Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Skyfall Review: The Blu-Ray DVD and Movie

                                    Skyfall Review: The Blu-Ray DVD and Movie

                                         XXIII Non Sufficit; (23 is Not Enough)

              “I shall not waste my days by trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”

                                                From James Bond’s Obituary                        

Skyfall is probably the most successful Bond movie ever and one of the best. This a surprise for a series that has had 25 entries (23 made by Eon). Inflation makes this an imperfect science, but domestically, Thunderball and Goldfinger probably were seen by more people. However, the foreign markets in the 1960s only made up 20-25% of a film's gross. The Bond movies were originally financed by American Companies, United Artists and later MGM, so America was considered to be their "domestic market" although production was usually initiated in Great Britain. (or, as it's know today, Britain.)  Now the foreign markets make up to 75% of a Bond movie's income. This is  due to a greater demand of all American films in Europe and South America and to the end of the cold war. Russia ($31 million), China ($56 mil), all of Germany ($85) now get to see these movies. Of course, The British really love their Bond movies! ($160 mil)

In reviewing a movie on DVD I have a different point of view than if I was reviewing a newly open movie at the local movie theatre. First, I do assume that most people have seen the movie or have heard a lot about it. For this reason, (and I have a label called “Spoilers”) I feel that I can more openly discuss parts of the movie without spoiling it. I also  feel that the DVD features should also be reviewed. 

On This Blu-Ray Package:  ($20 from Best Buy and Amazon)

Shooting Bond is a one hour behind the scenes documentary. It is broken down into 15 chapters. It is mostly interesting, a bit repetitive, and often revealing.
Opening Sequence: How they did the motorcycles chasing each other on the roof is shown.  It sort of takes a bit of the magic away when you see the wires and how they did some of the stunts.
The Title Sequence: The composer and producer discuss how  and why the visuals were done and why Adele was picked to write and sing the title song. It was interesting to see Daniel Craig’s participation here.
007: Everyone wanted to go back to the beginning of Bond and recreate the character.  Considering Bond didn’t really ever have a beginning, it was interesting to hear from everyone on how they did it.
Q: No more exploding pens.  The producers wanted a very different, modern Q.  He has fewer weapons and is more into computers. Very interesting.  But they don’t mention how Bond's DB5 got all that stuff!
DB5: Yeah, there is a short piece on the return of the most famous Bond car, but they don’t answer any real questions on how and why this car fits into this picture.
Women: There are really three Bond women in this movie. Here they mostly talk about how Naomie Harris reinvents her role and how Bérénice Marlohe is a traditional Bond girl; with a traditional look
Villains: The producers and Javier Bardem discuss his unique role.  As in the Stan Lee Universe, they realize that the best villain is a copy of the hero. How they do that is very interesting.
Action: A behind the scenes look of some of the action shots. My favorite is the collapsing train. The producer is proud to point out that the Bond stunts are real, not computer animated. (I guess he didn’t see the water sequence in “Die Another Day.” )
Locations: From Turkey to Shanghai we get a nice little travelogue.  And as the sun sets slowly in the west…
Music: A small segment with the composer, his studio and his orchestra.
End Sequence: A very interesting look on how the sets were built and why they decided to use Skyfall as the final big scene. They wanted to have the characters on equal footing and, at the same time, reveal some things about Bond’s past.
M: Judy Dench is really the third Bond girl. They examine her relationship with Bond, but this is really a great tribute to a fine actress, who will be missed. What they don’t say, of course, is that she might have been getting a bit too old for the role, she had been doing it for 17 years.

The Future: What they want Bond films to look like as time goes by.  They will not look like the Connery ones, but they know they must retain some elements.

In a separate section, they show the Skyfall Premiere, in England with all the stars being mobbed by fans. Also, there is a 40 second commercial for the Skyfall CD.

There are two interesting commentaries, one by Director Sam Mendes and a second one with Producers Michael G. Wilson & Barbara Broccoli; Production Designer Dennis Gassner. I have grown a bit leery of the “director’s” commentary where we learn, on EVERY disc for EVERY movie, that the entire cast loved each other, they all did a great job and that they were the only ones thought of for the role. There is also the Theatrical Trailer.

Of course we should discuss the quality of the video  and audio.
At the theatres,   I saw Skyfall as an Imax, 4G video and a regular movie.* The Imax was fantastic. The brightness, color and clarity of the movie was the best I had ever seen in a Bond movie, I really liked it. The surround sound was outstanding. The Bond movies are getting away from their original surround sound concept and placing you in the center of the action, rather than as an outside observer.  The “regular” movie was not as bright or colorful, but was still a good picture. The surround sound was not as distinct, however, the Imax really stood out. I was then a bit disappointed to see the faded, less detailed and less “surround sounding”  4G video of the movie at the same theatre. I fear this is the wave of the future. 

