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STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
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Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
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Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Daniel Craig
Javier Bardem
Judi Dench
Bérénice Marlohe
Naomie Harris
Ben Whishaw.
Directors
Sam Mendes.
Screenwriters
Running Time
143 minutes

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Skyfall
50 years old, still going strong...


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Plot
A hard-drive which lists all NATO operatives undercover in terrorist organisations is stolen, and used to make M – the head of British Intelligence – look bad. Though not in peak condition after a near-death experience, secret agent James Bond sets out to recover the drive, which leads him to mystery man Silva, who has a revenge scheme in mind.


Review
Skyfall
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The consensus on Daniel Craig’s tenure as James Bond so far is that he started out impressively in Casino Royale but wavered in Quantum of Solace. Here, in a Bond specifically tailored for the 50th anniversary of the series, the dangling plot-threads of Casino and Quantum are left in the wind as a more experienced, more damaged hero deals with a villain from his boss’s past. Having rebooted the franchise by depicting Bond’s first days with a license to kill in Casino Royale, this picks him up later in his career – as if he’s lived through all the films from Dr No to Die Another Day since we last saw him.

The pre-credits sequence, which coincidentally chases through a Turkish bazaar seen this year in Taken 2 and Argo, establishes that Sam Mendes – brought in to raise the tone a bit – can handle a fist-fight on top of a train as well as anyone. The boldest hire for this go-round is cinematographer Roger Deakins, who delivers the most impressive visuals this series has had since the 1960s. No one will ever mistake Skyfall for an introspective picture, though Bond’s rarely-mentioned dead parents get trotted out in a Christopher Nolanesque way which aligns him with all other orphan heroes and superheroes of current cinema.

The challenge of delivering a series entry is to present the mandatory elements – the credits sequence, the girls, the cars, the locations, the stunts, the villains, the novelty pets, the gadgets – in fresh, surprising ways. Regular screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, augmented by John Logan, skate over their mcguffin with some computerspeak and politicking, then hit all the required notes – with sidebar-friendly anniversary nods to practically every previous Bond film, including the David Niven Casino Royale – while telling a story that doesn’t strictly adhere to the umpteenth-remake-of-Dr-No format that wore thin during the Roger Moore-Pierce Brosnan eras. Among other innovations, this is the first Bond really to make use of spectacular British locations, in and out of London, as a plot hatched in exotic places comes home to burn down the Establishment.

Craig takes a fall into a surreal, macabre credits sequence accompanied by that Adele song, then spends a reel or so as an unshaven, washed-up wreck who can’t shoot straight and shows signs of psychological trauma. It’s a character stretch Craig manages better than Brosnan’s bout with beardiness in Die Another Day, mostly because he gets his chops back – and his chops shaven, in a sexy sequence with fellow agent Eve (Naomie Harris) – with credible effort. It’s a reading of the role that comes from the later Ian Fleming novels, the ones that had their titles used on films which otherwise threw away the material, and much of Skyfall feels like the kind of post-John Buchan/Bulldog Drummond thrillers Fleming wrote rather than the fantastical, science fictionish films which grew out of them.

Harris’s peppy MI6 sniper and Berenice Marlohe’s slinky woman of mystery have a few good scenes, but the main Bond girl here is Judi Dench – whose M is harried by bureaucrats and politicians who want her to retire, but has to stay in office to cope with her own nightmare legacy. Javier Bardem’s villain makes a grand entrance, walking from the back of the frame to the foreground while delivering a parable about rats in a barrel, then gets deeper under the hero’s skin than any official shrink, prodding him into reflections about his drink and pill dependency and sexual identity which would have made Sean Connery blench. Silva is a Flemingesque creation – a loathesome foreigner with a hidden (and gruesome) deformity – but Bardem adds in a little Hannibal Lecter vibe (especially in a sequence set under London) and even becomes a horror movie slasher for a surprisingly gothic, down-and-dirty climax.

Ralph Fiennes plays it ambiguously as M’s political rival, but gets some good scenes late in the day, and there’s a sharp reinvention of the role of Q from Ben Whishaw, who is now the spooks’ computer whizz (with a nice line in jargon) as well as quartermaster. And Albert Finney brings warmth and gravitas to a key role in the home stretch.


