excellent, they incorporated Vangelis’ score from the first film and then introduced some new one for this film.

I’m not the biggest fan of Gosling and was a bit skeptical when he’s cast as the lead in this film but I thought he’s pretty good here. His character is kind of mystery and we audience follow his quest to find out who he really is and why he’s doing what he’s doing. I don’t want to give out any information about his character but Gosling’s one note performance fits this character. Even though he’s only in the film for less than an hour, Ford gave a pretty emotional performance as Deckard, let’s just say he finally got some closure.

Leto didn’t really stand out that much, he’s hardly in the film and whenever he appears, he seems to be doing the typical villain who thinks of himself as some kind of God. Hoeks gave a pretty intense performance as the ruthless killer who’ll do anything to please her boss. Robin Wright who seems to be in a lot big movies these days, kind of gave an over-the-top performance as the tough police boss, again her role’s very small and didn’t make much impression on me. The only person who was on the screen as much as Gosling was Ana de Armas, she’s his “girlfriend” and I thought she did a decent job of playing the worried girlfriend/supporter of the hero.

This is a film that would probably divide some audiences, just like the first one did. It’s not action-packed as it’s advertised, pretty much all of the action scenes were shown in the trailers. I do recommend that you see the original film before going to see this one and if you’ve seen it but don’t remember much about the first film then you might get confused a little bit. My recommendation is to watch the original again before seeing this one.

With jaw dropping visual effects, tight direction and some good performances, this is one of my favorite films I’ve seen this year. I’m not going to call it a masterpiece like some critics did but it’s a great film and I’m planning to see it again a couple of more times. If there’s an IMAX or Dolby Cinema theater near you, go see it there.

TedS_post


So have you seen BLADE RUNNER 2049? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: SICARIO (2015)

SicarioPoster

Director Denis Villeneuve loves to make films about dark subjects, in his latest one he decides to tackle the dark world of war on drugs here in United States.

After a raid that’s gone terribly wrong on a home that belongs to a very powerful drug cartel, young FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) decides to volunteer to be part of a secret mission that’s being lead by a mysterious agent named Matt Graver (Josh Brolin). She’s on a need-to-know basis on this mission, she also meets another mysterious agent named Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro); who tells her that they’re going to find the biggest drug dealer in the world and take him down. Their first task was to transfer a prisoner from Mexico back to the States but some thugs decided to attempt the break the prisoner free.

Sicario_Cast

This lead to a shootout that killed all of the thugs in the middle of the highway and Macer was not too happy about it. She’s a by the book type of an agent and thought what happened during the shootout was illegal. But both Graver and Alejandro told her this is how it’s done in the real world and she has to deal with it. As the movie progresses, Macer starts to wonder if she’s in over her head and not sure if she could trust either of the men she thought had her back.

Sicario_EmilyBlunt

I can’t say that I’m a fan of Emily Blunt since I haven’t seen many of her work. But she’s very good here as the ambitious young agent who thinks she can make a difference. Basically she represents us the audience, she’s seeing this ugly world of drug war for the first time, there are no rules and innocent people gets kill in the middle of it. Brolin is his usual self; he’s a mysterious character that you don’t really know which side he’s on. Del Toro on the other hand, really shines in this movie. His character is a cross between James Bond and Anton Chigurh from No Country For Old Men. He’s a cold blooded killer that can’t stop, but there’s a reason behind his madness.

Sicario_Benicio

Director Denis Villeneuve did a great job of setting up the tension of every intense scenes but chose not to show the graphic violence you’d expect in this kind of film. The script by Taylor Sheridan is very well-written and full of twists and turns. For example, there’s a potential love story that I thought would derail the movie but then it turned ugly real fast. You think you figured something out, but he threw a curve ball at you.

Last but certainly not least is Roger Deakins‘ excellent cinematography, just like his other famous work, the shots in this film were all jaw dropping. There were a lot of wide shots of landscape and city that you have to see on the big screen to appreciate his beautiful work; maybe the Oscar voters will finally give him the golden statue this year.

With great performances, tight direction, well-written script and superlative cinematography, this is one of the year’s best films and I can’t wait to see it again. It’s very highly recommended.

4halfReels

TedS_post


So have you seen SICARIO? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: PRISONERS

TedSaydalavongBanner
Prisoners_bnr

When I first saw the trailer of Prisoners, I thought it looked like a made for TV movie that you’d see on TNT or some cable network. So I didn’t really have much interest in seeing it on the big screen, well after reading several high praised reviews online, I changed my mind.

