Nov 9, 2012


The day is here at last! The 23rd James Bond movie, Skyfall, opens wide today in North America. Of course, many fans have had the opportunity to see it already, thanks to midnight shows and IMAX screenings a day early. And fans in various countries around the world have been watching it for a few weeks now. But now, all of America can see it... and they will. Skyfall is going to be huge here, just like it has been in Britain, where it's shattered box office records. Personally, I love the film. You can read my review here, and I will probably write even more about the movie soon. I've seen it twice more since writing that review, and am seeing it a fourth time in a few hours. I've seen it in real IMAX, fake IMAX and on a standard screen. Personally, I prefer the expanded "open matte"-style IMAX experience. While cinematographer Roger Deakins claims to have composed with both the 2.40:1 scope image (seen in traditional theaters) and the 1.9:1 image (seen in IMAX theaters, affording more picture at the top and bottom of the frame, but still not filling an IMAX screen entirely) in mind, to me the IMAX version (which is ultimately closer to what you'd see on a 16x9 television set) looks better. Frames in the traditional version seem artificially cropped at times. Others disagree, and feel strongly that the 2.40:1 version is preferable. Personally, though, I'd recommend seeing it on an IMAX screen if you have access to one. Otherwise, you're not missing out; Deakins' photography looks gorgeous on both version and you'll never notice the difference unless you watch the two versions back-to-back, as I did the other night.

Technicalities aside, though, this is a great Bond film and good looking enough for Deakins to be a strong Oscar contender, despite the Academy's long-held prejudice against Agent 007. So... enjoy!

Click here to read my review of Skyfall.

WARNING: Comments here on this post may include SPOILERS. Feel free to post your unedited reactions to the film below!


dfordoom said...

I'd be tempted to see it if it wasn't for Daniel Craig.

Tom said...

Javier Bardem is so creepy in this.

JN said...

We went to go see the new James Bond film yesterday and after all the great reviews, I left the theater strangely disappointed. This is the first Bond film ever to have 007 as a secondary character. The crux of the plot and the emotional heft of the film is a revenge story between M and an ex agent played beautifully by Javier Bardem. Bond does the running and jumping and shooting here but it is the M/Silva relationship that takes center stage. Bond has no Vesper Lynd or Tracy Draco to emotionally connect to in "Skyfall" and as such has no deeper dimensions outside the aging, damaged agent the script sticks him with.
Javier Bardem's villain is the glue which holds the drama together. It's by the actor's sheer force of character that this film is memorable. With all the weighty verbage in this film, I would have thought the filmmakers could have given the back story to M/Silva a little more flesh. Especially with the pathos dripping suicide pact at the end. Why does he want M to kill them both? We know he hates her for abandoning him to a Chinese torture cell but this ending hints to something else. Why does he want to die with her when he sees she's mortally wounded? A missed opportunity for some good drama.
As far as Bond's women, we have seen a Macao living, shower taking, boat loving mistress of an assassin before in a Bond film. As in The Man With The Golden Gun, a woman wants her employer/lover dead. But Maud Adams performance in 1975's weak entry is miles ahead of Bernice Marlohe's quivering lower lip and overly long, nervous cigarette ash. When Severin dies it means nothing to the emotional arc of the film. I never believed that Bond or Silva ever cared about her. At least in TMWTGG, Miss Anders is shown hating the sex she's forced to endure with Scaramanga. There is no scene in Skyfall to show us Severin's dread of Silva so there's only her word for his loathsomeness in a Macao bar.
Eve is a good character but as she is untouchable due to the Moneypenny myths, her story with Bond can only go so far. Again, their relationship a lost dramatic opportunity in a midst of some nice banter.
Aesthetically, Daniel Craig's body is getting odder. Gone is the naturalistic manliness of Sean Connery in Dr. No or Thunderball for a gym stalwart of overblown proportions. Whenever he disrobes, I feel Bond must spend more time pumping iron than firing lead. Is his butt really that hard that not even a towel can hide it's contours?
Bond's relationship to M is stuck in neutral here. M is not allowed to show any warmth toward her employee. They share little more than a grudging respect. In fact she risks his life on the train bridge as she had with Silva years ago in Hong Kong and as Bond will risk her's in Scotland. She's a hard bastard but has to be. It was a sad comment on a relationship that is ultimately boiled down to a piece of desk bric a brac.
The crew in Skyfall shines through magnificently. Cameraman Roger Deakins and set designer Dennis Gassner are the heroes. Their work continually amazes even when the film lapses. Alexander Witt and Gary Powell keep the action sequences tight and exciting. As far as the director, I have always felt that the more talented crew and actors he can assemble, the better his films.
My view is that Michael Apted was the last "Actor's Director" that created a successful Bond adventure. And Martin Campbell remains the gold standard in action films, a director who understands action as well as drama.
Skyfall's main premise that 007 will be relegated to a supporting role is it's paramount flaw. Allowing Skyfall events to be driven by Silva makes this a great action film but only a good Bond film.