Verdict
Skyfall is pretty much all you could want from a 21st Century Bond: cool but not camp, respectful of tradition but up to the moment, serious in its thrills and relatively complex in its characters but with the sense of fun that hasn’t always been evident lately. One thing’s certain: James Bond will return…


Reviewed by Kim Newman


Related Reviews
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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Skyfall
Empire Star Rating

RE: Skyfall

Have we really come to point where we can't just accept that people think differently about this film without resorting to insults? Hey, you didn't like the flick? Great, but is it really necessary to insult and belittle? Fucking childish. ... More

Posted by MonsterCat at 23:54, 21 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: One of the best Bond movies ever made

Really? From ] height? Without a wire or a fast descender or something? What was his name - Iron Baws McGinty? ... More

Posted by chris kilby at 23:37, 21 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: One of the best Bond movies ever made

L: chris kilby L: AxlReznor Now if you /i] wanted to talk plot holes, you'd point out that literally ingappened after Patrice stole the date had to have happened y that they did, otherwise Silva's plans would have not worked, even though Silva had absolutely no control over of it until Bond captured him. Now /i] a plot hole. But if the movie is entertaining, it really doesn't matter. It's not like every other Bond film have been harbingers of perfect logic, after all. ote] Wh... More

Posted by AxlReznor at 22:57, 21 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: One of the best Bond movies ever made

L: AxlReznor Now if you /i] wanted to talk plot holes, you'd point out that literally ingappened after Patrice stole the date had to have happened y that they did, otherwise Silva's plans would have not worked, even though Silva had absolutely no control over of it until Bond captured him. Now /i] a plot hole. But if the movie is entertaining, it really doesn't matter. It's not like every other Bond film have been harbingers of perfect logic, after all. ote] Which is probably est... More

Posted by chris kilby at 19:28, 21 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: One of the best Bond movies ever made

L: Mr Gittes You, sir, have just made my day XD he pleasure's all mine, my son. Always happy to preach to the converted. ... More

Posted by chris kilby at 19:10, 21 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: One of the best Bond movies ever made

L: AxlReznor You don't need to talk your way into disregarding plot holes. They just don't matter as much as people think they do. That one particular one you mentioned doesn't make much sense as a "plot hole", though, considering Bond's surprise at the old man being there, "Are you still alive?", it was pretty obvious that he thought the place was completely abandoned, so why would he phone ahead? It was an out of the way area where there would be minimal collateral damage, and he w... More

Posted by Professor Dent at 18:57, 21 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: One of the best Bond movies ever made

L: AJRtennis My pleasure, and thankyou for yet another sermon. constantly referencing other films, I'm afraid , does not make Skyfall any more entertaining. But if that's how you get your kicks, each to their own. Can't believe I called you a pretentious windbag. What was I thinking!! And as for being witless, I'm afraid you sir have entered the battle of wits completely unarmed. Oh jesus, I'm beginning to sound like you. A truly tiresome tit. h dear. Well, you know what they say: bette... More

Posted by chris kilby at 17:46, 21 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: One of the best Bond movies ever made

You don't need to talk your way into disregarding plot holes. They just don't matter as much as people think they do. That one particular one you mentioned doesn't make much sense as a "plot hole", though, considering Bond's surprise at the old man being there, "Are you still alive?", it was pretty obvious that he thought the place was completely abandoned, so why would he phone ahead? It was an out of the way area where there would be minimal collateral damage, and he wanted to gain the uppe... More

Posted by AxlReznor at 15:37, 21 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: One of the best Bond movies ever made

It is odd, the bad feeling generated by this film. I think it works as subtext; Bond gets to grive for his parents by taking M to his family pile and when she dies he sheds tears at last. But of course, as a narrative it's drivel; why take your boss to some out of the way place you haven't visited in decades, not even phoning ahead? But some just aren't bothered by any of this. The Aston should not be armed with gadgets if this is a reboot, unlike the Moore films you have to know abou... More

