Thursday Night Movie Club
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Release Date: 9 November 2012

Director: Sam Mendes
Daniel Craig
Judi Dench
Javier Bardem
Ralph Fiennes
Naomie Harris
Bérénice Marlohe
Albert Finney
Ben Whishaw
Rory Kinnear
Ola Rapace
Helen McCrory
Nicholas Woodeson
Bill Buckhurst
Elize du Toit
Ian Bonar
James Bond
Gareth Mallory
Clair Dowar MP
Doctor Hall
Vanessa (M's Assistant)
MI6 Technician
Skyfall movie poster #1 Skyfall movie poster #2 Skyfall movie poster #3
Daniel Craig as James Bond in SkyfallWelcome back Ian Fleming's James Bond 007. It has been too long without you. There have been other movies in the James Bond movie franchise but not many have been this good and this unexpected since Timothy Dalton. Skyfall is the 23rd installment in the series and it is a rollicking good time filled with great action, plenty of humor and surprise, surprise, a very good story.

The previous installment, Quantum of Solace was a great idea for a follow-up to Daniel Craig's first outing as James Bond in Casino Royale, but the script and the film direction was below par. Skyfall is a grand slam home run that just keeps going and going like a certain pink toy bunny.

There has been a long, four-year break between films due to financial problems at MGM. After those issues were ironed out, Skyfall was scheduled for release 50 years after the very first James Bond film Dr. No in 1962.

Daniel Craig and director Sam Mendes, who previously worked together on Mendes' Road to Perdition, had been communicating behind the scenes during the break discussing different elements and story lines the two wanted to explore regarding the James Bond character.

The result of their collaboration is one of the best James Bond movies ever. From the opening shot to the last shot, Skyfall exceeds any preconceived expectations of what a James Bond film should be. As the film unfolds, it is evident that this film is going in a completely new direction from the previous 22 films in style, editing, and script writing from Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and John Logan.

On a mission to Istanbul, Bond (Daniel Craig) is scheduled to retrieve a laptop computer from fellow MI6 agents. Something has gone terribly wrong. The agents have been murdered moments before Bond's arrival and the computer hard drive stolen. Bond tries to stem the bleeding of a surviving agent but M (Judi Dench) orders him to follow the trail. The hard drive is more important than a single life.

Judi Dench as M in SkyfallWith the aid of fellow agent Eve (Naomi Harris), Bond sets off in hot pursuit resulting in a motorcycle chase through the bazaar and a wild train chase that ends with a fist fight to the death on top of the speeding train. The next few seconds set up the conflict that the main story will explore deeper. Eve does not have a shot to kill the man fighting Bond and recover the hard drive. M orders Eve to take the shot. Eve fires her weapon but hits the wrong target. Bond falls from the train and the man escapes.

The computer hard drive contains an encrypted list of agents under deep cover inside terrorist groups around the globe. If this list is decoded, those agents will be terminated. The answer to this question takes the next hour of the film. As each scene unfolds, more questions are raised. There are no answers in sight. After the theft of the list, M is under forced retirement that will commence in two months. The computers of MI6 are hacked and the offices destroyed in an explosion. MI6 is in ruins and James Bond is dead. There is no hope for the ruined MI6.

But James Bond is not dead, yet. He had decayed into alcohol and pain-killer addiction living on a beach in God-forsaken nowhere. While watching a news broadcast of the attack on MI6, Bond's unflinching sense of duty to Queen and country kicks in. No one attacks M on his watch and lives!

One of the many highlights of Skyfall is Bond's confrontation with M upon his return to London. Bond is still seething inside after the results of his last mission. Bond knows M gives the orders and those orders are final. Bond is enraged because M did not trust 007 to finish the job. M welcomes Bond back to active duty if he completes his physical, mental and weapons tests. He fails all tests but M puts him on the case anyway. 007 is, after all, her best agent.

