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Find me! Call DAP at 214.350.7678 or email rene@dallasaudiopost.com. Also check out echocollectivefx.com for custom sfx, and tonebenders.net for my podcast.

Monday, November 19

movie review: Skyfall *spoilers*

*spoilers*



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srsly.  don't read this if you don't want spoilers.


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ok.  This is my quickie review of the latest Bond flick: Skyfall.




Now, for reference I do my absolute best to avoid any and all media involved with any film I plan to see before I've seen it.  This means that I never saw that trailer or any other than the teaser before actually experiencing the film in its full glory.  I also never read a review, and I purposely stayed as far away from the film's online presence as I could.

I do this for every big film that I plan on experiencing fully in the theater.  I find it gives me a much better overall experience.  As an example, that trailer has probably 6 or 8 things in it that I sure didn't want to see before seeing the movie in context.  It gave away so many interesting moments that I have no regrets about avoiding it.

 I'm currently avoiding any mention of Lincoln until I see that one as well.  :)

I saw the film in Imax at the Northpark AMC.   While this theater isn't "true" Imax - its certainly impressive.  Utterly perfect digital projection, probably the second largest Imax screen in the DFW metroplex (second only to the true Imax screen with film projection at the Webb Chapel Cinemark) and a truly capable and well calibrated sound system.  Stadium seating, ample foot room, and we sat dead center about 1/3rd of the way up.  Tickets were $16 each.  As a theater experience this is close to as good as it gets.

So first off, overall impressions:

I felt that this was probably the best Bond film I've seen.  I certainly haven't seen them all, but I'm sure I've caught at least 80% of them going back to the Pierce Brosnan days, and this one is easily the best I've personally experienced.  I like Daniel Craig as Bond, even though I don't like him as much in almost any other role.  He brings a certain self-loathing to Bond that completely redefines the character in my opinion, and in a good way.  Its far more believable that Craig's Bond would get the girl and kill the bad guy than Brosnon's (or even *gasp* Connery's) would in my eyes.

(That said I hated the poker enough in Casino Royale to write off the whole flick.  That film was a complete insult to poker players everywhere, and Bond was not only written as an awful poker player in the film, he was a complete dick at the table as well.)

While Skyfall started fast - as Bond films tend to - it didn't launch at the flat out breakneck speed that some in the past have.  The opening action sequence was punchy and interesting, but not so massive that it overshadowed the rest of the film.

(Another aside - I thought that The Dark Knight Rises suffered from this.  The sequence where Bane hijacks and destroys the plane is probably the high point of the film, and it happens in the first 20 minutes)

The opening credits were typically epic - as Bond opening credits tend to be.  They hit all of the classic Bond marks - silhouetted women,  guns, tombstones, 2d graphic styles, and general avant garde imagery.  I've seen others complain, but I personally really like Adele's take on the Bond theme, and I won't apologize for that.  For opening credits to be that memorable after the film is over is an achievement in my opinion.



Once the film was off and running I thought the pacing was excellent throughout.  It never felt long or drug out, nor did it feel too short by the time the film was over.  The last third of the film was certainly loud and pretty challenging, but even then it didn't have that "when will this end" moment that most of the final battles in the Transformers films end up at.

Javier Bardem was an excellent villain.  Again, the pacing of the film revealed him at exactly the right moment.  Not to early, but not so late that you didn't get a good sense of him before the final encounter.  I think he should take on something more heroic in his next role, given how huge his No Country For Old Men and Skyfall performances have become.

There were certainly plot holes though (many of them typically Bond).  *spoilers*

Spies probably know better than to run from their pursuers in the dark while waving a flashlight.  Bond would have had his insides liquified by three or four of the explosions that he supposedly survived.  Hacking computers doesn't work that way.   Helicopters can't sneak up on you.  Two tanks of propane can't blow up a massive mansion.  Putting it all on black does not imply that you don't care about the money, it only implies that you're trying to double it.  Also, you aren't likely to get a gun into a casino of that stature, and if you do you're unlikely to walk out after only facing three people and making a bet.  The other assasin certainly wouldn't have brought his payment with him to the jobsite.  If a coworker shot you on accident and let the other guy get away, it'd be pretty hard to get rescued by a stranger unless that coworker just packed up and left.  Fire extinguishers don't have that much foam in them. Car doors don't stop bullets.

