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Skyfall by Sam Mendes (Director)
Review by Ernest Lilley
Twentieth Century Fox DVD  ISBN/ITEM#: B007REV4T8
Date: 03 December 2012 List Price $29.98 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Official SIte / Skyfall IMDB Listing /

"This is the end", promises the opening credits song for Skyfall, Bond's 23rd outing on the silver screen. Surely not for Bond, or for Daniel Craig, who is going strong in this third film in a five movie contract?

Of course, we see him fall from the roof of a train into a chasm even before the song and iconic graphics begin the main film. Still, we've also seen him face off against the baddie in the trailer, offering up his hobby as resurrection. So maybe endings aren't really endings, but more like stations on the underground, where you change trains. Actually, Craig gets on and off trains several times in this film, but rarely minding the gap.

It is the end of an era, both for Bond and MI6, and Skyfall is where the period on the sentence falls.

This is a very transitional film for 007. We've seen Craig's Bond go get his 00 rating in Casino Royale, soldier on without an actual script in Quantum of Solace, and arrive here to be sacrificed before the credits. It's not surprising that he's getting a little tired of it all, and if he wants to take his time coming back from death, who could blame him?

In the opening sequence, he winds up grappling with a bad guy on the roof of a train going over a gorge while trying to recover a stolen hard drive with the list of every undercover operative out there. M, ably played again by Judy Dench, is justly afraid that it will be used to make the term "secret agent" an oxymoron. Which won't happen on her watch, if Bond can help it. Oh wait, she just had him shot.

Dear, dear. What's a mother to do? For openers, she can testify in front of the Defense Minister and prepare to be sacked for botching up the security of the state, but that's just the beginning of the end for M, whose troubles are just getting started.

At the end of Bond creator Ian Fleming's book, You Only Live Twice, Bond falls into the sea and emerges without any memory of who he is, taking up a life in a Japanese fishing village, until a memory surfaces and sends him back to the world.  Though Craig's Bond clearly remembers M's order to have his very able (for once) sidekick "take the shot", and hopefully bring down the guy who stole the hard drive. In Skyfall, it isn't a memory that sends him back to the world, but Wolf Blitzer's reporting on CNN that someone has blown up MI6’' headquarters, a personal 9/11 for Bond, and a call to arms.

An unspecified period of sulking, boozing, carousing, and generally enjoying death has left Bond less than the man he was, something Fleming might have appreciated, as the book's Bond slides into deeper depths of ruination as the novels go by. When he turns up on M's doorstep she tells him he'll have to requalify as an agent before he can go back in the field. So as we watch Craig struggle through the physical testing and mental evaluations, with gray stubble and lined eyes, not the agent he used to be, though still twice the man most of us ever hope to see in the mirror.

While he may not be all that he was, he's still Bond, and M sends him back into the field, glossing over his deficiencies. As long as she's M, she tells Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) the civilian oversight she's been saddled with, she'll pick her own operatives. The whole movie is about the cost of the decisions M makes, one of which has come back to haunt her in the form of an agent she had abandoned to the Chinese when she was station chief in Hong Kong.

Bond's nemesis, Silva, is well played by Spanish actor Javier Bardem, playing a blend of Ricardo Montobahn's Kahn and the Jack Nicholson's Joker, deformed by the cyanide capsule he dutifully bit into under torture by the Chinese. There are a lot of psycho-sexual elements to his relationship with M and Bond which may or may not leap off the screen at you, but we'll just say his character is twisted and let you work it out for yourself.  Sacrificing her best agent appears as a recurring motif in the film, and how the agent being used up deals with it is provides a crucible for testing, and possibly forming, character.  On the other hand, I liked Naomie Harri's (Eve) style  quite well and am sorry to see her leave the field. More believable Halle Berry as a field agent, less coolness and posture and more running like hell and trying not to lose her footing.

There’s much talk of the old ways being the best ways, often involving phallic objects. This theme is further carried off by going all basic on the gadgets and moving from the per-millennial glass and steel MI6 digs into the cold war and before underground bunkers. That's the context, but I can't help but wonder if the subtext is revealed in the last scene, (mild spoiler here) where the new M is a man, and a former military officer. The old ways indeed.

Some Bond gadgets are now sufficiently old now that they qualify for the lower tech Bond, even if he has to dig them up on his own. Abandoning the agency car he's spiriting M away in for the silver Aston Martin DB9 that is as much a fixture in the films as the Bond theme, he flips open the eject button during a moment of family squabble with M…just to let us know it's not merely a car he won off a baddy in a poker game in .

The car is actually a piece of very advanced tech, though in reality, not in the movie. Rather than have an actual DB9 suffer the slings and arrows of Bondian fortune, three 1/3 scale models were 3D printed for the movie, then kitted out with gizmos and painted up like the original, complete with the odd bullet hole. Speaking of 3D, the film is out in IMAX, but in only 2D.  The film's technical credits don't list 3D at all, which is a pity considering that all the running, jumping, falling, and getting shot at by big helicopters would have looked great.

Bye the way, the title of the film is never explained, but you’ll probably catch it written in stone on the gate of the hulking manor on the moor that Bond grew up in before being orphaned, and to which he's never returned. Now you know.

All in all, I enjoyed it tremendously, though one should not look too closely behind the curtain. Keeping in mind that continuity doesn't really count for anything (as Austin Power's boss Basil says to the audience, in The Spy Who Shagged Me, "I suggest you don't worry about those things and just enjoy yourself." Skyfall is quite good, and possibly the best Bond film yet.

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