Roundhouse Review: “Skyfall”

After four long years, Bond is back in “Skyfall”. We sent our Actioncast hosts out to the theaters to give their take on the return of Daniel Craig in company. Was it fine return to form like “Casino Royale”? Or did it fail to dazzle like “Quantum of Solace”? Read below to find out.

MGM pulled out all the stops for the 50th anniversary of Bond this year and the best tribute so far is Skyfall, easily one of the best Bond movies ever that reevaluates Bond’s place in the 21st century while dropping massive amounts of fan service for long time Bond fans.

As opposed the world ending scenarios of past Bonds, Skyfall takes a more personal route as M is targeted by a former agent, Raoul Silva, who wants revenge as he hold M responsible for his eventual imprisonment and torture by the Chinese.  Bond must return from the dead to protect M and also must face his past and an uncertain future with spies seemingly becoming relics in the world of UAVs and smart bombs.

First and foremost when talking about Skyfall, Javier Bardem is absolutely amazing as Silva.  He has the ruthlessness and planning of The Joker combined with the creepy flamboyancy of Buffalo Bill and is easily one of the best Bond villains.  The only negative is that it takes almost halfway through the movie for him to show up but once he is on screen, he controls it.  Daniel Craig continues to kill it as Bond and he brings the most depth we’ve ever seen to the character.  Die Another Day toyed with the idea of Bond being not up to field work after months of torture in North Korea but a quick bedding of his nurse and he’s back to active duty, none the worse for wear.  In Skyfall, Bond is severely damaged and it’s first time you get the sense that Bond is an actual person and not an indestructible superhero.  Judi Dench is great as always too and continues to have great back and forth with Craig’s Bond.  Fans of the series have been waiting for Q to come back and Ben Whishaw does a great job differentiating the character from his previous incarnations.  He seems to be more than a little inspired by Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock.  As if that wasn’t enough, Ralph Fiennes is also fantastic and a great addition to the recurring cast.  The only downside would be the Bond girls.  They are both OK but neither of them really rise above the middle of the Bond girl spectrum.
Action wise, Skyfall has some spectacular sequences.  The opening chase is fantastic and never lets up, leading right into the stunning opening credits sequence for Adele’s “Skyfall”.

There is also a gorgeous fight scene in Shanghai where Bond takes on an assassin while both are backlit by neon signs and appear in silhouette.  The entire movie is shot stunningly from an island casino in Macau covered in neon dragons to Silva’s abandoned island fortress to London, the movie features some of the most interesting locations of Bond yet.  The finale is also fantastic and it’s a wonderful change of pace to not have some madman with a giant laser or nuclear bomb but just this struggle between these two men who are basically opposite sides of the same coin.

If you were let down by Quantum of Solace, Skyfall brings the franchise back to top level with an amazing villain, fantastic action and locales and the most in depth look into Bond’s character that I think we have ever seen.  If you are a Bond fan and haven’t seen Skyfall yet, stop what you’re doing and go see it right now.

 

There’s a word that gets thrown around throughout “Skyfall” and that is “old-fashioned”. It’s mainly used as an adjective for an aging Bond, but it could also apply to the series itself.

In 2006, the Daniel Craig era got off to a bang with the best Bond in years: “Casino Royale”. Any doubt that Craig wasn’t right for the role were dashed in the short yet powerful opening scene.

While “Casino Royale” started things on the right foot, “Quantum of Solace” stalled on the get-go. There were a number of factors that contributed to this film’s demise: the boring plot of Bond avenging Vesper Lynd’s death, Olga Kurylenko’s uninspiring Bond girl, or no real menacing villain. But as fans of this series know, time and time again, even when a stinker Bond movie rears its head, redemption is soon to follow.

“Skyfall” is that redemption. It’s hard to say exactly why, but at the basic level this Bond is much more exciting. Take the opening scene for example, which has Bond in fisticuffs against a baddie on a train. When his sidekick Eve is struggling to take a shot between the dueling two, she accidentally ends up shooting Bond, who plummets off a bridge into the waters below. He’s presumed dead.

As M and MI6 prepare to give James Bond his last rites, a more serious threat has taken place. Someone has gotten a hold of that data Bond was trying to recover, and is now turning it into a full attack on MI6.

We later find out this person is the psychotic Raoul Silva, played with an Oscar-caliber performance by Javier Bardem. Silva is a former agent who found himself giving everything to his country, but was burned by MI6, sparking his own revolution against the British secret service.

Bond comes back from the shadows of his death to take on Silva – who always seems to be one step ahead. With all avenues exhausted, Bond shacks up with M in his Scottish childhood home of Skyfall, plotting an ambush for Silva and his men. This sets up the exhilarating third act of the film, which finds Bond and M trying to take down this nuisance once and for all.

“Skyfall” is one of those movies where you won’t really know how you feel about it until it’s all over. During the film, I found myself wishing for more action or suspense. But when it was all over, I was extremely satisfied. (That’s before I factor in the spoiler-riffic ending.) It helps that this film has an awesome cast. Bardem is simply mesmerizing as the ruthless Silva, and Judi Dench brings it all to the table in M’s biggest performance yet.

After the doldrums of “Quantum”, it’s great to see Craig and company get things back on the right foot. As the sultry Eve coos to Bond early in the film, maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks.

 

 

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