Tom said...

In response to JN's review, Bond does seem like a secondary character, come to think of it.

And I would have liked to have seen more of Severin.

JN said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JN said...

Thanks for the comment. I had wished to send this directly to the moderator to see if there was a point to debate here. But no email address i could find.
I've had the pleasure of working with Mendes 3 times and I feel he's a smart director but not a particularly good one.

Tanner said...

You and Delmo, dfordoom... don't know what you're missing! Craig's fantastic.

Tanner said...


Thanks for so eruditely sharing your thoughts here, JN! Yes, such discussion is always encouraged! And thanks for alerting me to the lack of email link. There used to be one in the "About Me" profile section, a section I haven't revisited in years. But I guess it must have disappeared without me realizing it in one of Blogger's privacy updates? I'll get that fixed. (But it's

I certainly agree about Silva. I think Bardem is fantastic and it's exactly that "sheer force of character" you mention that he brings that MAKES him the glue to holding the drama together. It's a good thing the actor brings that to the part, because as a villain he's frustratingly under-written. His backstory, as I mentioned in my review, feels more like LIP SERVICE to a backstory than an ACTUALY, fleshed-out backstory that would serve to truly underscore his motivations. I really like the direction they were going with it, but wish they'd gone a bit farther. His single monologue about torture and cyanide, effective as that final shot of it is, is not enough to explain this powerful vendetta fifteen years later or why it took him so long to exact his revenge if that's truly been his sole raison d'etre for all these years. And, like you, I'm intrigued at the deeper relationship his weird suicide pact hints at at the end, but whatever it is, it's frustratingly not there on screen.

While you make an excellent case, I disagree, however, about Bond being a secondary character in the film. I kind of thought that the first time I saw it, mainly because of how passive he is in the crucial scene where the captured Silva monologues his backstory and expresses his complaints with M. The first time I saw it, it did indeed seem like Bond was stepping aside for these two characters to have it out. But upon subsequent viewings, that no longer bothers me. Instead, I think it's a scene that contributes to what I see as the film's central relationship: Bond and M. He's effectively fulfilling his nominal job description as a spy here, observing, processing new information, and adding it to what he knows to further process that relationship himself. If M ordered Eve to "take the bloody shot" on him, and similarly sold out this former agent, what DOES that mean for his complicated feelings toward his boss? I think this reaction is there on Craig's face, which Mendes tellingly cuts to a few times during this exchange, when if it truly were just between the two characters speaking, surely it would make more sense to keep the focus on them?

(Continued below...)

Tanner said...

Up until that point in the film, it's true that Bond has basically been a pawn used between M and Silva. (Though that, again, is part of the exploration between 007 and his boss.) But when Silva escapes, he takes matters into his own hands, and becomes proactive. (An agent provacateur, if you will, to call back to his interview, rather than a mere AGENT of M and of the plot.) He has observed, he has processed, and now he will act.

