Skyfall review

Since I attended the World Premiere of Skyfall at the Royal Albert Hall on October 23rd you may have expected me to write this review sooner, and in fact I had planned on producing something immediately after seeing the film. However, events worked out differently to planned and so it is only now, the day before Skyfall is released in IMAX theatres in the United States that I am able to get the job done.

First off I’ll start with lavish praise for Roger Deakin’s cinematography, which makes the film look superb. Sam Mendes also did a good job getting the best performances out of all the actors ever seen in a Bond movie; from that point he really has upped the standard a notch or two. The actors themselves too, obviously; Daniel Craig was once again superb as James Bond and the supporting cast all did a great job.

Also, the pre-titles sequence is fast, furious and exciting, and although I didn’t go much on the actual title sequence itself, Adele’s song fits well; and the humour is done well and will make you genuinely laugh.

However, after that first viewing I felt more disappointed in Skyfall than any previous James Bond film; that I did not expect.

The problem is, I didn’t really know why I felt so disappointed and therefore unable to write a review; I’ll do my best to express my feelings now, but I’m not entirely sure I can express myself fully.

Since then I’ve seen Skyfall a second time and did enjoy it more. But I still feel it is a long was from being anywhere near, as has been trumpeted by various reviewers, the best Bond film ever. I am in the extreme minority and so it is almost certain you will disagree with what I have to say. That’s okay, and I hope you enjoy it more than I have done so far; perhaps it will grow on me and I will only appreciate it on DVD release.

On a small level Skyfall failed for me by including a number of things I definitely did not want to see in a Bond movie. I’m on record as saying, before the press conference last November, that if they brought back Q he should be completely different to Desmond Llewelyn’s portrayal, and they got that right; but I also said that I didn’t want to learn the backstory of any of the secondary characters, and they failed there. Small matter, I can live with it.

Slightly more frustrating is the amount of screen time given to such secondary characters; M has been seen more and more in each of the Daniel Craig films, until Skyfall, in which she plays a major role instead. Q and other characters are also overused.

However, there are some larger issues, which are related to the story. First, with Bond drowning his sorrows in whisky and pills after going MIA I got little feeling for any kind of crisis in his life; the scenes moved too quickly as if they needed be be done and out the way. When he returned to London there was little evidence either beyond being shaky with his PPK; what was filmed showing Bond getting back into shape seems to have largely ended up on the cutting room floor.

Second is the villain. Although Javier Bardem is a good actor, his entrance is too late and when he is introduced it is as if Bardem arrived by accident on the set of an entirely different film; the film until this point has been fairly serious, but his character is not at all. I don’t really believe in his motivation either and when all is said and done he is more of a henchman figure than a true Bond villain anyway.

Third is the story structure. It feels like the filmmakers have gone back to creating a story out of a series of set action pieces with a thin story binding them together. At times this moves the story on well, such as when Bond goes to Shanghai and the Macau casino scenes with the komodo dragons (and a nice nod to Live And Let Die), but the London scenes in particular seemed to drag and not really what I want from a James Bond film. The scenes set in Scotland are good too, with the preparations done well.

There is also, for the second film running, no real Bond girl, although it has been pointed out that perhaps M is both Bond girl and villain in one package in Skyfall. And while one of the gadgets was applauded (including by me), its appearance in the film actually makes no sense at all when you consider the series has been rebooted. And, as is often the case when computers are shown in the movies, it just wasn’t done right.

Daniel Craig was quoted as saying that on the first day of filming he noticed it didn’t seem like a James Bond film, which he considered a benefit; to me it didn’t feel like a James Bond film either, but makes me fear for the direction of the series once again. After all, the series was radically reinvented with the Casino Royale reboot; the direction of the Bond films doesn’t, and shouldn’t, need to be reinvented with each film and I for one want to see Daniel Craig in a James Bond film in which he is sent on a mission and just gets on with it just like the good old days.

My sense of disappointment is relative to the massively positive reviews that were published when it was first screened; Skyfall does have some truly great moments but overall, for me at least, adds up to less than the sum of its parts.

David Leigh founded The James Bond Dossier in 2002. A fan of 007 since the age of 8, he is also author of The Complete Guide to the Drinks of James Bond. You can order a copy here if you don't own it already.

Free monthly newsletter

Get the latest on Bond 26 and other James Bond news by email.

No thanks, I'm not interested in news about 007

Share this article

Like this article? Join our free 007 newsletter and get the latest on Bond 26 and other James Bond news by email.

6 Responses to “Skyfall review”

  • Gypsy King

    Totally agree with you. Also bond fails completely in his mission. Too much influence from the Nolan Batman films. Feel free to check my review on my blog – we hold similar views!

  • M

    I just checkout out your review – yes, we do hold very similar views on Skyfall.

  • Robby

    Excellent review.It’s now been one day since I’ve seen SKYFLL, at it’s opening in Pennsylvania, and I’m still digesting it all. Quite a complex film,IMHO. Soooo many things going on. Almost like 3 films in one, or at lest the film seems to be divided in 1/3’s.

    Next time I’ve got to remind myself not to check out the trailers ahead of time (just try to do that!) because, of course, you’re anticipating certain scenes ahead of time and you wonder when they’ll show up. That being said, I loved the final 3rd of the film, which was totally unanticipated, to me at least, and it’s the first time since OHMSS that I actually shed a tear or two watching a Bond film. As you said, excellent performances by the leads.

