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Non-Review Review: Skyfall

There’s a moment about a third of the way through Skyfall that manages to perfectly encapsulate its opinion of the iconic British spy at the heart of the film. Casually dismissing the villain’s lofty accomplishments, Bond mutters, “Everybody needs a hobby.” The villain takes the jab quite well. “Oh. What’s yours?” Bond retorts, “Resurrection.” Released to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the film franchise, Skyfall is a veritable ode to Bond’s endurance – in both a literal and metaphorical sense. After all, not many fifty year olds look as stylish as this.

Sam Mendes, and his talented cast and crew, have managed to get Bond the perfect birthday present.

Working in the shadows…

Before the screening, we were politely asked not to spoil any plot points in our reviews or commentaries. Quite right, too. Much of the thrill of Skyfall is watching it unfold naturally. I won’t pretend it’s an entirely surprising film, or that it completely upsets the tropes and clichés of the traditional Bond films. Indeed, it adheres rather rigidly to some, while avoiding others completely. It puts a new twist on old tricks, or simply has a great deal of fun playing with popular conventions.

Take, for example, the Bond girls. Everybody with a passing knowledge of Bond movies knows that there are typically two Bond girls. Each serves a function in the plot, and most of the series adheres fairly rigidly to that structure. (There are exceptions of course – Timothy Dalton was monogamous in his two films due to the AIDs scare.) Skyfall opts to play one of the two roles relatively straight, while swerving around a bit on the second. No, I won’t tell you which, but it gives you an idea of what Mendes is doing.

A time for reflection…

He’s not redesigning the storytelling engine or even trying to streamline it. He’s simply using it to tell a story that is still a recognisable Bond story that works as a film in its own right. There’s a clear sense throughout Skyfall that Bond owes a conscious debt to Christopher Nolan. When Bond arrives at the villain’s lair, he finds a set left over from Inception. The second act seems quite structurally similar to that of The Dark Knight. The third act – without spoiling anything – makes some rather overt references to the past of another stylish playboy in fleshing out Bond’s family history. (And not all of the developments can be traced back to Fleming, either.)

Don’t get me wrong. After all, turn-around is fair play. Bond has inspired generations of film-makers, and it seems only fair that the character and the franchise should reap the benefit of its own influence. The villain’s base might look like something from Inception, but Inception borrowed liberally from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The opening to The Dark Knight Rises was a larger-scale re-working of the opening scene from Licence to Kill. Just as Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace learned a lot from the Bourne films, Skyfall learned a lot from Nolan. And I get the sense he’d be quite proud of the idea.

You want a gun fight? Fiennes by me!

The most important thing it learned from Nolan’s work was to craft the characters at the heart of the action. Just as Christian Bale played the most developed live-action iteration of the Caped Crusader, Daniel Craig plays the most fully developed iteration of Bond. He’s a real character. Ian Fleming famously wrote Bond as a “blunt instrument”, a mouth-piece for his views and a blank slate for the audience with Fleming’s tastes and opinions grafted in. Bond was so hazily developed over the first few novels that Fleming could retroactively make him Scottish (in tribute to Connery) without contradicting himself.

You know that a movie’s going to dig beneath Bond’s skin when it brings up the subject of his parents. Fleming established Bond as an orphan, but it’s only been fleetingly touched-upon in the most character-centric movies in the series – Casino Royale and GoldenEye. Here, we get a bit more of an insight into who he is and where he comes from – his obsession with fast cars and faster women explained away by getting a glimpse at his roots.

Gentlemen prefer blondes…

It’s the relationship between Bond and M that drives Skyfall. In a way, it’s the aspect of the story that is truest to Fleming’s novels. Fleming portrayed his M as something of a father-figure to Bond, a facet of the character that never really shone through. It seemed that Bernard Lee was just a delightfully acerbic old man who told Bond where to go and who to kill. Even when Judi Dench first arrived opposite Pierce Brosnan, there was a sense of mutual grudging respect between the pair – rather than hints of M as a surrogate parent figure for a poor orphan. While undoubted efficient, this portrayal seems to ignore one of the more fascinating aspects of the dynamic between the pair in the books.

In Fleming’s Moonraker, for example, M would take Bond gambling and for a nice meal in a posh club, and effectively guaranteeing Bond’s losses at the table. In Diamonds Are Forever, Bond sits idly by as M indulges his latest obsession with the study of diamonds – like a child listening to his father rambling about his own kooky obsessions. Judi Dench is obviously a lot tougher than Fleming’s M ever was, but there is a sense that she’s a mother-figure to Daniel Craig’s Bond.