Daniel Craig in SkyfallFollowing clues, Bond travels to Shanghai where the best scene of the film unfolds. Bond follows Patrice (Ola Rapace), the man who stole the computer drive, to a skyscraper still under construction. The suite is a maze of glass mirrors due to the changing lights from the city outside. Bond enters the wrong room but Patrice cannot see him due to the reflecting lights. Across the street, an unknown man is viewing a painting while a gorgeous brunette looks on. Patrice assassinates the man to no one's surprise. Bond and Patrice engage in a fist fight filmed in silhouette. Much credit goes to director Sam Mendes and Craig. Even though the audience cannot clearly see each combatant, Craig's particular fighting style makes it evident which one is Bond. Just in case, one of the men falls through the now open window and is kept from falling by the other. Mendes' camera pans over the back of one man to reveal the man hanging by a thread is Patrice. Excellent film making is on display here. This sequence is unlike anything seen in any of the previous Bond films.

Daniel Craig and Javier Bardem in SkyfallVillain Henry Silva (Javier Bardem) enters in another signature sequence unlike other Bond films. In one long single take, Silva exits from an elevator and walks towards Bond tied in a chair. He tells a story about rats invading an island and feasting on coconuts. The following bi-play between Bond and Silva is “uncomfortable” for Bond and the audience. Is Silva overtly gay or is he simply making Bond squirm.

Bardem is an excellent choice to portray Silva. He is a great actor who brings menace in the form of double-en-tenders and subtlety to the character. To say Silva holds a grudge against M is an understatement. Very much like Bond, Silva is burning inside from M's betrayal. After stealing the hard drive, Silva carefully plots and executes his revenge. He wants to humiliate her, destroy her and MI6, and then kill her.

Daniel Craig and Bérénice Marlohe in SkyfallBond girl Bérénice Marlohe is sexy, seductive and mysterious as Severine. Severine is caught in a bad situation that she cannot escape, unless Bond can kill her employer. She is half-hoping Bond will make the trip to meet Silva. On the other hand, if Bond comes with, the result will mean disaster for her. Marlohe is strikingly exotic being half-Korean/half French. Unfortunately, Marlohe has limited screen time.

With Skyfall, Daniel Craig gets Ian Fleming's James Bond perfect. Bond is a wreck but rises to the challenge when his survival instincts kick in. Bond's hand shakes when he points a pistol, but once the shooting starts, Bond takes out four men in the blink of an eye. During the final confrontation, Craig's Bond is frantically avoiding bullets and bombs. When he comes upon a plan of action, Craig gets all serious, doggedly putting his plan into action and paying no heed to the chaos surrounding him. Craig keeps getting better.

Daniel Craig as James Bond in SkyfallSkyfall also cleverly brings back elements from the previous Bond lexicon. Q (Ben Whishaw) and Q-Branch are brought back but all of the clever gadgets have not. As Q states, those are from a bygone era. Whishaw is an excellent choice to take over the reins from original Q Desmond Llewellyn. He is a young, very intelligent nerd. Q can do more damage with a computer than Bond can out in the world. But realizes that sometimes a trigger must be pulled. The camaraderie and witty banter between Bond and Q will only get better.

Skyfall is also much funnier than the two previous Craig films. Dench is stern and funny, many times in the same sentence. Craig, after a long chase with a hitman, shrugs his shoulders, fixes his tie, and looks perfect. There are also several funny and witty scenes between Bond and Eve as they playfully trade barbs. Even Ralph Fiennes gets in a good line or two as Gareth Mallory, the Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee and M's direct report.

The film ends with a scene between Bond and Eve. She presents Bond with a gift from M. It is an ugly porcelain bulldog that somehow survived the explosion at MI6. Eve suggests that the gift is M's suggestion for Bond to take a desk job. Bond replies, “Quite the opposite.” Yes Virginia, there is a Bond, James Bond and he will be back.

Personal note: I haven't seen this movie enough times yet and I am already looking forward to the Bond 24. The title “Skyfall” refers to something in Bond's past that has led him on a path to MI6. What is it? Spoilers!