007 – the Daniel Craig years 3: Skyfall

Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond movie by Eon Productions, released on the 50th anniversary of Dr. No. It remains the most profitable movie in the franchise, earning $1.109 billion, being the first and only movie in the franchise to crack that 7 digit barrier. At the time of release, it was the 14th movie to cross the billion dollar mark, and the seventh highest grossing movie of all-time. It remains Sony’s highest grossing movie, the UK’s highest grossing movie, and it was the second highest earning movie of 2012, behind only The Avengers. On that note, it beat out The Dark Knight Rises and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (both also earning over $1 billion). By any standard, Skyfall was very successful.

Even though Quantum of Solace released in 2008, and they started planning its follow up pretty much right away, production for Skyfall got delayed throughout 2010 because of MGM’s financial troubles. After they exited from chapter 11 bankruptcy in December of that year, they officially gave Skyfall a release date in November of 2012. Also, due to Sony and MGM registering websites like jamesbond-skyfall.com and skyfallthefilm.com, people guessed the title of the movie months before they announced it at a press conference. At the press conference, producer Barbara Broccoli said the title held “some emotional context which will be revealed in the film.”

There aren’t too many stories about the casting of the film, apart from how the producers briefly considered offering the villain role to none other than Sean Connery. Not sure how that would work, considering Connery had retired from acting back in 2006. When rumors popped up that he’d be appearing in Indiana Jones 4, he quashed the rumors, saying “retirement is just too much damned fun.” Of course, the producers eventually decided that would be too distracting anyway, even if that would have been fun.

Director Sam Mendes, who previously worked with Daniel Craig in Road to Perdition, signed onto the project shortly after Quantum of Solace’s release. He remained on board as a consultant during MGM’s financial situation. He apparently met Daniel Craig at a stage production of A Steady Rain (which Craig starred in along with Hugh Jackman), where Craig encouraged him to take on a Bond movie. Mendes, reluctant at first, agreed after meeting with producers Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. The direction they wanted to take intrigued him.

The Skyfall theme song, sung by Adele, is actually the first Bond theme song in history to win the Academy Award for Best Original Song, out of the four times they’ve been nominated up to that point. It’s a haunting tune, utilizing many of Adele’s talents as a singer and a lyricist (along with her regular writer, Paul Epworth). Skyfall also won the Academy Award for sound editing, with three more nominations for Best Original Score, Best Sound Mixing and Best Cinematography. All of those nominations were well deserved.

Speaking of the cinematography, it’s breathtaking – easily the best we’ve seen so far in a Bond movie. Skyfall takes place in a number of beautiful locations, and the camera makes great use of them with not only extended longshots, but creative angles. It’s hard to come up with any specific examples because there really isn’t a bad moment from a visual standpoint. It’s a far cry from the excessive shaky cam in Quantum Of Solace.

But good cinematography alone is not enough to make a good movie, nor is a great theme song and fantastic sound editing. Thankfully though, that’s not all that’s great about this movie. The story takes a deep look into multiple aspects of the Bond franchise. After the MI6 suffers a cyber-attack/bombing, questions arise from the Prime Minister over the direction that MI6 is heading under M’s guidance. This movie focuses on M as a character far more than any Bond movie before it, and Judi Dench gives her best performance in the role yet. It’s hard not to question some of the decisions she makes in this movie, but you fully realize that she’s doing what she thinks is best for her country.

Beyond the focus on M and the MI6’s intelligence community as a whole, you’ve also got a great dynamic between Bond and the main villain, Raoul Silva. Silva, played by Javier Bardem, is a former MI6 operative turned cyberterrorist. The movie explains his history well enough so I won’t go into detail here, but he feels a great sense of betrayal for how MI6 seemingly left him to die. However, MI6 has good reasons to feel he betrayed them as well.

Bond, who himself was shot by a fellow MI6 operative (well played by Naomie Harris) at the start of the movie, has every reason to feel just as betrayed as Silva does. In fact he shows it quite blatantly to M early in the movie. Yet Skyfall also highlights the key difference between Bond and Silva – Bond’s love for his country. Bond’s morality and sense of duty is enough for him to get past whatever reservations he may have with MI6, whereas Silva’s mission is all about revenge and personal gain.

The dynamic between M and Bond is also highlighted deeper in this movie than ever before, and that’s a major part of why this movie works. Ever since Dench began her role as M in Goldeneye, she clearly doesn’t like Bond on a personal level. She often questions his methods and at times, his competence and self-control. However, despite the fact that they have a lot of disagreements, there’s at least a grudging respect for each other. They both realize their mutual love for their country and their mutual sense of duty, even if their methods often clash. After they go on the run, to try and gain the upper hand over Silva, it’s made clear that in a strange way, they do care about each other. Their last moment shared on screen perfectly exemplifies this. This is Judi Dench’s final performance in the role, and she went out with a masterful performance.