Flying the flag…

M is for “mother” and “mommy”, as the villainous Silva taunts repeatedly throughout the film. There’s a sense that Bond is desperately seeking her approval, as much as he likes to play the part of the rebellious youth – remarkably similar to Silva’s relationship to M. For her part, M finds herself using the service to replace a family that has gone. Here, she refers to her late husband. In GoldenEye, she spoke of her grandchildren. And yet, there’s a sense that MI6 is all that M has left.

However, where Skyfall is most fascinating is in its portrayal of Bond as inherently human and compassionate. Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace raised questions about Bond’s humanity – was he just a wind-up toy, a state-sanctioned assassin to be pointed at a target? Craig’s Bond has been described as one of the character’s more brutal incarnations. I’ve never bought that logic – Connery, Dalton and Craig were just as violent, it’s just that Craig’s Bond doesn’t put up as much as a pretence of civility. His iteration of the character is more honest about Bond’s brutality, more up-front.

Decked out and ready for trouble…

In contrast to M, Bond seems to be overflowing with compassion. The opening scene sees Bond arriving at the scene of a botched operation too late. A vital disk has been stolen. One agent is dead. Another is dying. M orders him to pursue the disk – it’s the greater good, according to her measuring of the scales. Bond refuses to leave a fellow agent dying. “I’m stabilising Ronson,” he responds, pointedly. Later on, M is faced with a chance to take down his opponent. The catch: Bond is in the crossfire. Bond would never risk an ally for a shot like that. M does.

It’s nice to see Skyfall acknowledge that Bond does have a human side, and it gives Craig a chance to shine. Skyfall treats all its characters as relatively developed individuals, and that’s what gives it a considerable edge over most other films in the franchise. Characters conform to archetypes, but they are all given shading and all allowed a bit of room to breath. In any other Bond film, Q would just be a gadget man. Ralph Fiennes’ Mallory would be just another politician to get in Bond’s way. Eve would be just another flirty female secret agent for Bond to charm. They are all variations on those familiar character types, but there’s more to each of them than that.

What a piece of work is man…

Indeed, it’s telling that the villain of the piece only arrives about seventy minutes into the film. Brought to life by Javier Bardem, Silva is a fascinating creation. He’s not the most developed of the Bond villains, but you get the sense that this is entirely the point. You don’t miss him while the story is set up, because the film convinces you to invest in Bond. Weaker Bond films like The Man With the Golden Gun or A View to a Kill will try to distract you with a showy villain. It’s a testament to Skyfall that it is content to leave Silva in the shadows for as long as possible.

(As an aside, that’s not to suggest he’s a weak villain. He’s just not an especially strong one – but that’s due to necessity. The script wisely opts to focus on Bond and his supporting cast, developing them and realising them as characters rather than plot functions. Silva is a solid enough creation, even if he does feel a bit like he was assembled as some sort of Frankenstein’s monster from the assorted appendages of other Bond villains. Spot the traces of Max Zorin or Alec Trevelyan, for example.)

Getting back on the bike…

Bardem has a great time as Silva. Mendes wisely opts to film a lot of the character’s scenes in long shots, with nice wide angles, giving us a chance to fully engage with Bardem’s performance. He has less screentime than most Bond villains, but he makes the most of it. Although his blonde hair (and the plot involving the leaking of confidential information) call to mind Julian Assange, I can’t help but think that Silva’s bleached hair and fine suits are intended to make him a mirror to Bond. (After all, the blonde hair is the most distinct physical characteristic of Craig’s portrayal, hotly debated for months before Casino Royale.)

Bardem seems to relish the chance to ham it up, in a way that so many of the great Bond villain performances do. One nice moment early on has him almost flirting with Bond, caressing him, trying to catch the agent off-guard. Fleming’s Bond, a product of his time, would undoubtedly be quite unnerved by the experience. Craig’s Bond doesn’t miss a beat. “What makes you think this is my first time.” A nice moment towards the climax has Bardem’s villain reflecting on how tough being a Bond villain actually is. “All this running and jumping!” he laments. “It’s exhausting!” It’s to Bardem’s credit that he makes it look effortless. He even tosses hand grenades in a stylish manner.