The movie starts out with hunting trip between a father Keller and his son, Keller and Ralph Dover (played by Hugh Jackman and Dylan Minnette respectively). They caught a deer and drove home, during the ride back, Dover gave a speech to his son about survival of the fittest and such. Basically the filmmakers wanted us to know that this is a tough guy who worked very hard for everything he has gotten in his life and for his family. Also, he’s God fearing, a true patriot and a bit of a paranoia. Later, his whole family, including his wife Grace (Maria Bello) and young daughter Anna (Erin Gerasimovich) walked over to their friends and neighbors’ home for a Thanksgiving dinner. Here we’re introduced to their friends Franklin and Nancy Birch (Terrence Howard and Voila Davis), they too have two young kids.

While the parents were prepping dinner, the kids went outside and walked around the neighborhood. They came upon a suspicious looking RV, the two young girls wanted to play with it but the older kids told them not to go near it since they heard someone’s voice inside. Later after dinner, the two young girls wanted to go back to the Dovers’ home and pick up a toy, their parents told them they need to get the older kids to walk back with them. The girls said yes and left the room. Minutes later the parents couldn’t find their young ones and went down to the basement to ask the older kids where their sisters are? They said they haven’t seen them since dinner. Of course everyone got panicked and eventually they called the police.

Prisoners_Stills1

We then were introduced to Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal), who’s having dinner alone at a Chinese restaurant and tried unsuccessfully to hit on the waitress there. He got a call from his boss about the missing girls and was told about the RV. The police patrol men were able to find the RV and Loki arrived at the location and arrest the driver, a simple minded looking young man Alex Jones, played wonderfully by Paul Dano. Loki questioned Jones for hours but he refuses to tell him anything. Also, the forensic team couldn’t find any traces of the girls in Jones’ RV. So of course without any evidence to keep him, the police eventually have to let him go free. Dover heard the news that the police was going to let Jones go and decided to confront Jones while he’s leaving the police station with his aunt Holly (Melissa Leo). Upon the confrontation Jones mumbled something to Dover and he’s convinced that Jones is the person who took his daughter and her friend. I think people already know what happens after that since the trailer pretty much gave it away, so I won’t go much deeper into the plot. And to be clear, I’ve only described the first 30 minutes of the film, it’s two and a half hours long, I think you should go see it with as little knowledge as possible.

I mentioned earlier that the movie feels like a made for TV movie and I still believe that it is. But since it’s made for the big screen, the scope is much larger and with the great cinematographer Roger Deakins behind the cameras, the movie looks great. Deakins was able to the capture the dark and gritty feel that fits the tone of the movie. He was able to somehow made the usual boring American suburb neighborhood into a very creepy place, kind of reminded me of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet. Kudos also goes to Denis Villeneuve‘s direction, I’ve never seen any of his other films until this one and he did a good job of creating tensions and excitement. There were talks about how dark and violent the movie was, well I didn’t think it was that bad. Yes there were some intense moments but they didn’t show much, which is good. I thought it’s pretty tame compare to some other films in this genre, such Se7en or Silence of the Lambs.

Prisoners_Stills2

As for the script, it’s the usual by-the-book whodunit thriller and if you’re paying attention, you’ll able to figure who did it early on, but you’ll still enjoy the ride even though you won’t be surprise by it. There’s no M. Night’s “twist” ending here if you’re expecting that kind of thing.

Despite it being promoted it as a Hugh Jackman‘s vehicle, the main the protagonist’s actually Jake Gyllenhaal‘s character. I thought Gyllenhaal was serviceable as the lead detective but somehow I can’t buy him playing that role. I think I would prefer maybe an older or some not-so-well-known actor playing this role. Same goes with Jackman’s character, he really poured his heart and soul into the role but I still kept thinking of him as The Wolverine every time he got angry. When he started screaming, I expected to see those claws to come out. Again, maybe with a less-known actor who hasn’t played a superhero, he might work better as the hard working all-American suburban dad. As for the supporting cast members, Howard and Davis got their fair shares of screen time and they did a good job with their respective roles. Maria Bello unfortunately was relegated to just being the worried mother and didn’t have much to do. I thought Paul Dano was excellent as the main suspect, he didn’t have many lines in the movie but what he did with his eyes and body fit quite well of the kind of perverts and child molesters you see on TV.

My biggest gripe with the movie is the running time. I know they wanted to give all the famous actors some screen time but at two-and-a-half hours long, that’s way too much for this kind of movie. They could’ve cut out a couple of unnecessary scenes and made the movie a bit tighter. Despite the long run-time and the miscasting of the main leads, I still thought the movie was a very good suspense thriller. If you enjoyed movies like Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone or Zodiac, then I’m pretty sure you’ll like this one.

Just a warning for parents out there, you might not want to take your young kids to see it, they might get nightmares. At the screening I went, some parents brought their kids to the movie, I just went “WTF!”, did they think it’s a kind of movie their children would enjoy!? Seriously, what the heck is wrong with some of these parents?

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


TedS_post


What are your thoughts of this film? Let’s hear it!

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?