Skyfall * * * 1/2

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Director: Sam Mendes.
Screenplay: John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade.
Starring: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Wishaw, Naomie Harris, Berenice Marlohe, Albert Finney, Rory Kinnear, Ola Rapace, Helen McCrory,

Whenever a new James Bond film is released, it seems to strike up enthusiasm and excitement amongst moviegoers. I’m admittedly not a massive Bond fan but having the reliable Daniel Craig shaking the Martini’s and introducing himself by surname first has worked a treat so far. It’s also not too shabby when Oscar winning director Sam Mendes is at the helm, as well as having an Oscar winning actor play the proverbial nasty. Even though I couldn’t summon the same enthusiasm as others, I also couldn’t resist in seeing what all the fuss could be about.

After a botched mission in Istanbul, Bond (Daniel Craig) is presumed killed in action. In actual fact, he’s been laying low and indulging a bit too much on alcohol. He resurfaces when he hears the news of attacks on M16 headquarters in London and M (Judi Dench) brings him back to resume service. It transpires that the attack on M16 HQ is at the hands of Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) who has a score to settle with M herself.

This is not your average Bond movie at all. Recently they have been doing away with the conventions of the franchise and stripping it back to basics. I, for one, have been a fan of this recent minimal approach but I still wasn’t prepared for how bare this one was. A lot of attention is placed on character development which is almost unheard of from a movie featuring this character. In a lot of ways, it seemed like this film was making a new statement and relaunching a new take on Bond. It dares to make some serious plot developments involving prominent characters and introduces new ones in the shape of Ben Wishaw as a welcome and convincing Q and a new introduction to Miss Moneypenny. The other developments I won’t divulge here. It even gives a little history and backstory to Bond and also shows some weaknesses in his character; Bond isn’t as invincible as some of the earlier instalments which is a welcome change of direction. Of course, this is all handled well by Craig who is very convincing in the role, further fuelling the argument as to whether he’s the best yet.
No Bond write-up would be complete without mentioning the villain of the piece and this is where the excellent Javier Bardem comes in. He puts in a marvellously on edge and surprisingly humorous performance that I really wasn’t expecting. Bardem can do these type of creepy characters with aplomb but unfortunately, it’s the decisions of his character that leave his addition to the ‘Bond baddies’ rather ordinary in comparison. When the writers intend on keeping things more realistic it would probably be wise not leave gaping holes in the story and have the characters behave a little more cautiously. It seemed to me that they’d rather have the best of both: they wanted the realism as well as the indulgence and the two don’t really go hand in hand. The villains in previous Bonds always made critical mistakes but to have one that just stumbles around as if they’re invincible is a little insulting to, not only, the deadly 007 agent but also to the audience. That being said, it’s still a decent flick and there’s plenty of enjoyment to be had with some clever nods to the Bond movies of old and some sumptuous cinematography by Roger Deakins.

I’m not sure how Bond enthusiasts will receive this one. There’s a good chance if you’re into the franchise then you’ll like it but personally, I thought it was a little underwhelming. It doesn’t match the intensity of Craig’s first outing in “Casino Royale” but is admittedly an improvement over his second “Quantum Of Solace“.

Mark Walker

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42 Responses to “Skyfall * * * 1/2”

  1. Nice write-up. I’m looking forward to this one.

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  2. That’s a nice write-up. I agree with most of it, though as you noted, I’m a little bit more enthusiastic about it than you are.

    I agree that people who are supposed to be experts in those things behave rather carelessly from time to time. Especially M’s lack of insight into computer safety was puzzling. But in the end, it’s just minor remarks from my side. I was really entertained by the movie, and also a little touched, since as you say, it’s stripped downed on gimmicks and deal a lot more with the characters, which makes it into a far more interesting movie than most others in the franchise.

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    • Thanks for dropping in Jessica. Yeah, I liked the minimalist approach but like a lot of Bond’s it goes on too long. I always find myself wondering when it’s going to end. That being said, it had a lot going for it and I think most fans of should be pleased. I’m probably being a little overly critical as its another one of those films that bombard you with hype beforehand. I did start to feel that this might be the Bond to really excel but with those expectations in place, it never quite achieved that for me.

