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Overall Rating

Awesome: 33.96%
Worth A Look45.28%
Average: 7.55%
Pretty Bad: 5.66%
Total Crap: 7.55%

5 reviews, 23 user ratings

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by MP Bartley

"The one with the komodo dragons."
4 stars

It's good to have you back, Mr. Bond.

There was potentially more riding on the 23rd outing of cinema's most famous spy than any other film in quite a while. The Daniel Craig-starring reboot of the series that had started with Casino Royale was hugely successful, establishing Bond as a character who could still stand his own with the likes of Jason Bourne and a reinvigorated Batman franchise. The sequel to that, however, Quantum of Solace, was as wobbly as Casino Royale was confident, and suddenly, the series seemed back to square one again. It's not with a little relief, then, to report that Skyfall is not just a step back up in quality, it's the best Bond film in a considerably long time.

The pre-credit sequence sets up a nasty predicament for both Bond and MI6, still headed by Judi Dench's M. A stolen list of all the NATO secret agents in deep cover amongst enemy countries has been tracked down, but in the fight to obtain it, Bond is accidentally shot by a fellow field operative (Naomie Harris) and plunges to his apparent death. He's not of course, and after a stylish credit sequence set to the tune of Adele (and as someone not massively enraptured by her admittedly fine voice, the song and her delivery do make for a perfect Bond song), we find him literally and figuratively washed up on some foreign shores. Depressed and self-pitying, he seems happy to booze his days away until news from home reaches him. The very headquarters of MI6 have been attacked by a mysterious figure who seems to have a personal vendetta against M, and who is intent on destroying both her and anything that gets in his way.

Quantum of Solace was a strange, grumpy beast of a film; sulky and dour, it robbed Bond and the franchise of its fun in its quest to demonstrate how he could still be relevant to the 21st century. Skyfall, however, achieves the perfect blend, slotting Bond back into cinemas in a perfectly contemporary manner, whilst nodding back to its 50-year past with genuine affection and respect. Amongst the twists and turns of its cyber-terrorism plot, there are numerous musical cues, nice lines of dialogue and plot beats that hark back to various past Bond adventures for the eagle-eyed - and that's key. It doesn't beat you over the head with these references, but they're there if you know to look for them and help to enrich what turns out to be the most personal and nakedly emotional Bond film since On Her Majesty's Secret Service, which personally speaking, is still the highpoint of the series.

Deserving a lot of credit for this is Sam Mendes, marking perhaps the most feted director to have ever taken on a Bond film. Those worried about his bloodless gangster and war films with Road to Perdition and Jarhead, needn't worry - Mendes clearly gets Bond films, and gets what makes them work. The action is punchy and sharp, the editing a huge step-up from the jittery Quantum of Solace, and it's packed full of highlights that nimbly straddle the divide from ridiculously entertaining to just plain ridiculous. The opening sequence is terrific, going from a bike chase, to a train chase, to a hugely inventive use of a digger; there's a punch up in a lizard pit that's almost Roger Moore-esque in its outlandishness, but pulls it back just in time and there's another punch up cast as a surreal art-deco setpiece as Bond and a goon brawl in silhouette framed against floating neon figures. There are very few Bond films that have ever threatened to enter the realm of genuine artistry, but Mendes and his cinematographer Roger Deakins ensure that this is the best looking Bond film in an age.

For those bemoaning that the Craig era has so far not had all elements present and correct, they will surely be happy now. Q returns to the franchise, amusingly cast as a computer geek in the form of Ben Whishaw who witheringly dismisses the notion of still using exploding pens in this day and age and displays an instant chemistry with Craig that should work well in future installments with its role-reversal between the two of them; Bond now being the older man in their relationship. Add to that the return of his famous introduction, favourite drink, theme tune and you have something that somehow makes the very old fresh again. Putting all these in a Bond film that starts off in the most glamorous locations across the globe before winding down to a climax both domestic and intimate in a location that is beautiful, but also low-key, is an exceedingly clever touch, and further proof of how carefully Mendes and writers John Logan, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have thought this particular adventure through.

