Skyfall (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Sam Mendes
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 143 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish, others
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, others
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: February 12, 2013
Review Date: February 14, 2013
Surprise is the key word for Skyfall as the script by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and John Logan as well as the direction by 007’s first Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes uses every possible means for keeping the audience astonished and delighted and off balance from every tantalizing twist in the plot and each unexpected piece of character development. What begins as a seeming story of an unknown villain targeting Britain’s MI6 for destruction and aided in no small part on the other side by the government’s own disenchantment by mistakes being made by head of operations M (Judi Dench) turns wittily and unpredictably into a vengeance tale with M as the target and James Bond (Daniel Craig) as one of the key players to bring about her immolation. Bond, of course, has other ideas.
It goes without saying that Skyfall triumphs in the action sweepstakes as witnessed by its ten-minute pre-credit sequence which has breakneck pacing going from the streets of Istanbul to rooftops and onto a moving train and ending with a spectacular shock through Bond’s settling the score with the adversary from the opening chase in a beautifully stylized fight in silhouette staged in a glass room in Shanghai. From there we have a spectacular subway wreck in London and the climactic cat and mouse attack on Bond’s ancestral Scottish home, the film’s final twenty-minute set piece. By then, the villain Silva (Javier Bardem) has long since revealed himself, but his plans remain a continual source of little bombshells which make the movie hold one’s attention through its 143-minute running time. (Admittedly in the theater, the film seemed a trifle drawn out, but it plays beautifully and more fluidly on Blu-ray.)
By now Daniel Craig completely owns the part of James Bond accentuating his brutality but without sacrificing moments of tenderness and expressions of loss and the inevitability of change. He is clearly the Bond of the 21st century, and he continues to explore colors of the man’s personality. The film gives Judi Dench her meatiest assignment in a Bond film since The World Is Not Enough. She’s wonderful, of course, trading verbal jabs with Bond and defending herself against her overseer Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) as well as against a critical MP in a governmental hearing. Javier Bardem’s villainous character is rather schizophrenic in nature: almost effete on his own island sanctum but gaining in bloodthirsty viciousness as the movie runs. Ben Whishaw is the new Q, a young computer genius who unfortunately learns he doesn’t have all the answers, a performance that will likely grow on viewers as he works with Bond on additional future missions. Bérénice Marlohe is the primary Bond girl this time out, Silva’s mistress Severine, but her role is less developed than other Bond girls in the series. Albert Finney makes a surprise and most welcome cameo appearance late in the movie as the Bond family’s old gamekeeper Kincade. As for Ralph Fiennes as Mallory and Naomie Harris who plays inexperienced field agent Eve, let it suffice to say that the writers’ wonderfully clever use of the two characters throughout the film ending with an engaging and satisfying sense of coming full circle makes a most memorable end to a marvelous Bond adventure.
The film has been framed at 2.40:1 in a faithful replication of its theatrical presentation and is offered in 1080p using the AVC codec. Color is very bold when it needs to be but never seems out of control or over the top, not even in the Shanghai sequences with their riotous neon and fluorescent displays. Sharpness is excellent, and black levels are satisfyingly deep with details in shadows never compromised. The film has been divided into 32 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is all one would expect from a Bond movie or any 21st century action-adventure film. There is almost continual use of split surround effects and with pans across and through the soundstage during chase scenes, and the LFE channel gets ample opportunities to show its stuff with numerous explosions and calamities. Thomas Newman’s background score and Adele’s title song get wonderful spread through the soundfield while dialogue has received expert recording and has been mostly placed in the center channel with a occasional random bit of directionalized placement.
There are two audio commentaries. Director Sam Mendes goes solo on the first one while producers Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli along with production designer Dennis Gassner share the second one. Mendes’ track mixes production anecdotes with descriptions of what’s on screen. Still, it’s likely preferable to the Wilson-Broccoli-Gassner track simply because they spend so much time back patting themselves and the crew that the accolades get rather tiresome. They do mention occasional problems or difficult situations, but it’s a lengthy film to sit through to get the few moments of interesting information they offer.
All of the bonus material is in 1080p.
Fourteen featurettes make up “Shooting Bond,” an all-purpose montage covering every key aspect of the production. Together they run 59 ½ minutes, but they can also be watched individually. Many of these contain spoilers about events in the film so it would be foolish to watch these before experiencing the movie first. They are:
[*] “Introduction” has director Sam Mendes and star Daniel Craig discussing the entry into the 23rd film in the franchise.
[*] “The Death of Bond” covers the opening sequence featuring comments from the special effects coordinator, stunt coordinator, and the location manager for the sites in Turkey used for the shoot.
[*] “Working the Titles” allows title director Daniel Kleinman a chance to discuss his ideas about the main title sequence of the movie.
[*] “The Return of James Bond” features comments from Sam Mendes, Ralph Fiennes, Judi Dench, Barbara Broccoli, and screenwriter John Logan about Bond’s state of mind after the opening credit sequence.
[*] “Back to Basics” introduces us to the new Q Ben Whishaw and his relationship with James Bond. Sam Mendes also adds commentary.
[*] “Behind the Wheel” pays loving tribute to Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 which makes a return appearance in the movie. Daniel Craig and producer Michael Wilson discuss its importance.
[*] “The Good, the Bad, the Beautiful” allows the two primary Bond girls Bérénice Marlohe and Naomie Harris a bit of time to talk about their characters as well as comments from Daniel Craig, Barbara Broccoli, and screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.
[*] “In the Shadows” turns the spotlight on the film’s two main villains: Ola Rapace as Patrice whom Bond has two fateful encounters with and Javier Bardem as Silva. Daniel Craig along with stunt coordinator Gary Powell weigh in with opinions about their effectiveness.
[*] “Action” gives Sam Mendes, Daniel Craig, the producers, and the special effects coordinator a chance to discuss the subway calamity sequence.
[*] “License to Travel” finds Sam Mendes discussing the scouting of locations in Turkey, Shanghai, and London for principal scenes set there.
[*] “The Sound of Bond” features comments from composer Thomas Newman and Derek Martin, a trumpeter who has played in the orchestras of every Bond movie.
[*] “The Beginning of the End” concentrates on the climactic assault on Skyfall featuring many members of the production team previously mentioned along with cinematographer Roger Deakins in the longest of the disc’s featurettes.
[*] “Changes” concentrates on Judi Dench’s final days of shooting on the film with comments from Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, and Barbara Broccoli.
[*] “New Beginnings” brings this section to a conclusion with Sam Mendes mentioning the new assignments which occur in the film’s final scene setting the stage for the next installment in the series.
[/list] Footage of the film’s premiere in London runs 4 ½ minutes and features many of the actors, the director, and the producers walking the red carpet for the Royal Command Performance.
The theatrical trailer runs 2 ½ minutes.
A promo for the CD soundtrack runs ¾ minute.
There are promo trailers for, among others, A Good Day to Die Hard, Bond 50, and Red Dawn.
The second disc in the set is the combination DVD/digital copy of the movie.
4.5/5 (not an average)
Skyfall is a thrilling entry into the James Bond canon and a film that reestablishes 007 as a reliable action hero in a quality film. Reference video and audio and a generous array of bonus features complete the package. Highly recommended!