A couple weeks late, we have a review of the new James Bond film, Skyfall.

Cast and Crew

Daniel Craig as James Bond
Judi Dench as M
Naomi Harris as Eve Moneypenny
Ben Whishaw as Q
Javier Bardem as Silva
Rory Kinnear as Bill Tanner
Albert Finney as Kincaide
Bérénice Marlohe as Sévérine
Ralph Fiennes as Gareth Mallory

Directed by Sam Mendes
Music by Thomas Newman
Written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan
James Bond Created by Ian Fleming

The Premise

After Bond is wounded and presumed killed while attempting to stop a hard drive full of the identities of MI6 undercover agents in terror cells from getting out, MI6 itself comes under attack, and M in particular. 007 must come back from the “dead” to hunt down the person responsible.

High Points

Javier Bardem as Silva is, frankly, the best Bond villain in the entire franchise. The character takes a lot from Heath Ledger’s Joker in all the right ways. Further, he has a great backstory, and a Fleming-esque physical trait that makes him distinctive, but is also plausible and fits in with the tone of the Craig series.

Additionally, the opening credits theme, by Adele, and the credits that go with them are excellent (and I’d also say that this is one of my favorite Bond Opening Credits sequences).

Low Points

The film’s score feels a little off. It doesn’t quite have what I’d consider the “Bond feel” – focusing a lot on synth and procession  instead of strings, brass, and minor keys.

Also, some elements of Silva’s plan don’t quite work – particularly in how he pulls off the bombing at MI6 that we see in the trailer, as well as the messages he leaves to M on her computer.

Scores

Originality: Silva is new for the Bond series, but the character himself isn’t totally original, as he steps into territory that Batman has gone into before. The McGuffin itself is technically one that has appeared in the Brian De Palma Mission: Impossible film. Still, in spite of all the elements that have been done before in this film, the pieces come together in a why that feels very new, particularly with Bond. 4/6

Effects: The effects here look really good. A lot of the effects were generally practical, except in places where they clearly couldn’t have done things practically (like a not-unconscious human getting mauled by a gila monster), look alright, though the CG kind of stands out because it’s a thing that they probably couldn’t get away with shooting practically. 5/6

Story: The story has some hiccups on the micro level (the execution of the MI6 attack, some of the elements of his plan later in the story), but at the macro level everything works incredibly well. 5/6

Acting: As of this writing, no actor has been nominated for an Academy Award for a performance in a Bond film. If there is any justice in this world, Javier Bardem will get his fourth Academy Award nomination for this movie. However, to be clear, the rest of the cast is no slouch either – Judi Dench also puts in a fantastic performance in what will be her final film playing M. 6/6

Emotional Response: Hoo boy. Eve and Bond have some fantastic chemistry together (which is good because that chemistry is going to have to carry over to the most famous ongoing film flirtation in cinema history). Judi Dench basically owned the role of M the moment she came on screen in Goldeneye, and in this film she really makes it clear why she’s the best M in the series. Ralph Fiennes has the tough gig of having to carry over from obstructive bureaucrat to the new M, with the passing of the torch that entails. Oh, and there is just the sheer level of “I need to take a shower” creepy that Silva brings into every scene. And there’s finally the whole matter of Judi Dench’s M being the only M to be killed in the line of duty.6/6

Production: It’s safe to say that for a long portion of the Bond franchise, while the films have been shot well, I’d say that not much art was put into the cinematography of the series. Sure, a lot of thought was put into the semi-psychedelic opening credits sequences, and Scaramanga’s somewhat underwhelming obstacle course in Man with the Golden Gun, but it’s not quite the same as some of the stuff we have here – in terms of framing of the shots and use of lighting and reflection, among other things. In particular, there’s one fight scene (which we get a glimpse of in the trailer) which does a great job of executing the “two people fighting in silhouette against a colorful background” thing that you also see in the works of Seijun Suzuki. 5/6

Overall: This is in my top 5 films in the franchise, up there with Casino Royale, The Living Daylights, and License to Kill. This film really solidifies Daniel Craig as one of the best Bonds, and Judi Dench as the best M all time. 6/6.

In total, Skyfall gets 37/42.