Is Skyfall the best James Bond movie ever? I’d argue no, but it’s a good argument to have. There are merits to such a question – Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition) is without question the most accomplished and legitimate director to ever take the reigns of the franchise, and he delivers a slick and beautifully crafted film – but there are also understandable criticisms.
Having watched Skyfall for the third time – and the first since it was released to Blu-ray and DVD – I wanted to revisit what made the movie so good, and also where it comes up short. Please note that there are plenty of SPOILERS in here.
First, the highlights:
- Severine, and the scene where Bond meets Severine
Bérénice Marlohe isn’t in the movie very long before Bond fails to save her character (a common theme in this movie), but she sizzles in the scene where she first meets Bond in the Macau nightclub. She looks beautiful and wicked, but her face twitches as she tries to mask her fear and anxiety at the very thought of talking about the film’s villain. Skyfall has a lot of great moments, but this brief scene stands out among the rest.
- The opening action sequence
From the blurry first look at Bond to the intriguing setup that something extremely valuable is missing and another agent has been shot and nearly killed by an unseen assailant, Sam Mendes immediately establishes that he knows exactly what he is doing. The following action sequence – involving a shootout, a car chase, a motorcycle chase, a fist fight on top of a speeding train and a fall from a bridge – is top notch.
- The Skyfall theme song, by Adele
I have a penchant for Bond theme songs, but the latest by Adele is a beautifully crafted and memorable piece of music that works well beyond the movie itself.
- When Silva and Bond meet
Javier Bardem’s Silva isn’t nearly as threatening as his character from No Country for Old Men, but Silva is a menacing (and angry) person nonetheless. The scene where Silva and Bond meet gets better every time you watch it, culminating with the villain’s attempt to seduce Bond.
- Overall production values
As mentioned previously, Skyfall looks and feels like the most complete Bond in terms of acting talent (Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem and Ralph Fiennes, holy crap!), production values and depth of character.
But there were problems, too:
- The Silva escape sequence makes little sense
- So Silva spends months plotting, scheming and killing people just so that he can be intentionally captured by Bond, with a plan to escape once in London so he can race across town to burst into a courtroom and kill M? This is the pivotal part of Skyfall, and it simply doesn’t make much sense. Couldn’t he have just sneaked into London on his own, shot the three guards at the courthouse and accomplished his mission that way? This post actually hits the nail on the head. And yes, this whole sequence of events is an overt rip-off of what happens in The Dark Knight.
- The komodo dragons
While I loved the scene between Severine and Bond at the Macau nightclub, Mendes for some reason included an unnecessary sequence where Bond and a random henchman fall into a pit of CGI-animated komodo dragons. Naturally, the henchman gets pulled into the shadows by one of the dragons, while Bond uses the other to climb out. It’s a silly moment, and not silly in a good way.
- Q is an idiot
So Q is a technical genius, but he connects Silva’s computer – the computer belonging to an evil mastermind – to MI6′s internal network. What the hell did he think was going to happen?
When Bond and M flee London and head to his childhood home, they meet Kincade, the property’s groundskeeper. While played well by Albert Finney, the slightly humorous character seems out of place with the rest of the movie (some would argue the entire ending doesn’t fit with the rest of the movie). But more concerning is the character’s decision to use a flashlight during his escape… who would do such a stupid, stupid thing?
- Bond really doesn’t do much
In the climax, Silva implies that he is ready to kill himself in addition to M. Bond ends up killing Silva before he can carry out his pact, but moments later M dies anyway. So… Bond doesn’t save M and he simply spares Silva from ending his own life. Way to go, Bond. Way to go.
BONUS: When Bond is on the ice toward the end of the movie, where does that henchman come from? He was just hanging out on the middle of the icy lake in case Bond just happened to go that way?
Despite its flaws, Skyfall is a very good movie and a lot of fun. It gets better with repeat viewings, and as any good James Bond fan can attest, it is worthy of a place on your DVD rack.