EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 7, 2012

'Skyfall' starts with a bang, but whimpers along the way

By Greg Vellante Eagle-Tribune Movie Reviewer
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — The opening sequence of “Skyfall” is certainly something to marvel at. A mini-movie in its own right, the inception of the film feels more like a finale. In fact, an unassuming viewer walking into the theater might accidentally think they’ve stumbled upon the last few minutes of the movie.

But these awesome moments don’t make up the end but rather the very beginning of “Skyfall,” setting the bar high for the 23rd James Bond film in the 50-year legacy of the franchise.

Sometimes, the film sails over this bar with ease. At other times, it can barely do a chin up.

“Skyfall” is an amazingly photographed movie experience of optimum silliness masked in serious intent. Goofy, dark, campy, tongue-in-cheek — “Skyfall” occasionally is plagued by its desire to tackle multiple tones at once, serving up a distracting tonal imbalance for much of its running time.

Never having been a major Bond-phile — considering the last three films plus “Goldfinger” have been my only associations with the character — I entered “Skyfall” with the intentions of viewing it as part of the Daniel Craig series, rather in the entirety of the franchise itself.

And very much about these last three films suggests a new franchise of its own, with Daniel Craig’s Bond embodying a much darker, action-driven and unpredictable secret agent than those of Bond movie’s past. And yet, the film still can’t quite seem to land a finger on its pulse.

If anything, the movie feels like a James Bond video tribute compilation, with new director Sam Mendes (“American Beauty”) trying on his Christopher Nolan big-boy pants and notably failing at matching the director’s signature style for epic, action filmmaking.

The true MVP goes to cinematographer Roger Deakins, who in his second feature shot digitally surrounds his images with precise beauty that seems unfit for the standard-issue vehicle “Skyfall” ultimately delivers. The images pop while the story doesn’t, considering the film’s screenplay is among its weakest aspects.

But almost every criticism I’ve stated so far must accompany the fact that I thoroughly enjoyed myself through the entirety of “Skyfall.” In many ways, it is the best disposable movie I have seen in a long time. Certain shots have stuck, specific scenes remain in my memory, but the film has barely stuck the way something like Daniel Craig’s first round as Bond, “Casino Royale,” has and continues to.

I still consider “Royale” to be the best Bond I’ve seen, and its follow-up “Quantum of Solace” the worst, and “Skyfall” lands somewhere in between. Its energy is apparent and respectable, and its momentum is fierce and forward moving, but there are just certain ingredients missing that I can’t quite place my finger on.

Either way, “Skyfall” is still a blockbuster dish. It goes down easily and digests with a tad more difficultly, but either way the movie fills you up. Sometimes with joy, sometimes with nonsense — either way, “Skyfall” is going to leave you with something.

Skyfall 2 1/2 out of 4 Stars