An underground network…

Skyfall is, like so many fiftieth birthday parties, a time for reflection. It’s rather explicit about the doubts and insecurities that the franchise must feel from time to time, as it gets a little bit older. Early on, M is faced with the prospect of retirement. “You’ve had a good run,” Mallory tries to assure her, and he could just as easily be talking to the producers of the film. Later on, he has a conversation with Bond himself. “You’re playing a young man’s game,” he advises. He could be playing devil’s advocate as the franchise looks at the wave of imitators and parodies out there. Bond, as a franchise, can’t help but feel a bit… stately at the age of fifty. Mallory coaxes, “There’s no shame in admitting you’ve missed a step.”

When Bond meets the new Q, he’s stunned by the Quartermaster’s youthful appearance. They meet in a gallery, staring at a painting. it can’t help but feel thematically appropriate. “An old warship being towed away for scrap metal,” Q muses. Bond is certainly an old warhorse. Daniel Craig looks worn out here, haggard. He looks like he’s been through hell. Bond himself is hardly in the best possible shape. We’re told in no uncertain terms that Bond is hardly equipped for the mission facing him.

Hi, Q…

Skyfall is somewhat candid about the Bond franchise’s sense of Empire. One of the things I found frustrating about Quantum of Solace was the fact that it explicitly explored post-colonial politics… but American, rather than British. Bond has always been distinctly British. “An exemplar of British fortitude,” M comments, when she thinks he won’t hear her. Quantum of Solace seemed almost ashamed of that Britishness. Skyfall wears it on its sleeves. The flag is everywhere. It’s flying on masts, it’s draped over coffins.

It seems fitting, given this year’s Olympic games, but Skyfall is very proud to be British. M’s British bulldog even gets mentioned a couple of times – perhaps an explicit reference to the wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill, an idol of Ian Fleming’s and a call back to the glory of the Second World War? MI6 operates “on war footing”, from “parts of Churchill’s bunker.” The second act’s massive action sequence is set entirely in London. Bond plays word association. “Country.” “England.” The plot explicitly references the two last vestiges of British foreign power. Mallory is identified as a veteran of Northern Ireland, while M faces the consequences of her actions in Hong Kong.

Shanghai-ed out of there…

Holding Bond hostage in his decaying lair, Silva taunts, “England. The Empire. MI6. You too are living in ruins. You just don’t know it.” The film deals with the fallout when M and British intelligence play a game outside their weight class. They lose a list of all undercover NATO operatives. Mallory describes it as “a list that, as far as our allies are concerned, does not exist.” Not only did M lose something she never should have had in the first place, what Julius No described fifty years ago as the “habits of Empire” cost the lives of foreign operatives as well. A politician accuses M of harking back to some hazy past – “a golden age of espionage.” It’s M’s refusal to face political reality, the politician alleges, that created this mess.

And yet, despite this candid exploration of the colonialism at the heart of the series, the fixation on Empire, Skyfall mounts a valiant defense of its lead character. Far from admitting that Bond is lost in a world that has moved past him, it makes a very convincing case that Bond is more relevent than ever. After all, as M argues, modern terrorists are stateless would-be mass-murders more in line with classic maniacal Bond villains than any other political threat over the past fifty years. The middle section of the film features an attack on London’s public transport by a villain blending effortlessly into the surroundings – a set piece that doesn’t seem out of place in a Bond film, but also calls to mind the London bombings.

A heated exchange at cabinet level…

There are, of course, distinctions to be made. Most modern terrorists probably don’t have satellites and ray guns in the real world, but that’s part of the Bond fantasy. Like horror allows us to vicariously conquer or fears, Bond allows us to confront those sorts of anonymous nihilistic threats, while hoping we can maintain some element of civilised society in doing so. Bond is a man who can face these threats without sacrificing his fine suits, his cultured palette, his sophistication. He endures. He survives. He evolves.

Discussing his philosophy with Bond, Silva confesses that he sheds “redundant” things. When something is outdated, or no longer of use, he discards it and moves on. Bond – both the character and the franchise – come with baggage. Plenty of “redundant” objects that probably seem like holdovers in the modern world. You could strip those ridiculous set-pieces out, or remove the Bond girls, make the movies more streamlined and efficient – but you’d lose something intangible and valuable.

