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Movie Review: "Skyfall" Best Action Film of the Year

Updated on October 5, 2013

Director: Sam Mendes
Cast: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Naomi Harris, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Bérénice Lim Marlohe, Albert Finney

It's frickin' phenomenal!

Turning 50 this year, and with 23 films to its credit, the James Bond franchise reaches its pinnacle with this exhilarating and intelligent new entry. To say that Skyfall is perhaps the best Bond movie ever made is to understate what an achievement this movie is. In a year that has seen more than it's share of terrific action movies (Marvel's The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises, to name a few), here is a film that works not only as an entertainment, but also as a testament to everything I love about the movies. By the time the end credits rolled, I was ready to get back in line and see it again.

Daniel Craig reprises the role he nailed to perfection back in 2006 with Casino Royale. That his work was criminally bland in the last James Bond movie, the dismal Quantum of Solace, is less his fault than it was director Marc Forster's, who didn't seem to have a clue what he was doing in that film. Now, Craig is under the guidance of American Beauty auteur Sam Mendes, and the result is one of the most fascinatingly complex portrayals of 007 ever put on film. He gets a lot of help from screenwriters Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan, who go in a little deeper into Bond's troubled past and how he suffered greatly from the loss of both his parents. While a solid script doesn't necessarily ensure a good performance from an actor, Craig brings back the charisma and fierce intensity he seemed to have lost in the last film, and the results are positively electrifying.

He's back baby! :D
He's back baby! :D

But if Craig is terrific in his role, then he is evenly matched by the deliciously nasty performance turned in by Javier Bardem. Right from his very first scene, Bardem oozes with menace and charm. He plays the bleached blond evil genius Silva, who has stolen a drive containing the secret identities of every MI6 agent. When the film goes into detail about his motives, it reveals a villain of many layers. Silva is not just another crazy villain bent on world domination. His motivations stem from deep wounds left over by none other than M (Judi Dench) herself. He's a well rounded and thoroughly compelling figure, and Bardem makes him one of the most chilling screen villains of recent memory (especially during an unusual homoerotic scene he shares with Craig).

Director Sam Mendes seemed like an unusual choice to helm a James Bond picture. Known mostly for his deliberately paced art films, Mendes doesn't really have anything on his resume that suggests he's capable of handling a big-budget action picture like this (Does Road to Perdition count?). Of course, sometimes the best choice is the one you'd least expect, and Mendes does some of his best work here as a director. While the movie is as deliberately paced as his other films, there is never a dull moment to be found anywhere in Skyfall. Even at 143 minutes, the movie is such a joyous and thrilling experience that you almost hate to see it end.

The action scenes are some of the best in the series. The opening segment, which starts off as a car chase through city streets of Istanbul and continues with Bond fighting an assassin on top a speeding train, gets the movie off to a crowd pleasing start. It features the requisite silly stunts we've come to expect from a Bond film (in one instance, Bond commandeers a Caterpillar, crushes VW Beetles on a flat car, tears open a train car, and runs down the front shovel of the machine and into the passenger loaded train car), and unlike the action scenes in Quantum of Solace, it's all filmed in crisp, clean shots, so that you can actually see the action while it's happening.

Tell me Mr. Bond. What's the most you ever lost in a coin toss?
Tell me Mr. Bond. What's the most you ever lost in a coin toss?

Of course, saying the action scenes are filmed in crisp shots is to understate just how beautiful the cinematography is in this film. With ace cinematographer Roger Deakins bringing his signature painterly style, Skyfall is almost unbelievably gorgeous. There is a segment in Shanghai where Bond engages in a fist fight with a cold-blooded assassin that almost has to be seen in order to be believed. The climactic portion of the film, which takes place at a run down Scottish mansion inhabited by the estate's colorful gamekeeper Kincade (a wonderful Albert Finney), features images of such awesome beauty that, had the sound been turned off, it still would have been enthralling. According to his Wiki profile, Deakins has been nominated numerous times for an Academy Award, but has never won one. If there is any justice in the world, he'll take home the gold next year for his work in Skyfall.

I do realize I haven't said too much about the plot. Maybe that's because there are so many praise worthy things that bear mentioning more than the plot, which you'll discover for yourself when you go and see the movie. Among the many pleasures offered in the film, we are finally introduced to classic characters from the series who were absent in the previous two films. They include the character Q (Ben Whishaw), who supplies Bond with a gun coded to his hand print (which leads to an amusing moment involving digitized Komodo dragons). There is also Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), M's new boss, as well as a new field agent named Eve (Naomi Harris), whose family name is revealed toward the close of the film (and I wouldn't dream of revealing what it is).

