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Skyfall - Blu-ray Review

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Skyfall - Movie Review

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5 Stars

The first thing you need to understand about Skyfall is that it's nothing like any of the other James Bond films you've seen. One of the grand things about Bond films is the variety of directors who approach the character, as well as the writer who pens the script. We've explored each era of Bond with some polarizing results. The Connery years are looked upon with high regard, and every "Best of" list will put classics like Dr. No and Thunderball close to the top, with From Russia With Love usually landing in the top 3 - with good reason. After almost 50 years and a poor excuse for writing in the 90s (post Goldeneye) the series took a sabbatical in time to find a new Bond, a new concept, and on overall new direction.

2006's Casino Royale was a critical favorite and introduced Daniel Craig as the first really controversial Bond (because he was... blonde) in his first mission. Quantum of Solace had the unfortunate task of following that up, and in some eyes it fell short. Solace was a revenge movie, structured completely around the aftershock of Casino Royale and the unfortunate (and somewhat painful) death of Vesper Lynd (the best Bond girl in years). Solace was a hit in the theaters but overall people were just disappointed with it compared to Casino Royale.

The expectation for Skyfall has been extremely high. When the announcement came that Oscar winning director Sam Mendes would be at the helm for Skyfall, expectations grew even further. Mendes has made some truly memorable American neo-classics like American Beauty and the gritty Tom Hanks gangster film Road to Perdition, as well as the movie every engaged couple should watch before committing to marriage - Revolutionary Road. Unlike previous directors, Mendes is here to inject a powerful presence that seemed lack in Solace - drama. Solace was action to action, dialogue, action. Skyfall breaks the mold of James Bond films by offering the first truly emotional rollercoaster for the series. The highs are high, and the lows hit you like a sidewalk. All thanks to Mendes' pinpoint filming.

To begin, Skyfall is magnificently filmed. The series is known for gorgeous landscapes and locales. Skyfall takes that to another level. Case in point, Bond's visit to Shanghai in Skyfall provides one of the most visually striking fight scenes without the use of crazy stunts or tremendous gunfire. The setting alone makes it a pit of the stomach battle, beautifully shot, and rendering the audience captivated. It's not arthouse, it's good filmmaking. Viewing Skyfall in IMAX format is a must, because without it, some of the details to savor may be lost. Mendes films Skyfall with an endearment to the character, the subject matter, but most importantly - the audience. Nothing here is overly stimulating to the point you turn your head away. It's the Avatar of Bond films because everything is pleasing, every visual is captivating, and every action sequence is tailored for the audience so that nothing is missed, but everything is felt.

The film begins with Bond on a mission, as usual, alongside a fellow agent Eve. They are hunting down a list of operatives who are currently undercover in terrorist organizations. Needless to say, it's a very important list. Bond takes two bullets, one from the man he's chasing, Patrice, and the other from Eve by accident. The list escapes, and Bond is presumed dead. Meanwhile, Judi Dench returns in what was announced as her last performance as M. She's been a staple for the series since 1995's masterful Goldeneye. M's desire to find the list overshadows her feelings towards Bond, hence her insistence that Eve take the shot when she doesn't have a clean one. Coming under fire from the rest of England for her inability to successfully retrieve the list, and the loss of an agent, M is informed by Mallory - new to the series Ralph Fiennes who is spectacular in his role - that in 2 months time she will be forced into retirement and given the agency's highest honor. A bitter pill for M to swallow indeed, she has little reprieve from that before the MI6 headquarters is decimated by a terrorist attack.

Dench has played M through some of Bond's greatest films, and possibly the worst (I apologize for those who are fans of Die Another Day). It's not until Skyfall that the character and Dench's performance can truly be immortalized. Her passion for the job is unmatched, with the exception of possibly Bond. She may not be a field agent, but she's determined to make England prevail even in the worst of times. A commander in chief like no other, M is determined to find the list at whatever cost. The destruction of the MI6 building brings Bond back from the dead, as he's been hiding on a private island drinking liquor with scorpions on his wrist. He emerges from the grave in M's home one evening and is sent back into the field after going through rehabilitation and training.

It's here that we see Bond in a rare moment - vulnerable. His wounds not completely healed, his ego tarnished, he fails his firing test proving that Bond is not 100%. It's a first for the series really, and Craig proves why he was cast as Bond again. His portrayal of 007 is cold at times, prickly, but also endearing and heartbreaking. A major theme with Skyfall is reflection. Reflection for each character on the past and what they've done and how they've gotten here. But also reflection on the Bond films of the last 5 decades. Mendes, Craig, and Dench all manage to pay homage in their own ways to the films beginnings.

Vesper Lynd's death left us with a cold Bond. She was Bond's first true love and the catalyst for the James Bond we've known for years. Skyfall focuses on a different aspect of Bond's personality - his childhood. M has acted like a mother in a lot of ways to Bond, which is why the villain of Skyfall strikes a strong nerve. Javier Bardem is a fantastic actor. There are few roles that he's done that are small and forgettable. Here, Bardem plays Silver, a former operative of M's when she was stationed in Hong Kong. Silver is sadistic in every way. His flamboyant, mama's boy type of demeanor is only a cloak for how despicable he truly is. Bardem's love-hate for M is the heart of Skyfall. Some may feel uncomfortable with just how close he wants to be to M, and how desperately he wants her head. It mirrors the relationship M and Bond have, but at a far more personal level. M's past is brought up, and for once you learn just what makes her tick. It's eye opening.

