skyfall200Grade:  A-
Entire family:  No

2012, 143 min., Color
Rated PG-13 for intense violent sequences, some sexuality, language, smoking
MGM/Fox

Aspect ratio:  2.40:1
Featured audio:  English DTS-HD 5.1
Bonus features:  B-

Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy and UV
Trailer

After the mind-numbing narratives and hyper-seriousness of Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, Craig’s third outing is a nostalgic return to the old Bond films in which a strong-but-simple plot mattered as much (if not more) than the explosions, stunts, and special effects. Yes, there are a number of big-concept effects here, but there are also enough cheeky moments and one-liners to make you recall those early outings. Frankly, it’s refreshing to have the filmmakers put the fun back into Bond films. 

Skyfall runs more than a half hour longer than Quantum of Solace, but it never feels overly long. Credit not just solid pacing, but interesting visuals, action, writing, plotting . . . the whole package. Interesting minor characters add to the fun, with Naomie Harris so engaging you wish she had more airtime.

Javier Bardem turns in a great performance as a former agent who was thrown under the bus by M (Judi Dench). If I have one nit to pick, it’s that the villain, by design, isn’t quite frightening or campy enough—like the good old Bond days when you had henchmen like Jaws or Odd Job stealing the scenes (and chewing the scenery).  A Bond girl-in-distress (Bérénice Marlohe) warns that he’s super scary, but what follows doesn’t exactly match up. He’s dangerous, for sure, but while he could use some dental work he’s hardly monstrous.

Then again, that’s good news for families with pre-teens who have older siblings able to watch PG-13 films. The Sean Connery and Roger Moore films are still the best Bonds for families because they have less violence and more humor. But Skyfall is much more family-friendly than any Bond film released in the past 30 years. Brief nudity is presented only in silhouette and while there’s blood, the violence is downplayed—so much so that our violence-sensitive 10 year old enjoyed it. Only one spot made her wince (us too): when Bond digs a piece of shrapnel out of his shoulder with a knife. And for those who are sensitive to such things, there’s one F-bomb. But frankly, the pacing is so brisk and cinematography and effects so breathtaking that such things don’t stand out.

yBdB4UbIcZApvSd9jltSvprWyTjSkyfall gets off to a fast start. I can’t recall when I’ve enjoyed a pre-title sequence more. When you have Bond engaged in a motorcycle chase on the apex of Istanbul rooftops, you’re riding along on the edge of campiness and exhilarating action. One false move and you fall one way or the other. But that opening sequence sets the tone and announces that this group is willing to take the risk.  From that stylish-yet-fun opening, the narrative follows a simple trajectory:  a cyberterrorist has hacked into MI6 headquarters and detonated a bomb. He’s also stolen a list of operatives and threatens to expose five a week. It’s up to Bond to stop him, and that quest takes him to Shanghai, Macau, and the family manor in Scotland.

The theme here is Bond’s age, which comes into question even as the entire intelligence operation is accused of being mired in hopelessly out-of-date Cold War mindsets and methodologies. M and Bond have to prove they’re still relevant—a curious drum to beat, considering Craig is signed on for five more Bond films. But it resonates with a franchise hoping to reposition itself in a crowded action-film market and also prove it’s also still relevant.  In that, it’s highly successful.

So is the presentation. This is one of the best Blu-rays of the (admittedly short) year, with perfect sound and picture and a new 13-part documentary that’s presented in widescreen (1.78:1) and collectively runs just under an hour. All the bases are covered: Opening sequence, title sequence, 007, Q, DB5, Women, Villains, Action, Locations, Music, End Sequence, M, and The Future. It’s the usual blend of talking heads and footage, but well done and worth watching. Director Sam Mendes offers the best of two commentaries, with plenty of scene-by-scene details for fans who want to know everything.

Skyfall is Craig’s best Bond film and the best Bond film of the last three decades. It ought to win a prize just for reconnecting with what made the franchise successful in the first place, while also repositioning the Bond films for the ‘10s.

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