    Final thoughts. Are we ever going to get the opening gun barrel sequence back? Will we ever see the return of SPECTRE? How many Aston Martin DB-5’s are there left in England? (so many fine machines “damaged” out in “the field”, you know!)

    I’m going to have to see it a second time before I can place it in it’s rating amongst the other Bond films. Right now, I would rate it as a runner-up to FOR YOUR EYES ONLY as the most beautiful looking one in the series. David Arnold’s score, excellent as usual. Acting – top marks for the leads.

    One last thought. Is it me or are the fighting/chase sequences getting too damn brutal and long? Some of them can be pretty exhausting for this old viewer. When you find yourself thinking, “oh, come on…who could survive that fall?” for the 3rd or 4th time during the movie…

    Thanks for listening.

  • Adrian

    A Bond film is probably the hardest to write a review about, especially if like me, you’re an avid Bond fan. I rate Bond films by the best ones being ‘ the ones with least things to complain about ‘ Therefore by using that rationale “Die Another Day” would come in as my least favourite Bond film. I don’t like to pick at the films too much because I understand how difficult it must be to come up with an original plot, especially in the ‘espionage’ genre.
    Traditionally a Bond film should feel like it takes you on a journey full of exotic locations and different forms of transport over a period of at least 140 minutes. Skyfall does this all be it some of those locations being London and Scotland. I think the importance of so much of it being set in London was relevant to the 50 year anniversary.
    As one would expect, the cinematography was incredible especially the filming in shanghai and Scotland. The acting also was of he highest quality.
    The praise for Bardem’s portrayal of the villain is completely justified but I can’t seem to figure out why. He brings a real lifelike ‘nastyness’ to the role without being too brutal. A very modern bad guy.
    I too left the cinema feeling a little disappointed, not really knowing why. Like everyone else, I’ve waited so long for the next Bond film and tried sooooooo hard to not watch trailers or read articles about the story that it’s no wonder my expectations exceed what the film delivers.
    After the reboot of Casino Royale I’ve had a hard job watching any pre Craig Bond film because for me, that film hit the nail on the head.
    I just hope that Daniel Craig’s Bond does just get to do a run of he mill ‘mission’ before he’s deemed to old for he part and is put out to grass.
    All in all Skyfall was magnificent the second time around in the cinema. The film of the year for me and deserves all and any awards that is gets over the coming months. I hope that the franchise continues to go in the right direction in the hands of the right director.
    Skyfall has all the right ingredients just in different quantities from other Bond films.

  • Largo1

    I also concur with the review and the comments. I had no desire to see it again, a forgettable action film was my thought as I exited the theater. Taking the three Craig films as a whole, as a movement towards a more masculine assertion seems valid. I wish they got a bit deeper into the mommy issues. The death scene and Bardem’s lines, “you have to pull the trigger” (?) to M. I will see it again just to review that section. Hitchcock’s Psycho is the definitive mommy issue film. I did like the line, “what do you know about fear?” and his reply. That is thought provoking. What do we know, or should? It brings to mind, in FRWL the book, “I like strong emotions”, what most people find frightening. Shaken, not stirred regarding Skyfall.

  • Noel Thomas Simpson

    I find Skyfall to be a powerful movie. That doesn’t mean to say I love it but it does have an emphatic confidence in its execution which audiences picked up on. It is a movie constructed of long sections which I could almost bullet point on one hand. The finale itself must be close to 35 minutes long, the London sequence takes up about 20 minutes. These are huge stretches of the film. Much of he film is about the lead up to meeting Silva. Once that’s done the film starts to head for the end credits. I personally would’ve liked to see a bit more variety in terms of narrative and incident. I like films which allow characters and scenes to breath but Skyfall’s pacing often resembles Craig’s performance: strutting, cocky and suiting itself. On my first viewing I audibly groaned with exasperation when the camera cut to London at one point (the scene where Mallory is chastising M) as I felt the film was coasting too much and needed to go up a gear. I also noticed that many of the film’s scenes are built around 2 people talking; Bond and M in her house, Bond and Q, Bond & Eve, Bond & Severine, Bond & Silva and then Silva & M. This peculiar fact has lead me to christen the film Skychat. These scenes reflect the film’s submersive approach where it’s about the scene itself and not how it’s supposed to propel things along.
    Action wise it’s not too memorable. I love well constructed action set pieces with imaginative stunts. Again I find that the movie relies on submersing the audience into these slowly unfolding long sequences rather than a dedicated 5 minute hit of excitement. Skyfall’s positive regard from the audience does come from the interactions of the characters and an introduction of care and warmth into the Bond movies. I responded to that too but similar to what David said in his review, maybe there’s not much more to develop with these characters beyond banter and a quip. Flash forward nearly 10 years(!) to No Time To Die, Fukunaga tries to stick a mini Skyfall remake smack bang into the middle of the movie where all the characters hang out in London. It’s warm and fuzzy but such a waste of film time.

    Similarly maybe Bond himself might not warrant an enormous amount of psychoanalysis. Fundamentally it’s what he does and the world he exists in which excites us, not why he does it. Still, Skyfall has a wonderful theme song, a great Bond and a mimicable Javier Bardem. Its existential undertones certainly hit a note with me in particular the revelation of Skyfall itself with Thomas Newman’s accompanying cue. And Bond and M driving off in the Aston is an invite to the audience to express their love for 007 and these movies. The movies were 50 years old, I think they deserved to get a bit touchy feely but after that it’s back to work!