The third act, while admittedly the film's weakest, continues that thread. While it's somewhat odd and certainly an anomoly for the series that there is no Bond Girl her in a traditional sense, like Vesper or Tracy to cite the ones whose relationships with Bond most profoundly affected him, I'd argue that that's because M herself is fulfilling that role. M is the Bond Girl in this film, not either of the very good, but somewhat underused, actresses being promoted as such. Which brings me back to my view that the movie IS about Bond, and his relationship with M, rather than her relationship with Silva. In the latter model, Bond is the agent used between them. But in the former, Silva is the agent used between M and Bond. Used to flesh out Bond's own complicated thoughts about Dench's M. Is her ruthlessness an asset in her position, or a betrayal? Could Bond have become Silva after her call about the bloody shot?

Ultimately, no. There is a stronger relationship between Bond and this M than there was between her and Silva. It's one that's been explored across all three Craig movies, culminating here. What we're given specifically in this one admittedly leans heavily on pop psychology shorthand (the whole finale at Bond's childhood home, in the cemetery where his real parents are buried, with his two adoptive parents embroiled in the action--all hinted at in Daniel Kleinman's tremendous title sequence which, if played at this point in the film, would feel like the shockingly on-the-nose but still effective Dali dream sequence from Hitchcock's Spellbound in how aptly it spells out 007's fears and psyche), but I think M's final line is telling and a satisfying conclusion to the exploration of this relationship. It also serves to further contrast her relationship with Bond with her relationship with Silva, again making that one subservient in my opinion, informing the former rather than the other way around.

So that's my read on that. Could the film have fleshed all that out better? Yes, it could have. As good as Skyfall is (and I do think it's very, very good--even if I still contend that the critics screaming "best ever!" are full of nonsense), it frustrates me again and again with what could have been BETTER. You'd think after four years of development they could have gotten the script that extra distance that would have made all of these relationships 100% satisfying, but the 80% it achieves is still quite impressive in this series, as quite a few of the films don't even strive for that.

Oh, and did you catch the allusion to Alfredson's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy in that "piece of desk bric a brac?" I thought that was a clever in-joke among spy films!

Overall, I think Mendes pulls off the "actor's director doing Bond" thing WAY better than Apted did. I'm a big fan of many Apted films (including his other spy movie, Enigma), but TWINE bored me to tears, largely because I don't think Apted succeeded when it came to action and integrating it into his story. I felt like we could actually SEE the story grinding to a halt, and Vic Armstrong's crew taking over. And they're a capable crew, no doubt about it, but what they did didn't fit in with what Apted was doing, which I'd lay on him rather than Armstrong. Mendes much more successfully integrated his action sequences into his story.

JN said...

I will keep these points in mind when I see the film a second time this week. Thanks for responding. And thanks for the good work at keeping this site going.

JN said...

Will pay particular attention to the Silva capture scene this week. Deakin's camera is below eye level for much of the dialogue and I found myself internally remarking at the non symmetry of Bardem and Dench's nostrils. Then I started wondering if everyone has non symmetrical nostrils. Then I knew I had lost interest. Hopefully in IMAX I can concentrate on the eyes!

Tanner said...

Thank YOU for raising those points to begin with! I hope you're able to enjoy the film a bit more on second viewing. Please drop by again and let us know. I'll also be curious to hear your thoughts on IMAX vs. standard presentations. I feel like some of the close-ups seem oddly framed in the standard version, but work much better in the IMAX aspect ratio.

Tanner said...