Posted by Professor Dent at 15:26, 21 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: One of the best Bond movies ever made

L: chris kilby L: Mr Gittes L: chris kilby L: Mr Gittes L: chris kilby L: Mr Gittes FINALLY! Someone else brings up Straw Dogs! It was really starting to get on my nerves that people kept bringing up Home Alone and (from what I've read anyway - if you did, then kudos) nobody had mentioned the climax of Straw Dogs. Y'know, the movie made before Home Alone with a showdown which is infinitely more influential and similar to the one in Skyfall. Are... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Mr Gittes at 14:06, 21 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: One of the best Bond movies ever made

L: musht L: Mr Gittes L: musht L: Mr Gittes Daniel Craig shows once again that he is Ian Fleming's 007 through and through (although I still prefer the cinematic Bond of Connery, to those who were thinking of me as a pretentious twat), Sam Mendes proves to be an inspired choice for director, Javier Bardem is instantly one of the greatest Bond villains ever, not to mention the entire cast is sublime, and the script is wonderfully sharp. However, the real show ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Mr Gittes at 14:03, 21 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: One of the best Bond movies ever made

L: Mr Gittes L: chris kilby L: Mr Gittes L: chris kilby L: Mr Gittes FINALLY! Someone else brings up Straw Dogs! It was really starting to get on my nerves that people kept bringing up Home Alone and (from what I've read anyway - if you did, then kudos) nobody had mentioned the climax of Straw Dogs. Y'know, the movie made before Home Alone with a showdown which is infinitely more influential and similar to the one in Skyfall. Are there that many people ... More

Posted by chris kilby at 13:48, 21 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: One of the best Bond movies ever made

L: Mr Gittes L: musht L: Mr Gittes Daniel Craig shows once again that he is Ian Fleming's 007 through and through (although I still prefer the cinematic Bond of Connery, to those who were thinking of me as a pretentious twat), Sam Mendes proves to be an inspired choice for director, Javier Bardem is instantly one of the greatest Bond villains ever, not to mention the entire cast is sublime, and the script is wonderfully sharp. However, the real show stealer is Roger D... More

Posted by musht at 13:25, 21 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: One of the best Bond movies ever made

L: chris kilby L: Mr Gittes L: chris kilby L: Mr Gittes FINALLY! Someone else brings up Straw Dogs! It was really starting to get on my nerves that people kept bringing up Home Alone and (from what I've read anyway - if you did, then kudos) nobody had mentioned the climax of Straw Dogs. Y'know, the movie made before Home Alone with a showdown which is infinitely more influential and similar to the one in Skyfall. Are there that many people who haven't seen SD th... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Mr Gittes at 13:14, 21 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: One of the best Bond movies ever made

Man, am I sick and tired of these people who do nothing but insult people who ] to like a film that they don't, and then have the gall to claim that people only don't like them because they don't share their opinion! It's really fucking stupid, but it appears that any time a movie receives as almost universal acclaim from both critics and the public, people are going to come out of the woodwork thinking they're being "edgy" or "cool" for having a different opinion. When I first saw this mo... More

Posted by AxlReznor at 12:46, 21 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: One of the best Bond movies ever made

L: Mr Gittes L: chris kilby L: Mr Gittes FINALLY! Someone else brings up Straw Dogs! It was really starting to get on my nerves that people kept bringing up Home Alone and (from what I've read anyway - if you did, then kudos) nobody had mentioned the climax of Straw Dogs. Y'know, the movie made before Home Alone with a showdown which is infinitely more influential and similar to the one in Skyfall. Are there that many people who haven't seen SD that Home Alone is constan... More

Posted by chris kilby at 11:35, 21 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: One of the best Bond movies ever made

L: AJRtennis Oh I see. A troll is someone who doesn't share the opinions of the army of 5 star gushers. Now I'm clear. Disliking this film isn't just frowned upon. It gets you labelled and dismissed. Fine. I've said my bit and stand by all my comments. An awful lot of people on here take themselves very, very seriously. Must dash. I have a life. I seriously doubt that. No-one on online forum is any position to accuse anyone else of not having a life. It's why we're all here isn't it?... More