I loved Skyfall. Loved every thrilling, funny, gorgeous, dramatic second of it. I've always enjoyed watching James Bond movies, if only to have fun with their ridiculous action scenes and marvel at the gorgeous location work. They're all par for the course in a Bond picture, but I have never seen those elements incorporated in such an invigorating way like they are in Skyfall. 2012 has released more than its share of great movies, and Skyfall is up there on that list. Heck, just writing about it has got me excited about seeing it again.

**** (out of ****)

What were your thoughts on this film? :)

Cast your vote for Skyfall

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    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England

      Nice review. I place Skyfall just below Casino Royale but it's up there in the top league of Bond films. It's already grossed more than $500m worldwide after just 16 days on release. Wow.

      Voted Up.

    • priley84 profile image
      Author

      priley84 4 years ago from Warner Robins, Ga

      Thanks for reading. It was a hard call to say which I loved more: Casino or this. After thinking about it more, I have to say I thought Skyfall had a slight edge over Casino. Both are great movies overall.

      $500 million dollars just after 16 days?!?! That's gotta be some kind of world record! O_O

    • Hazzabanana8 profile image

      Hazzabanana8 4 years ago from Southern Realms of England

      I personally did not enjoy Casino Royale and the shame that was Quantum of Solace, soured it for me However Skyfall seemed like it was a breath of fresh air. Good solid review.

    • BeyondGS profile image

      BeyondGS 4 years ago from Ohio

      I think I'm one of few to say I was a little disappointed in Skyfall. Nothing like Quantum of Solace, but still a letdown. I wouldn't say it was better than Casino Royale because that's probably one of the best Bond movies in the last 15-20 years, but it wasn't far off from it.

      *SPOILER*

      My major gripe with the movie was the so called "killing" of Bond at the beginning. Yes, this was a somewhat mirror/tribute to "You only live Twice" but it made the film very unrealistic. You may say "Bond films are already unrealistic", which is totally true. Every film has a "yeah right" moment or two, but I thought that was a very big one that really ruined the rest of the movie for me.

      One thing is he was shot from the train before, then he's shot from a sniper (which later they said could've cut him in half if it missed a little more), and then he fell off a bridge at least five stories on his head (instant death in itself) then he goes off a waterfall.......only to come back with no explanation.

      I understand there is the whole "bond cannot die" in the films, but pretty much coming out and showing it really takes away the excitment. I didn't feel the pain or stress he was going through since it gave the impression that Bond isn't human, being this supernatural (I can survive pretty much anything" aspect. I hope that makes sense, but it's how I felt.

      The rest of the movie was solid like you said, but that idea of the movie just really soured the experience. I enjoyed the acting, action, and characters for the most part. But to say the plot was good I have to disagree. I'm probably one of a few out of the millions who saw it and thought this, but I was just disappointed. They could've made the "death" a little less severe even if they didn't explain how he came back. Guess it's just me though.

    • priley84 profile image
      Author

      priley84 4 years ago from Warner Robins, Ga

      " Every film has a "yeah right" moment or two, but I thought that was a very big one that really ruined the rest of the movie for me."

      I can understand that, although you have to admit, it's slightly more realistic than when Indiana Jones survived a nuclear blast by hiding in a refrigerator, lol. :P

      "

    • priley84 profile image
      Author

      priley84 4 years ago from Warner Robins, Ga

      Out of the three Craig films, I agree that this one was the best. Thanks for reading! :)

    • priley84 profile image
      Author

      priley84 4 years ago from Warner Robins, Ga

      @ BeyondGS

      "But to say the plot was good I have to disagree. I'm probably one of a few out of the millions who saw it and thought this"

      Actually, I don't think you are. I went to IMDB not too long ago, and found more negative user comments than positive.

    • jasmineeden profile image

      Jasmine Eden 4 years ago from Chicago

      Its an amazing movie ... Hero is such an great actor ... This movie action is great .... But i like the bike seen its such a great seen from all others stunt .... I think its a one of the best movie of 007 series...

    • priley84 profile image
      Author

      priley84 4 years ago from Warner Robins, Ga

      @ Jasmineeden: I agree with you completely! Thanks for reading. :-)

    • profile image

      Guest 2 years ago

      Agreed, thank god for this, Skyfall is clearly one of the BEST Bond movies in the series!

    • Availiasvision profile image

      Jennifer Arnett 2 years ago from California

      Awesome review, and my thoughts exactly. Skyfall was my favorite Bond film, and I've seen them all. My dad raised me right on James Bond and John Wayne.

      The film sucked you in from the beginning, with Bond on the train. Purely classic and stunningly shot. One aspect of the film I enjoyed was how rational the Antagonist was; what he said had truth to it. Really, him and Bond are brothers, in a way, who take different sides of the same coin. There is something creepy about it.

