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Skyfall

Reviews
by Leonard Maltin
November 9, 2012 1:00 AM
7 Comments
  • |
Photo by Francois Duhamel - ©2012 Danjaq, United Artists, Columbia Pictures

Not to mince words, Skyfall is a knockout—the best James Bond movie in years. Its canny blend of ingredients is sure to entertain any audience but I think Bond enthusiasts will relish it most, as it draws on our familiarity with the series’ many touchstones. By tipping its hat to those traditions and tropes it acknowledges that there is history and tradition behind this globe-trotting thriller…yet everything about it seems utterly contemporary.

Tradition number one is to open a 007 film with a breathtaking action scene. Check! This one has a pulse-pounding chase involving an exotic location, spectacular stunts, split-second timing, and just enough believability to make you grip the arms of your theater seat.

We expect to see beautiful women. Check! Naomie Harris is well cast as one of Bond’s able colleagues in MI6, and Bérénice Marlohe is appropriately exotic as a Eurasian femme fatale.

Of course, there must be a colorful villain who is larger than life. Check! The already imposing Javier Bardem, sporting blond hair and a lunatic grin, is one of the more notable Bond bad guys of recent memory…the kind you actually believe when he looks joyful watching his mayhem unfold.

To those who haven’t warmed to Daniel Craig, I would say this is his best showcase yet. It allows him to display the wit and insouciance we associate with 007—which was downplayed in Casino Royale andQuantum of Solace—along with the other qualities that make him who he is. An unexpectedly layered relationship with Judi Dench as M, his usually unflappable boss, extends Bond’s range of emotions even further.

Photo by Francois Duhamel - ©2012 Danjaq, United Artists, Columbia Pictures

The screenplay is credited to Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (who have penned four Bond adventures, including the previous two) and the prodigiously talented and prolific John Logan. Director Sam Mendes is not normally associated with thrillers or action movies, but perhaps that’s why this one resonates more than usual: he concentrated on the human factor and trusted his expert colleagues to help in other areas. He also assembled a world-class team, including cinematographer Roger Deakins, editor Stuart Baird, and production designer Dennis Gassner, to name just a few. The costarring cast includes Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Rory Kinnear, and the redoubtable Albert Finney, who’s always a welcome presence.

Let’s not overlook music. Check again! Another newcomer to the series, Thomas Newman, has provided a fresh, robust score that also pays homage to the Bond legacy. The title song, co-written and sung by Adele, is already a hit.

Finally, we can’t forget the main title sequence, an essential part of every 007 production since the days of Robert Brownjohn and Maurice Binder. A most emphatic check! Daniel Kleinman comes through with a dazzling piece of cutting-edge cinema for his sixth encounter with James Bond.

Skyfall is already earning rave reviews, and justifiably so. It’s superior filmmaking that also happens to be extraordinarily entertaining. That’s a combination we don’t see often enough.

Images from Skyfall

  • Photo by Francois Duhamel - ©2012 Danjaq, United Artists, Columbia Pictures
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    Daniel Craig and Bérénice Marlohe
  • Photo by Francois Duhamel - ©2012 Danjaq, United Artists, Columbia Pictures
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    Ralph Fiennes
  • Photo by Francois Duhamel - ©2012 Danjaq, United Artists, Columbia Pictures
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    Judi Dench returns for a seventh time round as M
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    Naomie Harris plays Eve
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    Ben Whishaw as Q
  • Photo by Francois Duhamel - ©2012 Danjaq, United Artists, Columbia Pictures
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    Javier Bardem
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  • Photo by Francois Duhamel - ©2012 Danjaq, United Artists, Columbia Pictures
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    Silva (Bardem) taunts Bond
  • Photo by Francois Duhamel - ©2012 Danjaq, United Artists, Columbia Pictures
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    Ola Rapace as Patrice
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    Director Sam Mendes confers with Daniel Craig
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7 Comments

  • Kevin T | November 15, 2012 9:05 PMReply

    I thought it was a good film, mercifully far better than Quantum Of Solace which is the only entry in the 50 year series I find unwatchable, but I'm not sure I like the idea of 007 going in the direction of The Dark Knight, with Bond films becoming bloated, self-serious epics dealing with real-world terrorism. There's enough of that in the movies, what's wrong with 2 hours of fun once in a while?

  • Patrick M. Gouin | November 14, 2012 1:50 PMReply

    I have never been a great fan of James Bond, our favorite movie psychopath for 50 years now. The one and only Bond movie that drew me to the theater was Diamonds are forever, in 1971. I went not so much for Connery’s Bond with his smug attitude, but his Bond girl, Jill St-John, who was my secret love at the time and even more so, when I found myself sitting in front of her on the Expo-Express at Expo 67, in Montréal. For sure over the years I saw bits and pieces of Bond movies on late night television, but that is pretty much the extent of my experience.
    So why did I go to the cinema this time? Well, because of Daniel Craig this actor who continues to impress, notably in the Millennium remake. Add to that, the almost unanimous reviews stating that it is a good Bond movie, maybe the best to date. So, it did not appear to me that I was going to sit through a bomb.
    Is it as good as they say? Affirmative. It’s 2 and half hours of continuous action, of intelligent dialogue and nice kudos to the past 50 years of the series. The return of the classic DB5 is a good example. The Bond franchise was getting long in the tooth for at least a decade, if not more. Skyfall marks a sharp departure with the past and bodes well for the future.

  • Jason | November 12, 2012 4:58 PMReply

    I have to say, after reading this review (and the others) praising the film I had kinda of a "show-me" attitude. However even I was blown away about how good 'Skyfall' is. If it's not the best Bond film it's certainly up there and brings back pleasant memories of Connery and Moore at their best while still keeping with more modern themes.

  • Jeffrey | November 11, 2012 1:13 AMReply

    I never thought those on the left would start agitating in the arena of cinema. But I guess eventually you get to see it all.

  • Norm | November 10, 2012 12:14 PMReply

    That's right, we need more women with facial hair and that resemble Popeye...The Libs would approve of that...

  • Stavros | November 9, 2012 4:56 PMReply

    Thank you, Ms. Usher! That was, without a doubt, the funniest tounge-in-cheek review I've ever read!

  • Meredith Usher | November 9, 2012 10:58 AMReply

    While having no qualms about the acting in SKYFALL, I was disappointed with its uniquely reactionary approach to gender and geopolitics. The women including Judi Dench are all portrayed with a curious physical powerlessness, such that the message is women should be desk-bound rather than in the field. Bardem's character appears to be a demonization of internet hackers like Julian Asssange, whose freedom of information crusade is patronizingly characterized in cheap Freudian terms as a neurotic's childish revenge. Even the idea of civilian oversight of the Secret Service is ridiculed in a melodramatic demonstration of the impotence and ignorance of British MPs in the face of violent confrontation. I couldn't help thinking, Karl Rove would certainly approve.

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