I made it to see Skyfall
Saturday night, & as promised, here is my review. But before I do, I have to explain a little about how I will handle a few things to avoid spoilers. When there is something that I want to say that involves a spoiler, I will put it in as a footnote (1) so you can avoid reading it if you like.
1st of all, it did deserve to be the top box office draw of the weekend. With an $87.8 million box office, it did better than the rest of the top 10 combined. It was also the biggest US openning for any Bond film.
Part of the reason it did so well is simple, most of the movies out there any more are junk. So when a truly good movie comes out, it will do as good as Skyfall. & while one reviewer said she expected a best picture nomination for the Oscars, I won't hold my breathe. This movie is not the PC type that has resulted in much of the garbage that they have a tendancy to nominate. But IMHO it is 1 of the best movies of the year.
Now on to the movie itself.
I do have to start with a couple of complaints. I know MGM owns United Artists & that Sony owns MGM. But the Bond movie rights are Eon & UA. Please return to having UA at the beginning. & while I am at it, could you also have the Gunshot logo to the beginning as well. I will admit, without trying to give anything away, that for this movie it did make some sense because of the ending.
As this is the 50th anniversary of the 1st Eon produced Bond movie, many things in it pay homage to the earlier movies as well as the books by Ian Fleming. I will mention a few.
The pre-credit scene takes place in a typically exotic location that Bond has been in before, Turkey From Russia With Love). He was there to recover a computer hard drive stolen from a murdered MI6 agent that contains details of almost all undercover NATO agents in terrorist organisations. He & a female assistant chase the killer, mercenary Patrice, attempting to recover the disk. The early part of the chase has Bond in the passenger seat while his assistant drives. Later he gets a seperate vehicle. He is shot in the shoulder by Patrice. Later, while fighting Patrice on the top of a moving train, Bond is accidentally shot by his assistant when she is ordered to try & hit Patrice by M. Bond is later considered "missing, presumed killed" (You Only Live Twice, book).
The opening credits tied in very well to the movie. Various parts even had more than one meaning that became clear as the movie went on. It wasn't the best openning credits as a couple times it was difficult to read the names as they were obscured by what was going on behind. As I said before, the theme was performed by Adele. It is the 1st time since Die Another Day that the song actually shared the title with the movie.
The movie proper starts with M (Dame Judy Dench) writing Bond's Obit (You Only Live Twice, book & movie). We only see the 1st line. In it Bond still has his CMG (Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George), but rather than being a RNVR (Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, he is full blown RN (Royal Navy).
M then meets with the Intelligence and Security Committee Chairman, Gareth Mallory (Ralph Feinnes). At that meeting she is pressured to resign because of the loss of the list of NATO agents, but she vows to continue the fight until the infor is recovered & whoever is behind it is caught.
On here way back to MI6, her computer is hacked into & an explosion is set off in the building. It is at this point we find out what happenned to Bond. He used his death to retire (You Only Live Twice, end of book sans amnesia).
At this point we see a totally different Bond, one who is burnt out, drinking & very much looking aged & haggard. Something we have not seen in the movies, but have seen variations on in a couple of the books, like the later part of Casino Royale & the start of You Only Live Twice. Bond returns to London. He 1st approached M in her apartment. She forces him to undergo evaluation before being restored to active duty. This was similar to what happenned when Bond returned in the book version of The Man With the Golden Gun, but with some variations since Bond didn't have amnesia. We see more evidence of how much Bond has deteriorated. But M gives the OK to return him to active duty.
Bond meets the new Q (Ben Whishaw). It is not explained what happenned to the previous Q. Bond takes an instant dislike to the new Q since he is so young, but he soon wins Bond's trust & Bond starts calling him Q. Q supplies him with a new Walther PPK that hand palm print recognition. He also provides Bond with small location signal (shades of Goldfinger, sort of).
Bond ends up in Shanghai where he finds Patrice. This leads him to Macau (Man With the Golden Gun) where he is joined up with his female assitant. Eventually the trail leads to the main baddie, Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), a former MI6 agent who worked under M. Part of the finding him involves a visit to Macau that has several echos of the movie version of The Man With the Golden Gun. The rest of the story involves defeating Silva. The last act takes place in Scotland in the home where Bond grew up. In doing so, we learn a little more about what makes Bond, Bond.(1)
Since everyone knows that Bond always suceeds in his mission, jumping to the final scene of the movie won't give anything away. Bond is called to the new office of M. There he finally meets up with Eve Moneypenny, M's new secretary. This is the 1st time in the movies that Moneypenny is given a 1st name. After the usual banter, we see Tanner coming out of M's office. The door & the office go back to the look in the early movies rather than the more modern look of late.