The action in this movie is really good too. The opening sequence is a multi-layered chase, beginning with a car pursuit, and then it becomes a rooftop motorcycle chase. This epic opening eventually becomes a fight atop a train. There are other great action scenes as well, like the fight in a fancily lit building in Shanghai at night, a chase in London’s underground that culminates in a courthouse shootout, and the finale taking place in Bond’s childhood home, complete with lethal traps, a helicopter, and an emotional finale. The action isn’t as good as Casino Royale’s, but it’s still very good and well varied, making great use of tactical thinking on both sides of the conflict. Some of the action is also more low key, and that works in its own way.

It’s also worth noting how entertaining Bardem’s performance is as Silva. He’s often flamboyant, proud of what he’s accomplished and how easily he seems to be outsmarting MI6. He’s got a level of charm that can match even Roger Moore at his best, and Moore was the most charming of all the Bond actors. It’s great how he smirks any time he’s commanding his helicopter in the final shootout, as if he thinks of it as a toy. Beyond his performance, the writing behind his character makes it easy to sympathize with his rage, even if he takes it way too far.

(As someone who’s been doing a lot of swimming lately, I’ve got to say, Craig seems to have good form. It can also be very good for injury recovery, so it’s a nice touch. And again, this is an example of the movie’s brilliant cinematography.)

Another aspect of this movie that works very well is Bond’s recovery. At the end of the opening sequence, Bond is shot by accident by Naomie Harris’s character (I won’t spoil her name), by M’s command to try and hit their real target. He spends most of the movie with a weakened shoulder, to the point where it’s even affecting his aim with a gun. He’s also clearly depressed and mentally unfit. However, his sense of duty and determination is able to push through that depression. His shoulder and aim also clearly improve as the movie goes on. It’s a neat element that’s somewhat borrowed from The World is Not Enough, but as much as Pierce Brosnan handled that well, it’s done even better here, tying directly into the story. Silva even uses this to tempt Bond to join his side.

(The new Q, played by Ben Winshaw, is good too.)

I’m not alone in my praise for this movie. Skyfall earned a 92% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average critic score of 8.2/10. The New York Times considered Skyfall “a superior follow-up to Casino Royale.” Roger Ebert gave it 4 out of 4 stars, describing it as “a full-blooded, joyous, intelligent celebration of a beloved cultural icon.” The Sunday Times considered Craig’s performance as “an authoritive Bond persona, dry and intelligent.” Critics in general agreed that Craig’s performance in Skyfall is his best. It’s just as raw and intense as in Casino Royale, but also more refined and confident. That said, some critics felt the movie was too long for its own good, and some didn’t like the third act as much as the rest of the movie. Personally I think it’s still great, but it does take on a different tone and pace that might throw some people off.

Now for the fun part of this blog post – the kill counter.

Bond kills – 17

Other’s kills – 23

Total kill count – 40

Sean Connery’s total kill count – 72

George Lazenby’s total kill count – 5

Roger Moore’s total kill count – 90

Timothy Dalton’s total kill count – 23

Pierce Brosnan’s total kill count – 135

Daniel Craig’s running kill count – 44

Skyfall might actually be my favourite movie in the franchise. The story takes a deep look into the franchise as a whole, as well as its key characters. It perhaps works better on a dramatic level than it does on a story level, and the story is very good. The action, while not quite as good as Casino Royale, is still up there with the best fight scenes in the franchise. My only complaint is that Silva’s plan feels like it’s just a little too perfect, like somehow knowing pretty much exactly when certain trains will be in which tunnels (you’ll know it when you see it). But compared to how awesome this movie is, that’s a small complaint.

Next up is the one Bond movie we haven’t looked at for this series yet, Spectre. Opinions on Spectre seem to vary wildly, but most people agree it’s not as good as Skyfall. Then I’ll be done with movie posts at least until December, after NaNoWriMo. I might try to read a novel and post a review instead though, because I haven’t done enough of that this year.

About healed1337

I am a relatively new comic book fan writing this blog for other new comic book fans and/or people who are interested in comics but don't know where to start. I've always been interested in writing, to the point where I have a college Creative Writing Certificate and I'm currently a year 2 Journalism student. I also have another blog where I mostly make fun of bad movies - www.healed1337.blogspot.com As for how I got into comics, I've always had a passing interest in superheroes: most notably Batman, Spider-man and the X-Men. Until February of 2011 (I think,) my only experience with any of these franchises came from the movies and video games. Shortly after I bought Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 however, I decided to check out X-23, Wolverine's female clone. I ended up reading her Innocence Lost origin story and enjoyed it. From there, I started reading various X-Men comics and it quickly exploded into my newest hobby. My other interests/hobbies include video games, movies, music, playing sports, my dogs and weird news.
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7 Responses to 007 – the Daniel Craig years 3: Skyfall

  1. Paul Bowler says:

    I really like Skyfall, its without doubt Daniel Craig’s finest hour in the role so far. Everything about Skyfall is just about perfect, from the theme tune, to the great characterization, villain, big action set-pieces, and beautiful cinemaphatography Skyfall has it all. I love the dynamic between Bond and M as well. A great Bond film, and one think I’d go as far to say probably one of the best of all.

    Like

  2. One of the best movies of the franchise. Loved just about everything about it. I did however find the villain a bit predictable though. And, if I remember correctly, I felt like there were too many similarities in the strategies employed by him that looked like what the Joker does in the Dark Knight.

    Like

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