      I loved all of the nods to prior Bond Films. What a great anniversary film; its like a Bond scavenger hunt over the span of 50 years.

      Patriotism and loyalty show a darker side; a grey-not black and white look at one's loyalty to Queen and Country. The film asks profound questions about the nature of terrorism, the necessity of intelligence organizations, and of the place Britain has in our modern society.

      Bond is no longer a cheap womanizer, but you get the feeling that he has matured and wants something more--kind of like Clooney finally settling down. His working relationship with M holds the film together. She is the "Bond girl" in Skyfall.

      I like how the story showed more of Bond's roots than previous Bond films. He feels like a real human being unlike the suave classiness of Pierce's Bond or Connery's. I do like their version of Bond, but Craig's Bond is different. I like all of their performances of Bond, but in my mind, I think of them differently; each served their generation well.

      I'm really excited for Spectre, but also intimidated by the filmmakers topping Skyfall. I have to ask, is it possible? The 4 year gap and the writer's strike allowed Skyfall to have more pre-production time than usual. It seemed that every detail was finely executed. I can't wait for Thanksgiving!

      I am also a Screenwriter. I studied it under Tom Towler and used my Creative Writing degree to focus on screenwriting. Right now I'm building up my IMDB resume by doing tons of short films, getting them professionally scored, and entering them into festivals. I have one up for Best Picture at a current Bay Area festival, and other film in pre-production. I am passionate about filmmaking and love networking with other screenwriters. If you need a beta reader or just an idea muse, I'm always happy interacting with the writing community. I read tons of screenplays while I'm winding down for the night, and am happy to read and critique for you.

    • priley84 profile image
      Author

      priley84 2 years ago from Warner Robins, Ga

      Thanks for reading and your kind words. I agree with what you said, including the movie being stunningly shot. It frustrated me that while Roger Deakins was nominated for his work on Skyfall, he didn't win the award. He's one of the best cinematographers alive, and the guy's never won an Academy Award.

      As far as Spectre being better than Skyfall, it certainly is possible. Many of the same people are involved, and with the 3 year gap, one would hope that they managed to come up with a quality screenplay.

      As far as being a beta reader or an idea muse, I am very intrigued. I am currently working on a screenplay idea now, and while I do many supportive family members offering to read and critique, it would be nice to have another opinion as well! :D

      Unfortunately, procrastination is a problem with me. I do start, but for one reason or another, I end up putting it off. One of the troubles I have is writing a convincing backstory for my characters. What are some of the methods you use when it comes to writing characters?

    • Availiasvision profile image

      Jennifer Arnett 2 years ago from California

      In terms of creating characters, I have an odd way of writing. I get an idea off of an image, a thought, or a situation. I ask myself a lot of "what if?" questions and pursue the ones I find interesting. Like for my current novel, the question was, "What if the Russians are resurrecting the Soviet empire? What if Soviet subs are found off of Hawaii? What if the Chinese are in on it? What if their target is the Presidency?

      Then I run with it and write what I see. In my mind I watch a sort of film of the story, then write what I see. This allows me to write very quickly and visually. I use this method for both screenplays and fiction.

      Most of the time I leave the physical description of my characters pretty vague and focus on showing their character by what they do.

      I think the important thing to do, before starting a story, is to have a basic conflict and general story arc worked out mentally or on paper. Then create a basic logline and work with that. Ideas should be simple, like: A rogue agent is cast out of the agency and joins forces with the enemy, only to discover that they're both working for the same team. Then create characters, situations, and up the ante and conflict until there is no possible way your poor protagonist can get what he wants.

      How about you? Where do you get your ideas? Do you hope to be a career writer? Do you like to write fiction?

    • priley84 profile image
      Author

      priley84 2 years ago from Warner Robins, Ga

      Like for my current novel, the question was, "What if the Russians are resurrecting the Soviet empire? What if Soviet subs are found off of Hawaii? What if the Chinese are in on it? What if their target is the Presidency?"

      That actually sounds like something I would like to read! How far into it are you? :)

      I would like to be career writer, the thing is I just have to get on the ball (that, and make extra time for writing my fiction stories. I have a lot of story ideas that I would like to develop, and many of them come from, I guess, from my own fears, faults, etc. I heard a quote from Hitchcock where he said if he ever was afraid of something, he would confront it by turning it into a movie. I ask questions like, "What am I afraid of?" and "What are some of my biggest faults?" I ask those questions, and think about how to incorporate them into a story. Once an idea emerges, I ask a series of questions like you do until I get a good idea of the story I want to tell.

      It's just in writing the characters before writing the story that always seems to stall me. :/

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