Skyfall, aka James Bond 23, opened to an $87.8 million weekend. It’s safe to say that Bond has now secured at least four generations of fans.
The film features Daniel Craig in his third episode of Ian Fleming’s storied spy hero. As usual, the Bond movie opens with action…serious action. A hard drive containing the list of all undercover spies in terrorist cells is in the custody of a mysterious agent, and it’s up to Bond to bring it in. This initial chase scene includes expensive automobiles, off-road motorcycles, and a rather signature sequence with a construction crane.
Bond fails. (Yep, go back and re-read that. We have time.)
He is lost to MI-6, which quickly becomes the focus of the film. M (Dame Judi Dench), head of MI-6, is asked to meet with the new attache’ to the Prime Minister (Ralph Fiennes (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, The Avengers)) essentially tells M to pack her bags. What happens next reveals that he might have a point, and that a criminal mastermind might be behind the stolen list, and the agenda against MI-6.
It’s hard to review Skyfall’s second and third act without spoilers. Instead, I’d like to focus on a few things that make the film successful.
Skyfall follows some of the traditional Bond traditions, but not so closely that it becomes formulaic. Yes, Bond must match wits to a highly-trained, high-functioning sociopath. Naturally, two different Bond girls are featured. The film opens with a brilliant chase scene, and punctuates the story with action along the way. It’s what Skyfall delivers outside the formula that makes it a success.
Bond’s Skyfall nemesis, Silva, is played by Javier Bardem( No Country for Old Men). He is revealed far later in the film than a typical Bond villain, but the wait is well worth the payout. Silva’s introduction is shot brilliantly by director Sam Mendes. Bardem’s style for Silva is just outside the lines for the traditional Bond fan. He will keep viewers, and Bond himself, just out of the comfort zone.
Another change to the film is the role of the Quartermaster, aka Q. Filled for decades by Desmond Llewelyn and Monty Python’s Johnathon Cleese, Skyfall introduces a new direction for Q. This Bond’s quartermaster is portrayed by Ben Whishaw. His presence punctuates the overall theme of Skyfall. Bond, and M, and all the agents of the British Secret Service are relics. Their tactics are outdated. They are no longer relevant in the modern age of counterintelligence. This theme is accentuated by the film’s final act, which escapes from the flash-bang of modern technology, and returns to Bond’s primal roots.
Skyfall delivers all the action fans expect from a Bond flick, but relies more heavily on story and relationships than most of the Bond franchise. It is similar to is predecessors, but finds its own place, and does so well, among the history of Bond movies.
Which Bond you love depends largely one which Bond you saw first. Sean Connery was the iconic chick magnet, boasting more swagger and ego than any man should be able to. Roger Moore followed, with much more humor and flair for the dramatic. Timothy Dalton returned Bond to the utterly pure, British origins of the character, only to be followed by Pierce Brosnan, who played Bond as ultimately cool, despite the growing technical and unbelievable circumstances he faced.
Craig brought all of that back with the series somewhat rebooted in 2006’s Casino Royale. His Bond mirrors the Batman brought to life by Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale. The slapstick comedy is gone, but the one-liners remain. He is blessed by a talented supporting cast, and made better by a formidable group of enemies. He is a man dedicated to a set of beliefs, to service, and to a code he has created.
Daniel Craig’s third stint as Bond suffered the longest wait between movies in the history of the franchise as MGM studios declared bankruptcy and put Bond 23 on the shelf. Fortunately, the film was able to be completed and produced in time for the spy’s 50th anniversary. Craig is by far the most physically gifted actor to play Bond. Mendes knows when to use his buff Bond to fill the screen, and when his hero needs to suit up to best serve the story.
Skyfall comes to Blu-ray courtesy of MGM, and, as one would expect from a new Bond film, the transfer is nothing short of perfection. The image is crisp and vibrant, teeming with fine detail, and possesses a gorgeous filmic sheen that really brings the cinematic experience home, especially when paired with its expertly mixed 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack.
Bonus features are abundant, but, seeing as how we’re talking about a Bond movie, one can safely assume this isn’t the most comprehensive collection as that would mean no future double-dip opportunities! Still, what we get with this release should be more than enough to please even the most ardent of 007 fans, and includes a pair of commentary tracks; a lengthy making-of documentary entitled Shooting Bond, that’s broken down into fourteen easily digestible nuggets;; a soundtrack promo; the Skyfall Premiere featurette; and the film’s theatrical trailer. All of the supplements are presented in HD.
We’re also given a Sneak Peak collection of several trailers for upcoming FOX/MGM releases, as well as a DVD and Ultraviolet copy of the film.