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From a sonic perspective I thought the mix was excellent overall - with a couple of exceptions.

First I'll say that I felt I heard every word clearly - though I'll reiterate that I watched this in an excellent Imax theater that was clearly calibrated out well and running the film at spec.

I'll state again that everything I heard was 100% top shelf minus the couple of small things I'll list here:
  • There was a moment in the opening sequence where multiple car wrecks were happening simultaneously with big score moments, and I think they could have stood to clear out some space for some of the car wreck elements that were taking up room on the screen but getting lost in the mix. 
  • There were several moments in the latter half of the movie when the score contained a heavy brass section and was pushed loud enough to crowd everything else out.  I'm about positive that this was a director's choice (as well as an arrangement thing) rather than a mixer choice, but the end result clashed in the final mix.  It just felt like that typical thing where both the composer and the designers are trying to go to 11, but there's just not room for both to get all the way there. 
  • There was very minimal ADR in the film, but in the few spots where it was needed (helicopter scenes etc) it was pretty blatant and not always synced well.  I understand that these actors probably had to be wrestled from their various exploits around the globe to get the ADR cut, but it felt as if they were told certain lines were good enough before they actually got there.  Probably only 4 or 5 lines that looked like this, but boy did they.
  • Daniel Craig clearly speaks much more softly than the others on the set with him.  Again, I was in a very good listening environment there at Northpark, but boy howdy I heard that noise pumping on him every time he spoke.  In fact, it felt more like they were gating and editing around the noise on his lines than pumping Cedar or anything.  No one else seems to have suffered from that.  Its also possible that they were burying lavs a little more deeply in his costume than the other characters, but that can't really account for the big discrepancy between his dialogue and that of the others - especially on the very quiet soundstage moments.  I think his suits were noisy as well, which couldn't have helped. 
  • Those are American sirens.  I'm pretty sure zero percent of this film took place in the USA.
With those out of the way, I'd like to add a few more kudos to the sound crew:
  • The weapon sounds were probably the closest I've come to the feeling of an actual gun being fired in proximity to me.  Kickass field recordings of the guns being fired, and they were mixed LOUD, but somehow not painfully.  Bond fired his weapon indoors on multiple occasions, and in each case the sound of the gun in that space felt spot on, which I know is incredibly difficult to pull off.  Nothing felt exaggerated, but all of it felt very big and very real.  Probably one of the finest weapon sound achievements I've seen in film.
  • Ditto the explosions.  The edit and the mix decisions really did those explosions some good when they were unexpected and out in the clear, but they really did give a genuine feeling that you'd get if you were in close proximity to that kind of explosion.  My wife and I both jumped out of our seats in a couple of key moments where they surprised us with a bang, and despite coming out of my seat and looking around I felt as drawn in during those moments as I ever have in a film.  Those things felt REAL.
  • Vehicles were kickass, rare, screaming down the road, and as impressive as it can get.  The team recording them must have had a field day.   Ditto the extensive helicopter sounds.
  • Punches and kicks felt the appropriate size in relation to the weapons.  Not massive, but still very satisfying and intense.
  • BGFX from locations around the globe were deep, intense and clearly very accurate.  
  • There were three massive sound events - the opening car/bike/train chase, the train dropping through the subway station, and the final asault on skyfall.  All three achieved what they were going for, but only the train dropping through the subway really tipped all the way into "that has to be exactly what that would sound like" territory for me.  It was just flat out impressive, and even more so for me given that I didn't see it coming.
  • kudos to the production sound crew for scoring a place in the opening credits.  Well deserved IMO.
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 that's all I've got.  I'd recommend it for sure.  Suspend disbelief and enjoy the ride.

2 comments:

Dan O. said...

Nice review Rene. This movie definitely has me anticipating the next couple of installments in this franchise and I hope that I see more of Craig as Bond, because the guy just has this role down so perfectly.

Colin Hunter said...

Nice review Rene. I too tried to stay away from all film-related stuff before I went to see it (which was pretty hard to do). So can you imagine that in the cinema, seconds before the film is about to start, they play a bloody Omega Watch advert that featured tons of sequences from the film! It was a bit like a 30 second version of the film. How annoying!