Here the picture is great, and mostly matches up to the regular movie version. Other movies shown in Imax have often filled up the screen. The movie is 10% letterbox. Not so here. While certain colors seemed more vivid in the Imax, you can see that the director is using different color palettes, some with more orange, some with more yellow, and some with softer colors to create a different tone at various points in the movie. There was a great scene in Imax, about 48 minutes into the movie that looks fine here, but was fantastic on the bigger screen.

 It is still basically “Bond” surround sound. That is, it is heard from the viewer's, not actor’s, point of view. Here most of the action and music appear in front of you, while in a George Lucas movie you hear it more from the actor’s POV and you are more surrounded by the sound and music.

*Knowing that I will get the Blu-Ray, I normally would not see a movie twice in the theater let alone three times.  However, I was blacked out for three weeks from Hurricane Sandy. So, rather than stay in a freezing house, I saw it twice on opening day.  When my friends went a week later, I was still blacked out, so I tagged along.

A Brief Review of the Movie

Skyfall is great James Bond. There is simply no formula here, no silly jokes, no overly sophisticated, invulnerable superman, they are really starting from scratch. Oh there is an occasional reference to something we all remember, but, with one exception, those are really not part of the movie.

Although you might think that by now the movies have nothing to do with the books, it is not so here. The movie beginning borrows from the movie You Only Live Twice and continues by borrowing from the book, complete with M’s obituary of Bond.  The middle very much represents the book of The Man with the Golden Gun, where a “broken” Bond goes after a killer.

The best part of this movie is the cast.  Not just Craig as Bond, but Judy Dench, has her biggest role since “The World Is Not Enough. The highlight however is Javier Bardem as Silva. He is a totally believable, sadistic killer who gives life and a counterpoint to the movie. His goal is down to Earth, no taking over the planet, and it is actually up to you to decide whether he succeeds or not.

Ralph Fiennes and Albert Finney have smaller roles, but are just perfect.

There is one ironic scene that I don’t think is a spoiler if I mention it, but gloss over this if you’d like.  When Dench first appeared as M, she says to Bond, played by Pierce Brosnan.

M: You think I'm an accountant, a bean counter. More interested in my numbers than your instincts.
Bond: The thought had occurred to me.
M: Good, because I think you're a sexist, misogynist dinosaur. A relic of the Cold War, whose boyish charms, though wasted on me, obviously appealed to that young woman I sent out to evaluate you.

Now, 17 years and seven movies later, M must explain to the British government why MI6 is NOT a relic of the cold war and is still needed. And she gives a wonderful, direct speech.

                                                         OK, Spoiler Alert!!!!!

You know, this may be considered the first Bond movie where the villain gets his way at the end. It is also the first Bond movie where the villain doesn’t die in hand to hand combat.

This is the broken James Bond that we see after his wife’s death in You Only Live Twice. Still broken, M sends him after an assassin in The Man With the Golden Gun and that vulnerablity is not what we have seen with Sean Connery or Pierce Brosnan.

Bond’s relationship with M is complex and is the thread of the entire movie. But M is also the thread to the villain, Javier Bardem, and for the first time in a Bond movie I had some creepy understanding of his actions and what he wanted to achieve. Because he seemed real and did not have some abstract goal, but a concrete aim to kill and embarrass M, he was far more frightening.

For me the single best scene in the movie is when a tied up James Bond is approached by Silva. Bardem walks the length of a room, with no cuts, no special effects and just talks. We get to know the character very well and he just sends shivers up your spine. This was two great actors, but I never thought for a second they were acting.  I felt I was eavesdropping (and might get caught).

The movie heavily references the obituary, written by M, in You Only Live Twice.  It references Bond's Scottish father (and perhaps Sean Connery) and his mother. Until now, Bond has had no real backstory on screen. For the first time, a Bond movie gives us concrete details of his past when we discover that Skyfall is where he grew up. 

The movie moves so quickly and so steadily that you don’t have time to ask the questions of things that don’t make sense….

  1. How did he survive the fall at the beginning?
  2. Why did he allow the man to be shot at the penthouse?
  3. This is not the Aston Martin of Goldfinger, how did it get guns and the other things? (That’s the one part I mentioned earlier)
  4. How come M, head of security has no security guarding her home?
  5. How come British parliament had virtually no security and the bad guys were able to enter so quickly?
  6. How did Silva arrange to tap MI6’s computers when he was out of the loop for over a decade?
  7. How did Silva arrange perfect drop off times, to the second, after his escape to get his clothes,  weapons, etc?
  8. Why was Albert Finney at Skyfall at that exact moment? It was an empty building, needing no overseeing?

"This is the end. Hold your breath and count to ten."

Thanks to Kid Robson for helping me and arguing about the nationality of the Bond movies. He's a great friend.


  1. Barry, you've mis-typed - you meant "He's a pain in the @ss!"

    Good article.

  2. He's a pain but a dedicated proof reader who deserves a lot of thanks.

  3. Not the best Bond movie ever, but one of the best action movies of last year and just a total thrill-ride from beginning to end, with a couple of great character moments shoved in there as well. Nice review Barry.

  4. Dan thanks. What were your favorite Bond movies?