Clearly responding to the quality work behind the camera is the cast, turning Skyfall into a Bond film with a genuinely classy pedigree. Dench turns in her best performance yet, and there is great support from the likes of Harris, Ralph Fiennes and Albert Finney in key roles - these are proper actors, thesping away, giving the inherent fantasy of the Bond franchise a real sheen it's rarely had before. Of course, every great Bond film needs a great Bond villain and Skyfall gets one in the shape of slippery terrorist Silva (Javier Bardem). He takes a while before making his grand entrance, but it's an entrancing one when he does, using his sexuality and knowledge of Bond and M's relationship to unsettle and unnerve him. I'd like to have seen him perhaps pose a more direct physical threat to Bond, but he nevertheless carries a queasy and sinister vibe throughout, casting a sadistic shadow over the film as his various machinations rock the British establishment to its core.

Bardem also brings out the best in Craig, now fully comfortable in the tuxedo. With his cropped hair, piercing blue eyes and gun-metal grey suit, Craig pretty much resembles a bullet and moves like one, too. One scene of Bond sliding down an escalator in the London underground before landing and breaking into a sprint without a stumble made me laugh with the audacity of its conceit; Craig's Bond is nothing but unceasing momentum, defying ordinary physics with a wry smile. And yet he's turned Bond into the most purely physical he's ever been, whilst making him the most vulnerable and human we've seen him. This is definitely Bond who we're watching, but in a new and fascinating way and hopefully Craig will continue to take him in this direction, threatening to unseat Connery as the best ever as he does so.

You might think that this review is leading up to a five star rating, but it isn't. There are a couple of logic plot holes that don't bear close examination and the main Bond girl Severine (Berenice Marlohe) is pretty much a dead loss. Her scenes in the middle of the film lead to a sag in proceedings and don't go anywhere that Mendes couldn't have got us 20 minutes quicker by cutting her part substantially. But the best thing is that these flaws don't matter in the grand scheme of things. This is Bond as confident, entertaining and surprising as we've ever seen him, and as predictable as the final scene is, it's built up to so brilliantly, and pulled off with such panache that it made this relatively jaded Bond fan want to punch the air with delight. Whatever your personal top five Bond films are (and I'd go for On Her Majesty's Secret Service, The Living Daylights, Goldfinger, For Your Eyes Only and From Russia With Love), Skyfall is certainly the best in the Craig era and has set an all-new standard for Bond to live up to. And long may it continue.

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originally posted: 11/02/12 05:43:24
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User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell killer bond movie 4 stars
6/12/17 Anne Selby I tried to like bond films...spectacular photography 2 stars
7/26/14 Simon why you go to the movies- fresh yet familiar, fun yet with depth. James Bond has returned 5 stars
6/03/14 george not one of the best--2 long 2 stars
3/21/14 Jack So many flaws in this film to list. Just awful. One of the worst Bond Pics ever. 1 stars
7/23/13 Annie G It's no "Casino Royale", but not too bad overall. Worth owning. 4 stars
5/25/13 Monday Morning A bit long but great overall. Old school is back & it works. 4 stars
5/19/13 richard the performances were great but i found the film dragged - IMHO it needed to be half an hou 2 stars
3/04/13 Nicole Davis I love all the Bond movies. Loved it! 4 stars
2/26/13 Geraldine Fantastic! 5 stars
2/20/13 austin one of my favorite movies of the year 5 stars
12/17/12 Martin Z Absolute pointless rubbish. Overrated to a fault. Demented plot, demented dialogues. 1 stars
12/08/12 Helene Forcier Loved it! Great acting- a plausible, believable, vulnerable Bond. Most like the books! 5 stars
12/03/12 action movie fan dull first hour exciting second hour overall decent unbond like bond film 3 stars
11/30/12 KingNeutron YOU HAD TIME FOR ANOTHER SHOT, MONEYPENNY!!!11ONE! 3 stars
11/18/12 mr.mike Among the best of the Bonds. 4 stars
11/15/12 cooler most overrated bond movie ever. Hardly any action and lame plot. 1 stars
11/15/12 Marty Just OK. Bardem's character needed more. Kincaid random. Weak new actors 3 stars
11/14/12 The Big D It needed Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint! 1 stars
11/12/12 GLC great movie. Bond is back.Very entertaining. 5 stars
11/12/12 Koitus Bond as a vehicle for cool sh!t; ^ this. Great story; needed more "meat." 4 stars
11/09/12 Abigail Great film! 5 stars
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  09-Nov-2012 (PG-13)
  DVD: 12-Feb-2013


  DVD: 12-Feb-2013

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