With Q & Moneypenny in place & the return to the original office, the reboot that started in Casino Royale is now complete.
Overall the movie was well done. There were a couple times I felt it dragged a bit. But the acting & storyline were excellent. Of course there are the usual chases, & several deaths, both villians & those with Bond, including 1 of the Bond women.
Daniel Craig gives his best performance as Bond. We really believe Bond is burned out at the start. We also see how Bond is revitalized by the end. It is done in a very believable way. The chemistry between him & Q holds some great promise. The same can be said for that between him & Moneypenny. Daniels also gives a human side to Bond rarely seen in the books or movies. He shows a wide range of emotions.(2)
Dame Judy Dench gives her best performance ever as M. In it we see her commtment to her job, ensuring the safety of the UK. But we also see her softer side & how she does care about her agents. We also see her in much more serious danger of her life. The final part of the movie, really gives her a chance to show her abilities as she works with Bond to defend herself to being at times helpless in the face of danger.(3) FYI: This is her 7th appearance as M.
Javier Badem is excellent as Silva. He is scary & creepy, a bit like Blofeld in You Only Live Twice, combined with Rosa Kleb in From Russia With Love. In fact his Silva & Kleb share a certain sexual prediliction. He gives the right hint of the psychopath hiding just under the surface of Silva.(4)
I think Ben Whishaw will be excellent as the new Q. He plays Q as the techo-geek expert that is needed for these days. The scenes between him & Bond worked well. It is clear he earned Bond's respect, but you can also see how they will have their clashes as did previous Bonds & Qs. I will admit that the new Q will have to grow on me. For one reason, his age. Whishaw is 31. That is an adjustment I will have to make.
Ralph Fiennes also is excellent as Gareth Mallory. His character goes from seeing M as a dinosaur to the real leader of MI6 she is. He also has very little respect for Bond at the start as well. But when he sees Bond in action, he also sees the value of 007. He has been signed to return & it will be interesting to see how they develop his character & relationship with 007 especially.
Naomie Harris as the new Moneypenny promises to be interesting for several reasons. From the banter of the closing scene, it is clear that the chemistry is there.(5)
As I said earlier, with this movie the reboot is complete. Daniel Cgraig has grown in the role & made it his own. With the new Moneypenny & Q.(6) Graig has been signed for 2 more movies. They will have a plot connection like the 1st 2 Craig movies did with Quantum. From the little I know sounds like something else will be the link. Hopefully they will live up to this one. The 1st is scheduled for 2014. & since there are no financial problems looming with MGM that caused the delay of this movie being made & released.
The other hope I have is that Felix Leiter will return & that they will do more to develop the friendship along the lines of the books than they have in the past.
CAUTION: These be spoilers
1. Bond's family estate is called Skyfall, hence the movie name. The only person still there is Kincade, the gamekeeper to the Bond family estate. For those who are unaware, Bond was made Scotish in the books in honor of Sean Connery who is Scotish. There had been some talk of getting Connery to play Kincade. Instead they wisely got Albert Finney. In discussing the movie afterwords, my friend & I agreed it would have been too much of an inside joke & ruined the ending.
2. We see the deep love as well as respect for M with how he handles her death scene & his mourning afterwords. We also see some of his sofer side during the scenes at Skyfall as well as hints at the pain it holds due to the death of his parents, Andrew Bond, & his Swiss mother, Monique Delacroix. The deaths are not explained, but there is some hint that the circumstances were possibly tied into MI6.
3. This is Dench's last appearance as M. At the end we find out that she is replaced by Mallory. He is the M Bond reports to in the new (old) office. Dench is suffering from Age-related macular degeneration (AMD. In 1 eye it is wet AMD, in the other dry AMD. She is being treated for it with injections
4. There is also a hint of Norman Bates as well. Both the friend I was with & I thought that there was also a little too much of the Joker from the Dark Knight movies in how he was written, especially how he was disfigured. Something that is revealed after he is caught by Bond.It did work though.
5. Part of it is due to the fact that she was Bond's assistant throughout the early part of the movie. In the movie we are not told her name, 1st or last until the end. She is with M at the end because in the later part of the film she has left field work & is working with Mallory. So when he takes over as M, Moneypenny takes over as his secretary.
6. & M.