Back in November, HMSS intended to put out a “best of” issue that included reviews for Skyfall. For real-life reasons, that didn’t occur. This is one of the reviews intended for that never-produced issue, written shortly after release. After the review, there’s an epilogue.
One of the most satisfying moments of Skyfall makes no sense from a logical standpoint.
Daniel Craig’s James Bond whisks Judi Dench’s M from an assassination attempt by Silva (Javier Bardem), the film’s villain. Bond takes his superior to some sort of storage facility where an Aston Martin DB5 awaits.
That moment gets a big rise from theater audiences (at least the three times I saw it). But is this the same car that Craig-Bond won in a poker game in Casino Royale? Was it subsequently outfitted with the exact same gadgets (at least the machine guns and ejector seat) the car had in Goldfinger?
Ehhh, forgettaboutit. At least, if you do, Skyfall is a fun ride.
The 23rd James Bond movie comes four years after Quantum of Solace, its predecessor. During Quantum’s production, Eon Productions was *way too serious* about why that movie was important. We were told that 2006’s Casino Royale had such a compelling story the filmmakers had no choice except to begin the next 007 movie immediately thereafter. Thus, Quantum began two minutes or two hours (Eon wasn’t consistent on this point) from the end of Casino. Thus, Eon, in effect, asked the audience to compare Quantum to its predecessor. Except that M had totally redecorated her office and Mathis had gone from being interrogated in two minutes/two hours to again being Bond’s ally. Oops.
Skyfall and its director Sam Mendes don’t invite any comparisons to earlier Daniel Craig 007 movies. Bond was a rookie and now he’s older and seemingly washed up? Forgetaboutit. Don’t worry about the past and take Skyfall on its own terms. On that basis, the new Bond movie is satisfying.
Skyfall isn’t perfect. Bond recruits Severine (Berenice Marlohe) to help him meet Silva. To say he lets her down is an understatement. These things happen but it would have helped to have one shot — just ONE SHOT — of Craig-Bond showing some remorse after Severine ends up dead. You know, like Sean Connery’s Bond with Tilly in Goldfinger or his Bond with Paula in Thunderball. Instead, he displays no reaction but has a chest-thumping, moment of gloating when U.K. holicopters show up over Silva’s headquarters. Meanwhile, Severine’s corpse is slumped over while Bond gloats.
The movie has some first-time 007 contributors. Roger Deakins’s photography is a big plus. The director of photography produces a number of striking images (particularly in the Shanghai sequence) but his best work highlights every wrinkle on the face of Dench’s aging M, making clear that the character has seen too much, done too much and is quite tired and exhausted.
Thomas Newman, not know for doing scores to action movies, moves things along. Newman occasionally evokes both John Barry and the Batman triology directed by Christopher Nolan, which featured music by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard. Newman, though, is a pro and his score reflects that. Once again, the Bond filmmakers felt they couldn’t put the famous 007 gunbarrel logo at the start of the movie. Newman, though, pulls a musical trick that reminds us of the sequence. There was no good reason not to include the logo at the start of the movie but Newman does enough that the lack of the logo isn’t as bad as it could have been.
Bardem as Skyfall’s villain is mostly a plus but, near the end, goes the proverbial Bridge Too Far. In the climatic sequence, where he has his final confrontation with M, it’s as if Bardem wants to tell the audience, “Look! I’m acting!” We get it that Silva is on the edge. But Bardem just goes too far. He’s like Paul Newman in 1974’s The Towering Inferno where the actor wants to assure his fans he’s not just cashing a big paycheck. In the climatic scene, Bardem should have dialed it back a bit.
The end of the movie, with a new M (Ralph Fiennes) and a new Moneypenny sets up the series to continue while evoking the earlier Bond films. We’ll see what the future has in store but Skyfall works well enough. GRADE: B-Plus.
Anything change after watching it on home video? Not that much. A friend who doesn’t like the movie commented how, in the old Bond movies, the titles would have started almost immediately after Bond hit the water near the end of the pre-titles sequence. Instead, we get a couple of minutes of a morose M, Tanner and other MI6 employees. That’s still not enough and we’re taken to an MI6 window and see it has started raining.
“Cue the rain?” the friend said. “Cue the rain?” He had a point but I could overlook it. But, as posted here before, there are other things that are best to overlook to enjoy the movie. If don’t want to overlook such issues, like the Aston Martin DB5, you’re going to rate it lower, in some cases much lower.
Also, there’s no way the DB5 in Skyfall could have been the same car as in Casino Royale. The steering wheel was on the other side and you’d have to rebuild the car to switch the steering wheel from the left side to the right. The Skyfall DB5 is a tribute to Goldfinger, pure and simple.
UPDATE: Called as Aston Martin dealer. At least on a newer model, it’s possible to switch a steering wheel from the right to the left and vice versa. It would cost in excess of $40,000. Didn’t ask if that was specifically possible on a 1964 DB5.
Filed under: James Bond Films Tagged: | Aston Martin DB5, Belated Skyfall review, Berenice Marlohe, Bond 23, Casino Royale, Christopher Nolan, Daniel Craig, Hans Zimmer, HMSS belated reviews of Skyfall, James Bond Films, James Newton Howard, Javier Bardem, Paul Newman, Quantum of Solace, Roger Deakins, Sam Mendes, Skyfall, The Towering Inferno, Thomas Newman