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‘Skyfall’ Early Review Round-Up: Mendes, Craig, and Bardem Rise to the Occasion

'Skyfall' Early Review Round-Up: Mendes, Craig, and Bardem Rise to the Occasion

Early reviews for Bond 23 are glowing. Directed by Sam Mendes, “Skyfall” features Daniel Craig in his third Bond film and showcases Javier Bardem as the sinister villain and Judi Dench’s M.  Reviewers report that under Mendes’ guidance, this James Bond might be the best of them all.

“Skyfall” revolves around a WikiLeaks-style debacle that has unsettled government authority – a plot line that the critics praise for having cultural and political relevancy.  Reviewers also show admiration for the look of the film, which in cinematographer Roger Deakins hands gives the Bond film reverence to its 50 year history as well as a contemporary pared-down feel.  Though the number will most likely drop a bit, “Skyfall” currently boasts an 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes as of writing. 

Wow. Sunday night Sixty Minutes profiled Cubby Broccoli scions Barbara and Michael Wilson, who grew up with the franchise, so much so that when she was a kid Barbara expected the real 007 to walk in the door. Our review and the first batch of early writeups are excerpted below.

Demetrios Matheou, Thompson on Hollywood

Could this be the best-acted Bond ever? Mendes is surely responsible for the calibre of the supporting cast, which includes Ralph Fiennes, as the bureaucrat breathing down M’s neck, perky Naomie Harris as rookie agent Eve, and Ben Whishaw as the new Q, an anorak-wearing nerd-genius, whose introductory joust with Bond in the National Gallery is an instant classic. “A gun and a radio,” complains the agent of the new era’s lack of toys. “It’s not exactly Christmas.”  And then there’s Javier Bardem, whose Bond villain is as memorable as his Oscar-winning bad guy in “No Country for Old Men.” With his foppish blond hair and bleached eyebrows, monstrous ego and fondness for fondling Bond’s thighs, Bardem’s Silva is one part Julian Assange, one part Hannibal Lecter and one part Kenneth Williams. He’s extraordinary.

Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

Dramatically gripping while still brandishing a droll undercurrent of humor, this beautifully made film will certainly be embraced as one of the best Bonds by loyal fans worldwide and leaves you wanting the next one to turn up sooner than four years from now. Bond watchers have been especially eager for “Skyfall” to arrive for several reasons, particularly to see if the Craig sequence of films can bounce back from the crushing low of Quantum of Solace after starting so high with “Casino Royale,” and to evaluate what fresh perspective might be delivered by big and unexpected talents like director Sam Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins. The answers are “yes” to the first proposition and “quite a bit” to the second. Whereas “Casino Royale” tasted like a fine old vintage served in a snappy new bottle, “Skyfall” seems like a fresh blend altogether, one with some weight and complexity to it.

Peter Debruge, Variety

Putting the “intelligence” in MI6, “Skyfall” reps a smart, savvy and incredibly satisfying addition to the 007 oeuvre, one that places Judi Dench’s M at the center of the action. It’s taken 23 films and 50 years to get Bond’s backstory, but the wait was worth it. Whatever parallels it shares with the Bourne series or Nolan’s astonishingly realized Batman saga, “Skyfall” radically breaks from the Bond formula while still remaining true to its essential beats, presenting a rare case in which audiences can no longer anticipate each twist in advance. Without sacrificing action or overall energy, Mendes puts the actors at the forefront, exploring their marvelously complex emotional states in ways the franchise has never before dared.

Robbie Collin, Daily Telegraph

“Skyfall” shakes together familiar elements of the Ian Fleming canon – the cars, the guns, the exotic locales with the dames to match – into a blistering comic book escapade that the old Bond, and one suspects Fleming too, would find altogether alien. Bardem’s lip-lickingly camp turn makes him the oddest Bond villain since the Roger Moore era, and his nicotine hair flops queasily over his forehead in a way that calls to mind Julian Assange. By acknowledging the rise of cyberterrorism in the same way Nolan played on the West’s new vulnerability in the wake of 9/11, “Skyfall” is a Bond film for the Anonymous generation.

Katey Rich, Cinema Blend

“Skyfall” creates a mission statement for the character’s very existence, proving how perfectly everything we know about Bond can fit into modern times. Midway through the film he deadpans that his hobby is “resurrection,” and though this new Bond was technically introduced six years ago, it really does feel like he’s been reborn. With a perfect mix of classic Bond tropes and fresh, modern style, “Skyfall” is vital, thrilling and consistently surprising; it’s as good as Bond has ever been, and a more than convincing argument that James Bond matters more now than ever before.

Xan Brooks, The Guardian

By this point, the makers of “Skyfall” have taken the bold decision to open Bond up – to probe at the character’s back-story and raise a toast to his relationship with M. Yet this touchy-feely indulgence proves to be a mistake, in that it paves the path to soft-headedness, nostalgia and (worst of all) jokey banter with Bond’s bearded old retainer. Don’t they realise that 007 has always been at his most convincing when he’s at his crudest and least adorned; when he’s serving as a blank canvas for macho fantasy; the dark angel of our disreputable natures?

Oliver Lyttelton, The Playlist

The first thing that strikes you, walking out of “Skyfall,” is that (as with “Batman Begins”) it’s the first Bond in a long while to really place character and story at the forefront of things, rather than stringing together a series of set-pieces (“Casino Royale” came closer, but didn’t go into the same degree of depth). This is a new Bond, aging, vulnerable and off his game — something driven home by the excellent Adele-scored opening credits — and Craig gets some new notes to play for the character, and does as reliably and excellently as he did in the two previous entries. 007 now fits him like a glove.
But Mendes gets a lot more right than he gets wrong, and in the process has found a confident new identity for the franchise — not afraid of its past, but not chasing its competitors or being scared of the future either. It might take another viewing of each to see if it exceeds “Casino Royale” as the best since the Sean Connery days, but at the very least, it makes clear that after the disappointment of “Quantum of Solace” that Bond is back, and he’s not going anywhere. [B+]

Guy Lodge, HitFix

You sense Craig may have been happier with the hard-line, no-frills direction “Quantum of Solace” was taking. If the gleaming surfaces and unexpected tender areas of this grandly entertaining new adventure are anything to go by, not many of his colleagues agree with him — though Mendes, generally stronger on polish than on pep, might have been harder on the script’s purpler speechifying. (He also leaves dangling at least one expensive and wholly extraneous set piece in the London Underground.) On balance, however, “Skyfall” represents a happy compromise between golden-anniversary nostalgia and post-Bourne streamlining. The action here may be rooted in a post-9/11 environment of terrorism and darting paranoia, but with its retro fittings and overriding spirit of British conservation, this venerable series is finally copping to its status as heritage cinema – and is no worse off for it.


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