Posted by chris kilby at 11:26, 21 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: One of the best Bond movies ever made

L: chris kilby L: Mr Gittes FINALLY! Someone else brings up Straw Dogs! It was really starting to get on my nerves that people kept bringing up Home Alone and (from what I've read anyway - if you did, then kudos) nobody had mentioned the climax of Straw Dogs. Y'know, the movie made before Home Alone with a showdown which is infinitely more influential and similar to the one in Skyfall. Are there that many people who haven't seen SD that Home Alone is constantly mentioned inste... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Mr Gittes at 10:24, 21 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: One of the best Bond movies ever made

L: AJRtennis No problem. Splendid quote. Very apt. Could I just add, idea what a troll is meant to beaving read your reviews I've a pretty good idea what a pretentious windbag is. sp; You. It's you. This is not a good thing. ... More

Posted by AxlReznor at 08:12, 21 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: One of the best Bond movies ever made

L: Mr Gittes FINALLY! Someone else brings up Straw Dogs! It was really starting to get on my nerves that people kept bringing up Home Alone and (from what I've read anyway - if you did, then kudos) nobody had mentioned the climax of Straw Dogs. Y'know, the movie made before Home Alone with a showdown which is infinitely more influential and similar to the one in Skyfall. Are there that many people who haven't seen SD that Home Alone is constantly mentioned instead? I'm not trying to be... More

Posted by chris kilby at 01:01, 21 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: One of the best Bond movies ever made

L: AJRtennis A very lengthy and comprehensive list of previous film references. You could have saved yourself time and simply said Skyfall hasn't a spark of originality. And it's fucking boring, depressing, dismal, unimaginative and ludicrous! Without doubt and by some distance, the worst Bond film ever made . Every Bond has gaping plot holes but who gives a shit when they are a fun, exciting rollercoaster ride., packed full of crazy stunts, memorable bad guys and henchmen, beautiful ... More

Posted by chris kilby at 00:31, 21 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: One of the best Bond movies ever made

FINALLY! Someone else brings up Straw Dogs! It was really starting to get on my nerves that people kept bringing up Home Alone and (from what I've read anyway - if you did, then kudos) nobody had mentioned the climax of Straw Dogs. Y'know, the movie made before Home Alone with a showdown which is infinitely more influential and similar to the one in Skyfall. Are there that many people who haven't seen SD that Home Alone is constantly mentioned instead? I'm not trying to be a movie snob; if you ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Mr Gittes at 00:20, 21 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: One of the best Bond movies ever made

L: musht L: Mr Gittes Daniel Craig shows once again that he is Ian Fleming's 007 through and through (although I still prefer the cinematic Bond of Connery, to those who were thinking of me as a pretentious twat), Sam Mendes proves to be an inspired choice for director, Javier Bardem is instantly one of the greatest Bond villains ever, not to mention the entire cast is sublime, and the script is wonderfully sharp. However, the real show stealer is Roger Deakins' stunning cinem... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Mr Gittes at 23:57, 20 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: One of the best Bond movies ever made

L: musht Javier Bardem is fantastic. His opening monologue is pure gold but it doesn't make up for the fact that Silva is only a good Bond Villain. I appreciate that people like him for the contradiction he is to Bond and the themes he raises but on the face of it his motivation and his end game are extremely disappointing. Let's look at the facts; he has the power to take over a whole island, hack the MI6 gas supply, steal the hard drive (we're just going to ignore that? OK an do all ... More

Posted by Deviation at 23:56, 20 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: One of the best Bond movies ever made

L: Mr Gittes Daniel Craig shows once again that he is Ian Fleming's 007 through and through (although I still prefer the cinematic Bond of Connery, to those who were thinking of me as a pretentious twat), Sam Mendes proves to be an inspired choice for director, Javier Bardem is instantly one of the greatest Bond villains ever, not to mention the entire cast is sublime, and the script is wonderfully sharp. However, the real show stealer is Roger Deakins' stunning cinematography which wa... More

Posted by musht at 21:37, 20 February 2013 | Report This Post


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