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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Skyfall

March 24th, 2013

Skyfall - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack

Skyfall was the latest Bond movie to come out and while nearly everyone thought it would be a hit, almost no one thought it would be this big of a hit. It earned more than $300 million domestically and $1.1 billion worldwide. Had it made half that, it would have been a monster hit. Was it also better than expected? Did it truly deserve this success?

The Movie

Like (nearly) all Bond movies, this one begins with a prologue. James Bond finds several of his fellow agents dead or dying while an important hard drive is missing. He tries to stabilize the wounded agent, but M tells him the hard drive is more important. He leaves the safehouse, jumps in the vehicle driven by his partner, Eve Moneypenny, and gives chase. The chase culminates on top of a train with Bond and the bad guy fighting. Eve was able to keep up in her jeep, but with the train traveling away from the city and into the countryside, Eve decides to take up position to see if she can get a clean shot. She has a shot, but it's not clean. M tells her to fire anyway and she hits... Bond, who then falls off the train, off the bridge and into the river below, killing him in the process.

As a result, M is summoned by Gareth Mallory, Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee. The hard drive contained a list of every undercover agent NATO has embedded with terrorist organizations worldwide. This is a huge security blunder and she's being asked to, "voluntarily resign". On her way back to MI6, they learn someone is trying to decrypt the hard drive and it is tracked to M's very computer. It turned out to just be an attempt to taunt MI6 before there's an explosion centered on her office. Clearly whoever stole that hard drive has a personal vendetta against M. It isn't long before she deduces it is a former MI6 agent.

Later that day, James Bond (No, he's not dead. Least surprising twist in movie history.) sees the attack on the news and comes back to MI6. While he enjoyed being dead and the lack of responsibilities that came with death, he knows the U.K. is under attack and he's not willing to sit by while that happens. His return to MI6 is not entirely smooth. He was shot twice (once by the bad guy and another time by Eve) and those injuries, plus the time off has taken its toll. This fact doesn't escape Mallory and he tells Bond that it might have been better if he had stayed dead. However, M is still in command and she will chose her own field agents and she trusts Bond more than anyone, even if he failed his tests to be reinstated.

Thanks to bullet fragments recovered by Bond from his own chest, they are able to get a lead and discover the guy who stole the hard drive was Patrice. Patrice is being sought by the C.I.A. And they know he will be in Shanghai in a few days. After a short meeting with the new Q, Bond heads off to Shanghai as well. Bond sees Patrice go up one skyscraper and take out his target across the street before attacking him. Bond is then able to overpower Patrice, but Patrice dies before Bond can get him to talk. However, after the fight, while going through Patrice's equipment, he notices one of the people who were with the target when the target was killed didn't react like the others did. It is almost like she expected the hit to go down. Along with the usual items, Bond finds a casino chip and when he goes to the casino it comes from, she is there as well.

This time, she introduces herself, Séverine, and she and Bond get to talking. Bond wants to talk to her employer, but it isn't long before he deduces she's scared of her employer. Bond offers to help, but first he will have to kill her bodyguards. He does, with the help of Eve, and heads off to meet with Séverine, and her boss.

Who he is and what he wants is entering way too far into spoiler territory; however, there is an event that happens shortly after he is revealed that is so stupid it requires a rant. In fact, it is so stupid I literally asked my boss what our policy regarding swearing on this site is. I don't think I can describe what happened without using profanity. The ruling was, I could use profanity, but only British terms.

After Séverine takes Bond to see her boss, we learn M was right and it was a former MI6 agent, Raoul Silva. After Séverine is fridged, Bond is able to kill off Silva's henchmen and thanks to the radio transponder Q gave him, MI6 backup arrives and they are able to capture Silvia. Among the items they bring back is Silvia's computer, which has the information regarding the list of NATO agents and whether or not he sold that information to anyone. In order to learn this information, Q hooks up the computer to MI6's mainframe. ... What kind of Smeghead would take the computer of a well-known cyber-terrorist and hook it up to the central mainframe? I won't allow any of my wanker friends plug a thumb drive into my work computer, just in case the pillock accidentally gives my computer a virus. Yet this gormless prat takes the computer from the well-known cyber-terrorist and hooks it up to their mainframe. And what should come as a shock to no one, it's a booby trap and the security system is shut down and Sylvia escapes.

If you watched this movie in a theater and during this scene someone stood up, started swearing before throwing things at the screen, that person works in IT.

Apart from that part of the movie, Silva's overly complicated plan, Skyfall is an amazing movie. It's one of the best Bond movies ever; in fact, it is one of the best action films to come out in a long time, rivaling The Avengers. If you are a big fan of the Bond franchise and have been for a while, there are a number of points in the movie that are call backs to earlier films. The Aston Martin gets taken out of the garage for a spin late in the movie, and we finally get a new Q. The movie also has at least a few hints of humor in it, more so than the previous two movies. I do like the more serious tone, but if there's not at least a little humor, and a few gadgets, then it's not really Bond, is it? Hopefully this a sign of things to come.

The film also has some of the best acting the franchise as ever seen. Daniel Craig is great, while Judi Dench was given a really substantial role for the first time in the Daniel Craig era. Finally, Javier Bardem was so good that a lot of people though he was going to pick up an Oscar nomination. He did pick up a Screen Actors Guild Awards nomination.

The Extras

The list of extras on the DVD is short; however, the ones we get are substantial. There are two audio commentary tracks, the first with the director, Sam Mendes, and the other with three of the producers, Micheal G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli, and Callum McDougall. The former is more in-depth and engaging than the latter, but they are both worth checking out. Next up is an hour-long making of featurette, which is very in-depth as well. Finally, there's a short look at the film's Red Carpet premiere, and some promotion material.

There are no additional extras on the Blu-ray, but the technical presentation is (nearly) flawless. I put nearly into brackets, because if there were any flaws, I didn't see them. The level of details is incredible, blacks are inky but never swallow details, contrast, colors, etc. are all spot on. There's never an issue with compression artifacts, etc. The sound design won an Oscar for Sound Editing, and this 5.1 surround Sound track gives that Oscar-winning quality a great place to shine.

The DVD costs $15 and the Blu-ray costs $20. A $5 / 33% premium in price is perfectly inline with the average.

The Verdict

Skyfall is a must have. Even if you are not a huge fan of Bond, it is worth owning. The extras on the DVD and the Blu-ray Combo Pack are more than enough to justify the price, but the Blu-ray is clearly the better deal given its technical presentation.

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Filed under: Video Review, Skyfall, James Bond, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Sam Mendes, Ben Whishaw, Callum McDougall, Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli, Berenice Marlohe, Ola Rapace