On Blu-Ray: Skyfall
Directed by: Sam Mendes
Starring: Daniel Craig, Judy Dench, Javier Bardem
If you’re a regular reader of this site or even more so a listener of our weekly podcast/webcast there’s no mystery as far as what I thought of Skyfall when it was in theaters last year. The film was in my top five picks for 2012. After reviewing it on blu-ray it’s just as good now as it was the first time I saw it.
This film, like most other Bond films starts in the middle of a story. Bond is chasing a bad guy who really knows how to run in an epic way. The chase is huge and it not only leads into the opening credits but it also sets the stage for the rest of the film in big and small ways. The villain in the film feels almost completely faceless in the first act of the film and throughout that portion of the film the lack of depth for the villain was frustrating for me. I learned later that his faceless nature was purposeful though. When Javier Bardem does appear in the film, and his character is properly introduced the scene is not only one of the most memorable in the film it’s one of the most memorable in the franchise as a whole. I believe that Silva will go down in history as one of the most memorable and unique villains of the 007 franchise. Bardem always finds a way to put his stamp on whatever character he plays and he executes that stamp brilliantly in this one scene. From this point on no other actor could have played the role and as a viewer I had to know his plan and what he was going to do next.
Bond has had many personal stories in the past but Skyfall is easily the best executed and most perfectly personal film of the franchise. We learn things in this film that we never knew about the character before and things that we did know are expanded upon which make Bond even more of a person and less of a caricature. The relationship between M and Bond is explored and the true level of connection between the two of them is revealed as well. Yes there’s big action as always but the heart of this movie is in relationships and drama, not campy drama but real grounded drama, at least as much so as you can expect from a Bond film. Happily the moments of levity don’t take away from the reality of the character development by being campy as was common with previous installments. Often the comedy comes at the expense of previous films. One thing that Skyfall does brilliantly is that it celebrates the previous films, even homages them a little, without making the element integral or necessary to the film. In fact if you aren’t at least a moderate Bond fan you might not notice it happening.
The action and the characterizations are all smaller and more personal in this Bond film. No, the villain isn’t out to destroy the world this time around. He’s much more focused than that. Does he want to do a Hell of a lot of damage? Well yes he does, but the point is personal. Things happen in Skyfall that will forever affect the franchise and that’s something that hasn’t happened in the film series in a very long time. Skyfall isn’t perfect. There is about 15 minutes in the middle of this two and a half hour film that drags and feels a bit bloated but overall this film is easily in the top five best of the Bond franchise. The ending two minutes of the film left me really hungry for more! The franchise needed new blood behind the camera and finally the owners of the franchise let someone in that is outside of their box of directors. Sam Mendes, the man behind such films as American Beauty and Road to Perdition brought a new shade to the franchise and it’s a great fresh feel to a series of films that can get a little stuffy. Roger Deakins, the man who shot The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men, and The Shawshank Redemption, made Skyfall one of the best, if not the best looking Bond film of all time.
This 1080p AVC encoded rendition of Skyfall is drop dead gorgeous. Skyfall is easily one of, if not the most beautiful, films of the Bond franchise and it shows with this stellar blu-ray. When I see a transfer like that yes, at least for now, we do still need physical media because this is the best looking way to see this film outside of a theater. Detail and contrast are two of the most important elements of the look of Skyfall and they come off perfect here. Did you get that? Yup I said perfect! The black levels are deep and inky while retaining the previously mentioned detail as well. The color pallet is subtle but very specific in this film and it also makes the move to home video perfectly. This is the best looking blu-ray release of 2013 so far and I think it’s going to be very tough to beat.
The star here is the DTS HD 5.1 lossless track although there are several other great lossless choices available on the disc. The score for this film is a nice mix of modern decisions and classic themes and it gets loving care in this presentation. Dialogue is sparkly and punchy and action scenes are bass rumbling and offer up whiz bang in an immersive impactful way. Subtle scenes feel true with ambient sounds coming from the entire soundstage while still keeping our attention on the dialogue or other audio that’s important to the scene at hand. Just like the video this is a truly perfect presentation. I will say that I’m surprised that there’s not a 7.1 mix.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The slim standard case features a single blu-ray on one side and a digital disc on the other. The cover art and slip cover feature the same simple Bond imagery that was used to sell the movie theatrically and overall it’s affective without being abrasive.
First things first, there are two audio commentaries on this disc which is such a great thing. It seems like lately filmmakers have been skipping the commentaries. These are essential for both hardvore fans of the film and students of film in general. Director Sam Mendes give us just the sort of commentary both students and Bond fans are looking for. There are a few instances of him describing what’s happening in a scene as it plays out but these instances are few and in a couple of cases they actually lead to discussion of the filmmaking process. He shares information on everything from his choices for how many cameras to shoot with to styles of shooting. There are even a few bits of shooting trivia and anecdotes too. This commentary while laid back enhances the overall experience of watching the film and truly tells us how the final product came to be.
Sometimes there are commentaries though that give the whole idea of the existence of the supplement a bad name and the one here from the producers is just such a “bonus feature”. The comments go from ho-hum marketing speak to nothing at all with them simply watching the film in silence. One of the film’s producers is the daughter of the franchises’ original producers. You’d think she could have at least brought some sense of history to the proceedings. Nope. Skip this commentary.
Shooting Bond is a group of short featurette that can be watched together as one making of documentary. There’s some good stuff in these featurettes but overall each of them feels to short to offer any deep insight into the creation of the film and what the film means to the franchise as a whole. There are some good moments here and there though including a short interview with one of the musicians who has literally performed on every Bond film. Good stuff there. This isn’t a bad documentary by any means it just feels incomplete.
There’s a short bit from the theatrical premiere of the film made up mostly of red carpet interviews which are of course just sound bites. Meh…
Finally there’s a theatrical trailer (Only one?) and a clip of the orchestra performing that was used to promote the soundtrack. Overall the bonus materials here are a bit lacking. The commentary from Sam Mendes is the best of the bunch and almost makes up for a lackluster documentary.
Skyfall comes home looking and sounding gorgeous and that’s really what’s most important here but the movie is just so good and so epically important to a franchise that was withering on the vine for so many years that it should have come home in a more special way with special edition packaging and bonus features. With that said though this film is just so good, and it looks and sounds so damn good here that it ends up being a reference disc for home video and a reference disc for the highest quality of filmmaking. Buy it,
Overall (Not an Average) 9/10
The Movie 9/10
The Video 10/10
The Audio 10/10
The Packaing and Bonus Features 7/10
Overall (Not an Average) 9/10