Nick Nunziata: The James Bond franchise is back at the top of the A-List for as long as Daniel Craig and gang want it to be after a slight hiccup. The series has recaptured the forward momentum of the now-classic Casino Royale and built upon it with an Oscar-winning director, the best cinematographer in the world, and a serious chip on its shoulder. The significance of the title is more tangential [forced] than many before it but this is by far the most personal film in the series as well as the one which really seems to have a swagger that is hard to ignore. It’s not the perfect Bond film but this is the crispest outing yet and the marriage of 007 and Sam Mendes is a stout one.
Steve Murphy: Thankfully, long gone are the days of Pierce Brosnan prancing about in his invisible car, trading tired one liners with uninspired costars. Craig’s 3rd outing continues the rejuvenation of the character with a powerful and confident statement, which was essential following the 4 year layoff – the longest ever between films without a change in 007’s. Craig’s Bond is older, craggier (Cragier?) and more unstable than any previous version of the character (Lazenby’s end scene in OHMSS is the only prior comparison, in terms of vulnerability). And while several Bond films have suffered from severe sluggishness, I felt Skyfall succeeded in the pacing department.
Nick Nunziata: It did, but not without some hiccups. For example, Javier Bardem doesn’t make an appearance until somewhere near the halfway point. Though the 007 movies have their own formula and structure it is odd though not unprecedented. Because Raoul Silva is played by a decorated international superstar, one would expect a little more delicious adversarial conflict with Bond throughout the film. It works in context due to the setup for the story’s main thrust but it also puts a lot of heavy lifting on the internal MI6 issues that populate the film’s first hour. Luckily Naomie Harris makes for a fun enough foil and the addition of Ralph Fiennes gives the series a major shot of class and firepower. In the recent past these films have slogged when the bureaucracy came to the fore but here it truly does feel like a well rounded actual film.
Steve Murphy: I actually love how long it takes for the film to get to Silva, my only issue was I felt the buildup for him could have been deeper. Essentially all we get is Severine’s nervousness, a bomb going off and a cyber attack that seems to have originated from the mid 90’s. His reveal is great, and the subsequent face-off is tense and already a classic Bond scene, I just wanted more legend-creating for such a memorable character. I’ve read a criticism of Silva from a Bond “fan site” saying his backstory is too similar to Trevelyan’s from GoldenEye. Yeah, there are similarities, but the thing I love the most is how narrow minded he is in his vengeance, with no care for his own fate as long as he can achieve his goal. In that respect, it makes him a unique Bond villain.
Nick Nunziata: There’s no denying that the character is legit. He’s fun and fresh and his interesting take on his sexuality makes it even more rich. I just think that the one thing 007 needs is an adversary that feels like one. A villain whose connection to the leading man stretches the length of the film. In actuality this is as much a movie about M as it is Bond. Which is fine on the surface. It just makes it hard to fully buy into this concept from time to time.
I must admit it, Adele’s opening song has grown on me and after a spiffy early action scene that is one of the better ones in the film we’re treated to yet another fantastic opening titles sequence. Obviously these are as integral to a Bond film as any other component and it’s one of the better ones.
Steve Murphy: I liked the song when I first heard it, but after seeing it in context with the opening credits I absolutely love it, and having Adele do a great Bond song with an extreme Shirley Bassey vibe helps establish the old-school Bond feel. And I think Skyfall‘s opening credits are the best in the series in decades. Daniel Kleinman out Maurice Bindered himself with this sequence, managing to top his own stunning Casino Royale titles.
Initially I loved the announcement that Thomas Newman would be kicking David Arnold out of the composition chair, a man I would have replaced following his completely rancid Die Another Die score. I loved the idea of a different composer for the first time since GoldenEye, but surprisingly Newman doesn’t deliver anything different than what Arnold would have done. It’s a nice enough soundtrack that’s firmly rooted in Bond tradition, it just seems… there. In the old days whenever a composer other than John Barry would have a go at a Bond score (specifically George Martin, Bill Conti and Eric Serra), the style would be familiar but have a distinctive sound that let you know it was someone else waving the baton. Arnold did this with his Tomorrow Never Dies score (which I love), but Newman’s soundtrack sounds as if it could have been written by anyone. I won’t go as far as to say ‘phoned in’ (which is exactly what I’m saying), as it serves the film fine, there’s just nothing musically that stands out.
Nick Nunziata: It’s also irritating that the film has an amazing and uniquely stylish action sequence in a high tech skyscraper and then fails to live up to it in the subsequent scenes. Though there’s plenty of wanton destruction in the film’s climactic shootout, it’s all numbing at that point. It’d be astonishing for the makers of these films to realize that what audiences love and what sticks to their ribs is the little stuff and the more intimate conflicts. Bond’s balls vs. a swinging ballbreaker. A card game. Crushing amazing thighs. They aren’t in need of convincing that Bond can win and avoid getting tore up as his family home is literally shot a million times. There’s so many good moments between the action films that a little goes a long way. As if it needs repeating for the umpteenth time: Bourne. Kinetic. Immediate. Low tech. And though the films are fantastic Jason Bourne as a character isn’t fit to carry James Bond’s luggage. I mean, CGI Komodo Dragons? Come on.
But still the film is excellent. Craig looks more and more like a tendon with eyes and has to really work hard to maintain the sex appeal of the character but there’s no longer any reason to deny he’s the best Bond we’ve ever had. The physicality is there and raw nerve is a lot more interesting than witty banter in this context. The film around him is mostly fantastic and even though there are a few hiccups (lazy way to wrap up a Bond Girl subplot, too much M, Naome Harris’s ultimate reveal lacks weight) it’s a beautiful and MATURE 007 film.
In a business where it’s all about rounding edges into easy painless curves Skyfall has swagger and balls and is fighting to make James Bond the kind of tentpole character who tugs you into his niche rather than bend to the business’s whims. Good on him and good on Sam Mendes. This may be the perfect marriage of filmmaker and Bond and with the very best cinematographer in the world on hand it’s a must see flick.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars
Steve Murphy: It’s also an instant Bond classic, and while there are issues we’ve both outlined I still felt it managed to escape its own run time; at no point did I get the feeling this was a 2 1/2 hour film with no end in sight. It flows great and the action scenes are spaced out properly, something Quantum did an amazingly bad job at… and that was a SHORT movie. Absolutely agree that the best moments in these current Bond movies are the quieter, more intimate moments where the actors are allowed to prowl through the script with tremendous results. We don’t need massive action sequences that go on for 10 minutes, as a viewer you tend to switch off the longer these things go and Mendes and crew did a good job of dodging that pitfall for the majority of the picture (no collapsing building slog-fest). What Skyfall offers is more attention to its characters than most of the films before it, and it’s such a welcome experience I don’t see how we can ever go back to underwater cars and tiny boats shaped like fake crocodiles (which was amazing).
Now put the gun barrel back at the beginning!
Out of a Possible 5 Stars