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  3. Still a couple of weeks before its wide release here. I’m really envious for this one. It comes out the same day as “Lincoln”. Both were on my Most Anticipated of the Year list. Kinda bummed that it may not meet my expectations. Great review.

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    • Don’t worry too much Keith. There’s a good chance you’ll love it. I’m just not all that into Bond so I’ll probably be one of the most critical of this film. I still enjoyed it though.

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  4. Have not read your review yet (don’t read them until I see the movie myself), but will check it out on Wednesday. Looking forward to seeing it even though I’m not a huge Bond fan.

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  5. Wahoo!!! I cannot freakin’ wait for this! As you know I’m a massive Bond fan Mark, so naturally I’m anticipating it. But yeah, the fact that Mendes is at the helm is a huge plus. I kinda figure it still won’t top “Casino Royale” though, but hey, it’s GOT to be better than ‘Quantum of Solace’!!

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    • I’m aware of your love for all things Bond Ruth. ;-) I imagine you’ll like this. It wasn’t as good as Casino Royale for me but yes, much better than Solace. I think I’m probably a bit harsher on this than most would be though. Expect good things!

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      • I was quite disappointed w/ Solace but I already have a good feelings about this one because of Mendes’ involvement. Plus there’s also Ralph Fiennes, one of my fave Brits, and I also like the look of Ben Whishaw as the young, geeky Q. Man I wish I didn’t have to wait another 2 weeks for this!

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      • I was because of Mendes and the cast that I gave this a go. It’s the first Bond movie I’ve ever seen in the cinema. Wishaw makes a great Q but I thought Fiennes was a little underused. I’ll not say much more though as I don’t want to spoil it for you.

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  6. Man – I haven’t seen a Bond movie since Roger Moore… I don’t know if that’s a case for an LOL or shame…

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    • I wouldn’t worry too much about it man. I don’t get overly excited for them myself. This is a good flick but if you can take or leave Bond then I wouldn’t spend the money. Wait for the DVD instead.

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  7. Gahhhh… I dont read reviews before I write my own now, especially for this movie!!

    Glad to see you grade it out so high, though, that gives me a lot of hope!

    SO pissed we dont get this for two weeks, still :(

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    • Haha! Youre echoing the thoughts of Ruth there Fogs. That’s how I normally feel when you guys are churning out reviews of films I have to wait for. ;-)

      As you know I’m not overly excited about Bond but thought I’d catch it anyway. A lot of people will rate this higher than me but 3.5 is still a good score.

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  8. ray brayne Says:

    I hear Fogs teeth gnashing clear across Connecticut! Very, very nice write up Mark. I read a couple of “professional reviews” after it opened in London and yours is every bit their equal. I’ll see this one in the moviehouse because it’s the type that delivers more bang for the buck on the big screen! “Cheers”(as you say) Mark.

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    • Haha! I know Ray… I can hear Fogs rubbing his thighs in anticipation. ;-)

      Thanks for that compliment man. Glad my review holds up. If truth be told, I felt that I rushed it a little to get it out quick but sometimes things can still come together this way. Once you over-think stuff, reviews can fall to bits. “Cheers” man! ;-)

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  9. Great review Mark. It’s actually nice to read a slightly more critical review of this, rather than the majority of others gushing with praise. I’m seeing this at some point this week and I’m incredibly excited about it. We finally get one up on those across the pond too, which is a rare treat!

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    • Thanks Chris. Yeah, i don’t share the buzz that everyone has for Bond but couldn’t resist seeing it. I also try to be as honest as possible, even if that means nitpicking slightly. I hope you like it and I’ll keep my eyes peeled for your post.

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  10. Great write-up, Mark. I’m not the biggest Bond fan but I’m really looking forward to seeing this one. It opens here on Friday :)

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    • Yeah, I’m not that into Bond. I always feel that there’s only so much you can expect from him. This does attempt to do things differently and for the most part it works but I still felt it was bit limited.