Hm. I rewatched it again this week, and tried to pay close attention in the Silva capture scene, but thanks to a severe lack of sleep on my part and through absolutely no fault of Mendes & Co., I found myself nodding off a bit at that point, unfortunately. But from what I DID manage to see, there may not be as many close-ups of Craig as I remembered. There is a very significant one at the end, but I think what I may have been thinking of were actual a pair of 3-shots. I still think these support my assessment, however--perhaps even moreso. The 3-shots are carefuly staged with M on the left, Silva in the middle, in his cage, and Bond on the right. Silva is literally the thing between Bond and M, and Craig's reactions are as I initially recalled.

Elliot James said...

I just returned from the theater and, without adding any kind of info that could be a spoiler, have to say that I didn't enjoy the film that much except in bits and pieces. However I loved the footage, and the music, used in the Aston Martin sequence. Bardem's bleached blonde hair reminded me of Zorin. Not a creation by Fleming, his portrayal as a sadistic homosexual would not have been out of place in a Fleming novel (Wint and Kidd).

The plot seemed incomplete, something I never felt with Connery or Moore films, or maybe it was the way it was edited. Transitions are missing and explanations are often not given. But I won't go into detail since that gives away too much of the story.

Craig doesn't speak as crisply as Connery, Moore, Dalton, Brosnan and Lazenby did and sometimes swallows his usually short sentences.

I read an interesting newspaper article on the use of locations in all of the Bond films. I'm adding the link if that's ok.

Tanner said...

Thanks for the link, Elliot! Looks like a cool article. I look forward to reading it.

Please feel free to go into more detail about what you didn't like; this comments section is cleared for spoilers. It sounds like you responded more to the classic Bond moments than to the parts that tried to reinvent it? That's certainly understandable! Did you like the opening chase or the Komodo dragon fight? CGI notwithstanding in the latter, both of those felt VERY Classic Bond to me!

JN said...

this is a fun read. Check it out.

Elliot James said...

JN, Interesting take on villains and their moneymaking schemes. S.P.E.C.T.R.E.'s plot in Thunderball was the simplest. Pay or they nuke Miami with stolen bombs.

Thanks Tanner, I'll get some thoughts together and comment again.

Elliot James said...

I thought the opening scene was wild but I also kept thinking during the sequence that other Bonds would not have risked killing scores of people while chasing Patrice. Using a back hoe to rip apart a train carriage roof filled with passengers would have decapitated a dozen riders.

What I really didn't like was the entire convoluted scheme by Silva from his evidently arranged capture (no one bothered to search Bond to find the homer?) to the botched shoot-out at the hearing. The sequence of events were so dictated by pure happenstance and total chance that Silva must be the greatest and most brilliant Bond foe of them all as well as having psychic abilities. A "genius" like Q actually physically PLUGS Silva's laptop into MI-6's system? Not even a night school student in Computer Science 101 would do this. When he did that, I guessed it would hack in and it did.

There are events that seem like the 3 screenwriters borrowed, or were inspired by, elements from other films and characters notably: Sherlock Holmes The Final Chapter/Adventure of the Empty House (Bond falling into a raging river from a great height into a waterfall, faking his death and then in secrecy returning to greet his obit writer M [Watson]).

Silence of the Lambs (the plexiglass prison cell).

Batman #1 (Silva's facial disfigurement/colored hair that echoes The Joker and a little bit of Richard Kiel).

The Man With The Golden Gun (as JN wrote, Bernice Marlohe's replay of Maud Adams' character).

I'll Sleep When I'm Dead (when Clive Owen opens a storage facility and reveals his vintage Jaguar to a triumphant music score) This came to mind when he retrieved the Aston Martin. And no one at MI-6 missed this small piece of equipment for who knows how long? I did enjoy this scene as well as the machine guns and ejector button.

Straw Dogs and an episode of I Spy called "Home To Judgment" (the final siege on the house. In I Spy, it was the house where Kelly Robinson spent part of his childhood).

You Only Live Twice (a komodo dragon pit replaces Blofeld's piranha aquarium).

I got a kick out of the lyric in Adele's song:

"you can take my name"

An homage to Patrick McGoohan's Secret Agent?