SKYFALL – Is It the Best?

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Daniel Craig as James Bond in SKYFALL

Daniel Craig as James Bond in SKYFALL

Blu-Ray Review:  SKYFALL (2012)

by

Michael Arruda

I reviewed SKYFALL (2012) when it opened in theaters this past November.  Back then, there was so much hype about this movie— it’s the Best Bond ever!— Daniel Craig is the best James Bond!— Javier Bardem is the best Bond villain ever!— “Skyfall” by Adele is the best Bond song ever!— you get the idea.

As a huge fan of the James Bond franchise, I was really looking forward to SKYFALL, especially since I liked the previous two Daniel Craig Bond films very much.  In fact, they were among my favorite films of the series.

But the hype—the unbelievable hype—really got in the way of this one when I first saw it, and suddenly SKYFALL was competing with unbeatable ideals.  And while I certainly liked it, liked it a lot actually, I found myself downplaying it because I was comparing it to these ideals, stating that it wasn’t the best Bond, that it didn’t have the best Bond theme song, and it all sounded more critical than it actually was.

I was eager to see it again, to gage my feelings, to see if they had changed, to see if perhaps the hype had clouded my judgment.

I’ll say immediately that upon re-watching SKYFALL, I found it pretty much the same as when I saw it in theaters:  a very, very good James Bond thriller, but not the best, not by a long shot.

I’ll add that the picture quality of the Blu-ray copy I watched was phenomenal.  Crystal clear, it may have looked better than when I saw it at the theater.  That’s pretty amazing.

SKYFALL tells a solid story, but at the end of the day, it’s not very Bond-like.  I really don’t want to hold this against the movie, because I’ve enjoyed the direction the Daniel Craig films have taken.  They’ve done a nice job reinventing the franchise.  I’ve enjoyed the darker more realistic Bond stories, but in this case, there may have been a little too much background.  I didn’t really need to know Bond’s background story of how he became an orphan.  Besides, it was a little too close to the Bruce Wayne/Batman story for my liking.

For the most part, I liked the plot, a tale of a former operative of M’s seeking vengeance against her.  On the other hand, it would have been so much easier for him had he simply shot M as opposed to creating the elaborate plan which serves as the plot for this movie.

I do like Javier Bardem as Silva, the baddie in this one.  I liked him the first time I saw the film too, even if his character is reminiscent of the Joker in THE DARK KNIGHT (2008).  I also liked that M (Judi Dench) had more to do in this movie.  The supporting cast is also very good.

And Daniel Craig is an excellent James Bond.  He seemed to fall comfortably into the role immediately, in his first scenes of CASINO ROYALE (2006).  To nitpick, I actually enjoyed him a bit less here.  I didn’t really enjoy scenes of him fighting to get back his edge.  It seems as if he had just become a 00 agent, licensed to kill, and suddenly here in SKYFALL he’s already over the hill?  It was too soon for this.

SKYFALL is an adequate Bond thriller, with a solid beginning and an intriguing middle.  It really takes off once Bond finally meets Silva.  From their first encounter on Silva’s island, to Silva’s imprisonment, to his escape through the subways of London, to the audacious attempt to assassinate M in broad daylight, for these thirty minutes of film, the movie soars and does rank among the best of the Bonds.  If the entire film had this intensity level, then I would agree that it was the best Bond ever.

But after this sequence, Bond and M flee to Bond’s childhood home, called Skyfall, where they hunker down to await Silva’s inevitable attack.  This ending kills the pacing of the film, and is reminiscent not of any previous Bond movies but of HOME ALONE (1990) as Bond and M booby trap the house to defend against their heavily armed attackers.

In terms of pacing, SKYFALL reminded me somewhat of the Sean Connery Bond film, THUNDERBALL (1965).  THUNDERBALL is one of my favorite Bond movies, yet the first third of that film, where Bond is at a health spa, is terribly slow.  The one advantage THUNDERBALL has over SKYFALL is that its slow parts come at the beginning, not at the end.

So where does SKYFALL rank?  Honestly, I’m still not sure. Even in terms of the Craig Bond films I’m not sure.  I loved both CASINO ROYALE and QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2009), finding them both efficient hard hitting Bond films.  In those terms, SKYFALL is less efficient, but it’s also far more ambitious.  Is it a cop-out to say I like all three Daniel Craig Bond films equally as well?  Because that’s where I am right now.

In terms of how it ranks among all the Bond films, SKYFALL is a very good James Bond movie.  All the Daniel Craig movies have been very good.  I’d even go so far to say they’re excellent.  I would place all three of the Daniel Craig films in my Top 10 list of favorite Bond films, but I wouldn’t place any of them as #1.  Does this really matter, though?  Top 10 is still pretty darned good!

I will say that the “Skyfall” theme song has grown on me since the film was first released.  But, alas, it’s not my #1 James Bond theme either.

So the message of today’s column? It’s simple, really.  SKYFALL is a very good James Bond movie, and the fact that it’s not the best James Bond movie shouldn’t be a knock against it.

The competition is a little fierce.

—-Michael

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My Top 10 BOND Songs

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LIVE AND LET DIE sung by Paul McCartney and Wings

LIVE AND LET DIE sung by Paul McCartney and Wings

The SKYFALL theme by Adele just won the Oscar for Best Original Song.   This is actually the first time a Bond film has won in this category, which is really cool.  Don’t get me wrong, SKYFALL is a great song, and it continues to grow on me, but it’s not my favorite Bond song. 

 Here’s my list of the Top 10 James Bond songs:

 10. A VIEW TO A KILL sung by Duran Duran

9. “You Know My Name” from CASINO ROYALE (2006) sung by Chris Cornell

8. THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS sung by A-ha

7. “Another Way to Die” from QUANTUM OF SOLACE sung by Alicia Keys & Jack White

6. DIE ANOTHER DAY sung by Madonna

5. THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN sung by Lulu

4. SKYFALL sung by Adele

3. THUNDERBALL sung by Tom Jones

2. GOLDFINGER sung by Shirley Bassey

1. LIVE AND LET DIE sung Paul McCartney & Wings

 

 And since all three of the Daniel Craig films’ theme songs made it onto my list, I guess I’m partial to these new songs.  All I know for sure is LIVE AND LET DIE was the first James Bond movie I ever saw— got to see it at the movies— and I loved the theme song then and I enjoy it even more today.

 Incidentally, LIVE AND LET DIE was also nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song in 1974 but lost to “The Way We Were” by Marvin Hamlisch, the same song sung this week at the 2013 Oscars by Barbra Streisand honoring Hamlisch who passed in 2012.

 —Michael