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  11. Forgot to check on this when it posted… can I link to this next week for my Bond Month Blog-a-thon?

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  12. I must say I liked this one the best out of Craig’s Bonds – Casino Royale was all right, but it was still very much the old formula, here I really liked how Bond girls were very in the background and it was M who had so much story. I agree that Bardem was fantastic, he really did wonders with that character.

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    • You could well be right there Sati. I loved Casino Royale but with the hype surrounding this one, I couldn’t quite buy into it. I really liked the film but when a movie is sooo overhyped, I tend to pick out the faults more. I like to be surprised by films and the lower the key the better I receive it.
      I would probably have rated this higher had the hype not been as relentless.

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  13. Great review, I can’t wait to see this as I’m a huge Bond fan.

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  14. Not feeling you on the decisions that left Silva as an “ordinary” Bond villain. He was exceptional in nearly every way, LOL.

    I will cede that they definitely did seem to be trying to toe the fine line between realism and that fanciful color that the series used to indulge in so much. For the most part, they balanced it very well. If anything, I personally wish theyd sacrifice a little of the realism and go the indulgent route a little more :D !

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    • So you finally got your peepers on it then Fogs? I notice you have a review up. I’ll swing by when I get a chance.

      Without mentioning too much about the ending (for those that haven’t seen it) I found that Silva became a little silly in his actions. The realism angle that they went for didn’t suit his behaviour towards the end and his showdown with Bond was pretty lacklustre to say the least. Before you knew it, it was all over and a little underwhelming. Bardem was superb though. I enjoyed the character and his performance very much but he could have been a bit more Intelligent or cautious in his actions.

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  15. I, like you, am not a huge Bond fan. However I found myself enjoying this more than any other Daniel Craig outing as the lead character. Perhaps it was the “sumptuous cinematography” as you so eloquently put it. There’s something about that scene where Bond and Patrice are fighting atop the Shanghai skyscraper with the glowing neon blue jellyfish floating in the background. It was like WOW. The whole episode was just so entertaining. I was hooked throughout.

    I really enjoyed your review though. I understand why you gave it the rating you did.

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    • It certainly did look superb Mark. There’s no doubt about that. I enjoyed it also but I preferred Casino Royale to this. I found that it went on too long (which is always a problem with Bond movies) and the ending and fate of Silva just didn’t convince me.

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  16. This was my first Bond film and I highly enjoyed it. Going in and knowing nothing other than “shaken not stirred” and that Bond likes to sex the women up I was surprised by the depth shown here as well as the fact that it was visually stunning. Also Q was adorable and I <3 him!!!

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    • I liked that they dropped a lot of the old Bond cliches and I really enjoyed this but the ending let me down a bit, otherwise I’d have rated this slightly higher. If you liked this then go back and check out Casino Royale. That’s probably the best Bond I’ve ever seen.

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      • I watched Casino Royale yesterday actually! The guy I went to see Skyfall with suggested it and Quantum Solace. I liked it okay not as well but dude, James Bond was sooo happy and they just…ugh…it was tragic and it made me sad. I can’t trust Bond movies apparently, always pulling the rug out from under me when I least expect it. ;) I’m curious about what in the ending let you down. I obviously am a newbie so I don’t know the whole Bond lexicon et al so I’m wondering which part it was.

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      • The confrontation between Bond and Silva I found underwhelming. It all ended rather suddenly, despite the film dragging on for 2.5 hours and it resorted to a little Home Alone tactics. I also found that Silva walked around as if he was invincible. For a film that was relying more on the realism factor, it seemed to abandon this at the end.

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      • You are the 2nd person I’ve heard reference Home Alone in regards to Skyfall. I can definitely see the issues there.

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      • Yeah, apart from the underwhelming ending though, I thought Skyfall was good. It looked absolutely stunning and I used to visit that very place in Scotland at the end. It’s a stunning piece of land.

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      • Oh I bet. I so want to visit Scotland. Okay, I want to visit pretty much everywhere but Scotland seems so lovely.

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