Origin stories/reboots have been all the craze. Another aspect that's been the craze has been killing the hero. It's powerful statement about your intent with the story. Never before have I watched a Bond film and felt so closely that Bond was not going to get out of this alive. The desperation in Skyfall is astounding. You feel for these characters. There is no emptiness here. The finale of Skyfall is utterly heartbreaking, a word I seldom use for an action film. After The Dark Knight Rises teased the death of Batman, I felt it quite possible to see Bond fall. My nerves were racked as the showdown commenced. Could they do it? Could this be the end? There's a pit in your stomach and it just keeps growing and growing. I've never had that feeling watching a Bond film. None of his near death experiences in the last 50 years of films have ever felt all that threatening. It's different here  because of the emotional investment. Skyfall pulls you in like no other Bond film has, or probably ever will.

Is it the best Bond film? In my opinion, yes. It mixes every aspect that makes James Bond so enjoyable - the return of classic characters like Q Branch and Ms. Moneypenny, provides intense and at times a little over the top action sequences, but also triggers that emotional attachment to the characters that you've come to love for the last 50 years and tugs at your heartstrings. For the casual action fan, it will satisfy your needs, you'll walk away saying "that was good." But for those of us who have an attachment to the characters as a result of years of following their adventures, Skyfall hits on a nerve you wouldn't expect. It's entirely gut wrenching and pulse pounding, with a devoted cast, a professional director, and a script that manages to make you feel something you wouldn't have ever thought you'd feel.

{2jtab: Film Details}

Skyfall - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense violent sequences throughout, some sexuality, language and smoking.
Runtime:
143 mins.
Director
: Sam Mendes
Writer
: Neal Purvis; Robert Wade; John Logan
Cast: Daniel Craig; Javier Bardem; Judi Dench; Ralph Fiennes; Albert Finney
Genre
: Action | Crime | Thriller
Tagline:
Skyfall
Memorable Movie Quote: "Three months ago, you lost the drive containing the identity of every agent embedded in terrorist organizations across the globe."
Distributor:
Columbia Pictures
Official Site:
www.007.com/skyfall
Release Date: November 9, 2012
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
February 12, 2013

Synopsis: Bond's loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

Skyfall - Bu-ray Review

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
5 Stars

4 stars



Blu-ray Experience
4.5 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - February 12, 2013
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, French, Spanish, Italian, Danish, Estonian, Finnish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Mandarin (Simplified), Norwegian, Russian, Swedish, Ukrainian
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit); Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 kbps); French: Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 kbps); English: Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 kbps); Italian: DTS 5.1; Russian: DTS 5.1; Ukrainian: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); UV digital copy; DVD copy
Region Encoding: Region-free

Go ahead, count the stubble on Craig’s chin. Yes, this release is that detailed. The 1080p AVC encode of Bond’s latest adventure is a faithful and precise 2:40:1 representation of the film. Colors are bold and warm and exquisitely detailed with a great display of depth and shadow.  This is a stunning transfer that Twentieth Century Fox nailed.  All the subtlety and shading that Roger Deakins brought to the theatrical release can be enjoyed here. Contrast, an important element of Deakins' technique, is well balanced, with deep blacks but strong whites. Sharpness and detail are exquisite. Even the Shanghai scenes are perfectly balanced with the use of reds and neon and thick, inky blacks.  Skin tones are natural and everything is crisp, crisp, crisp. The disc's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless mix does a great job of highlighting composer Thomas Newman's John Barry-inspired work.  Don’t worry, though, it has the nuances in the sound field as well.  Overall, this is an impressive release.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • There are two commentaries for this release. The first one features director Sam Mendes solo.  It’s wonderfully detailed with making of comments and production notes. Fans will certainly enjoy the depth and enthusiasm Mendes has – especially during the title sequence.  The second commentary features producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli. Also along for the ride is production designer Dennis Gassner. While Wilson and Broccoli are the unsung heroes of the franchise, they spend far too long patting each other on the back for their commentary to truly be of interest. Stick with the Mendes one and be done.

Special Features:

I have a feeling we will all be purchasing Skyfall again. The supplemental material is vastly inferior to any other previous Craig Bond and each of those releases - Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace – were released twice; both with additional material. What we have on this release is a series of vignettes entitled “Shooting Bond” that make up about one hour of Behind the Scenes footage.  There’s also a look at the film’s premiere and a spot for its soundtrack. While interesting to hear from the film’s actors, including relative newcomer Berenice Marlohe, there just isn’t enough time spent with each of them to really classify the sections on Bond women or villains as essential watching. The vignettes then move on to the stunts and, with stunt coordinator Gary Powell as our interview guide, we get a pretty good look at what it took to crash an underground train into a series of sewers.

  • Shooting Bond (60 min)
  • Skyfall Premiere (4 min)
  • Soundtrack Promotion (1 min)

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