With the James Bond franchise celebrating its fiftieth anniversary in 2012, hopes were high that the 23rd official film, Skyfall would reinvigorate the series after a five year absence and the somewhat disappointing response to 2008’s Quantum of Solace. Thankfully, Skyfall manages to reinvent 007 in a story that has to rank as one of the Best Bonds ever. Skyfall isn’t afraid to be innovative, even abandoning the iconic silhouettes in the iris lens, opting instead to open with the action in full flow. Perhaps more importantly, in his third time out as Bond, Daniel Craig finally looks comfortable in the role; he finally put his own unique stamp on the iconic character.
During a failed operation to retrieve a secret hard drive containing the identities of undercover MI6 agents stationed throughout the world, James Bond (Craig) is accidentally shot by fellow operative Eve (Naomie Harris) and presumed dead. As you might imagine, Bond isn’t really dead, but he’s enjoying the anonymity, the tropical views, booze and lovely women too much to give a damn about much else.
Bond returns to London when he learns that that MI6 headquarters has been attacked. With M (Judi Dench) being pressured by her superiors to retire gracefully in light of recent events, Bond sets out to track down the man responsible for attacking MI6: a bitter (and deformed) former agent named Silva (Javier Bardem) who has a vendetta against M for what he sees as inexcusable wrongs in the past.
The James Bond films are often only as good as their villains, and there’s no question that Skyfall wouldn’t have been nearly as enjoyable without Bardem’s uber-blonde baddie. Silva is one of the more interesting and complex villains to come out of the Bond franchise in years. Though he doesn’t appear onscreen until the midway mark, Bardem makes the most of his screen time; he’s both menacing and campy. It’s nice to see a Bond villain that’s not determined to “take over the world.” Silva’s vendetta against M is palpable and his introduction, in the form of a monologue with M and Bond present, is brilliant.
All of this brings us to director Sam Mendes. Without the Academy Award winning director at the helm, it’s hard to image that Javier Bardem would have wanted to do a Bond film. I suppose the same could be said for Ralph Fiennes, because he really doesn’t have a lot to do as Gareth Mallory, the man chosen to replace M as director of MI6. However, Fiennes is definitely a guy you can envision taking over for Judi Dench when the time comes. Ben Whishaw is wonderfully cast as Q. Whishaw and Daniel Craig have a nice chemistry; Bond is the grizzled veteran and Q is the young upstart. Of course, having Q around means we get some gadgets, but even those aren’t over the top.
Naturally, some Bond fans were concerned about Mendes’ lack of experience with the genre, but he comes up aces. Skyfall is a stylish return to the franchise’s classic form. For the first time in years, the Bond franchise is exciting again.
Framed at 2.40:1, Skyfall has been given a fantastic 1080p transfer. The image sharpness and detail is simply spectacular. Roger Deakins cinematography deserves all of the accolades it’s been getting as of late. Colors are bold throughout, but never overbearing. Black levels are satisfyingly deep and even. Fox/MGM has done a wonderful job with one of its tent pole franchises.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is just as superior. The sonic intensity throughout—car chases, explosions, shoot outs—are well spread out to create a truly immersive soundfield. Thomas Newman’s background score and Adele’s title song get wonderful spread through the soundfield while dialogue has received expert recording and has been mostly placed in the center channel with an occasional directional flourish.
English SDH, French, Spanish, Italian, Danish, Estonian, Finnish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Mandarin (Simplified), Norwegian, Russian, Swedish and Ukrainian subtitles are available.
The following special features are included:
- Audio Commentary with Director Sam Mendes: Mendes provides a “scene-specific” commentary, discussing revisions to the script, shooting different scenes, working with the actors and working with Editor Stuart Baird and the contributions of various effects houses and other departments. Mendes also discusses some of his directing techniques.
- Commentary with Producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson and Production Designer Dennis Gassner: These four spend most of the track (in between pauses) patting themselves on a job well done, though they do offer the occasional behind-the scenes tidbit.
- Shooting Bond: (HD, 59:24) Viewed individually or collectively, this is what a making-of featurette should be. A documentary crew followed the production from beginning to end, then edits together the best stuff. We get the thoughts of most of the major department heads, as well as most of the cast, writers, producers and the director. Be aware that the documentary assumes you’ve seen the film. Below, I’ve listed each section: Intro (2:26), Opening Sequence 4:19), The Title Sequence (2:56), 007 (3:48), Q (1:59), DB5 (1:36), Women (4:27), Villains (6:51), Action (3:33), Locations (3:24), Music (3:43), End Sequence (14:03), M (4:47), The Future (2:13).
- Skyfall Premiere (HD, 14:28) A look at the world premiere at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Features interviews with Daniel Craig, Naomie Harris, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw and more.
- Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:31)
- Soundtrack Promotional Spot (HD, :40) Includes a brief introduction by composer Thomas Newman.
- DVD Copy of the film.
- UV Digital Copy of the Film.
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