Into the mouth of the beast…

Mendes suggests that Bond is anchored by the familiar trappings. We discover just how sentimental he is when he takes M for a drive, bringing an old piece of equipment out of mothballs for the occasion. It’s his attachment to the characters around him and the world he inhabits that differentiates him from Silva. In effect, it’s these familiar tropes and storytelling devices that make Bond who he is, and that give his stories that unique flavour and edge.

Mendes mounts a proud defense of these institutions as an essential part of what makes Bond a cultural icon. “Sometimes the old ways are the best,”a character comments towards the end of the film, and Mendes would agree. Bond’s age and his endurance isn’t a weakness, it’s a strength. It is an aspect of the character that should be acknowledged and celebrated, not brushed away. Meeting Q for the first time, the pair exchange jabs about age and youth. Q suggests that age does not assure experience. Bond counters that youth does not guarantee innovation. Just because Bond is old doesn’t make him obsolete.

He caught a bullet instead of the train!

I think that’s the greatest thing about Skyfall. It is completely unashamed of Bond. It doesn’t feel the need to grant the character legitimacy by trying to ground him. Mendes steers clear of the gadgets (“here’s the latest thing from Q branch – it’s called a radio!”), but he plays up a lot of the classic tropes that haven’t got a bit of play in a long time. Without sacrificing character, Skyfall is the best Roger Moore Bond film never made. The underground MI6 base calls to mind M’s once famously mobile office. Bond gets some wonderful, almost absurd, set pieces. Roger Deakins perfectly captures the beauty of Bond’s globe-trotting adventures, giving the movie a delightfully panoramic feel to it. It’s as if Bond has learned to fly, no longer hemmed in as he has seemed in recent years – there are multiple locations, each with its own very unique sense of place.

I am especially fond of the sequences set in China. There’s a fight in an empty building that really needs to be seen to be believed, and there’s a wonderful visit to a stylish casino that feels like it could have come from a Roger Moore film. Of course, Mendes and Craig make sure we’re so invested in Craig that we accept some of the ridiculous elements, but the movie is never afraid that the audience won’t take it seriously. There a scene at the casino that would never have made it past the drawing board in Casino Royale or Quantum of Solace, but it still works fantastically well. And it doesn’t undermine anything else around it. It’s really something.

On top of the world…

I genuinely believe that Deakins deserves an Oscar nomination for his work here. so far, only Samsara and The Dark Knight Rises have looked as good as Skyfall does. It’s a visual feast, harking back to the glamour and the glory that many associate with the franchise, only with a very real and visceral heart beating just below the surface. The sound mix is also fantastic. Even on a purely technical level, Skyfall is a sheer unadulterated joy to behold.

I also like that Mendes incorporates so many affectionate references in the film. It’s nowhere near as overt and distracting as Die Another Day, but it’s a nice way to celebrate a major birthday for the series. The opening scene features a major shout-out to You Only Live Twice, and the finale owes a conscious debt to For Your Eyes Only, both without seeming derivative. The direct attack on M and MI6 calls to mind The World is Not Enough, and Bond even gets to correct a fellow agent on handling their earpiece, like in Casino Royale. One of his gadgets from Q is a hold-over from Licence to Kill. An old friend from Goldfinger puts in an appearance, but I shan’t be drawn on it. Let’s just say that aficionados will have a great time.

On the road again…

Skyfall does seem, at times, to lean a bit too heavily on Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy as an influence. I can’t get too deeply into it without spoiling anything, but it seems to try a bit too hard to characterise Bond as a British Batman, particularly in the third act. Of course, it works very well. In fact, I’d argue that the two characters work well as cultural contrasts. (Indeed, Ra’s Al Ghul, the villain of Nolan’s Batman Begins, is perhaps the closest thing to a classic Bond villain on the big screen in the past ten years, arguably more “Bond-y” than any of the Craig-era Bond baddies.) Still, there are worse influences to have, and Skyfall learns all the right lessons.

It’s a loud, proud and triumphant celebration of a cultural icon. Bond’s family motto suggests that the world is not enough. Perhaps, for the moment, Skyfall is.

We have complete reviews of all of the Daniel Craig films available, if you are interested:

22 Responses

  1. Thanks for this advance review. It makes me want to see the film all the more, especially after the excellent trailers. It looks like Mendes and Co. made a motion picture, not just a Bond sequel. Based on your description, it seems that M plays a large role in the film, which is great. Judy Densch has been given a lot to do in this series, and even though technically she’s playing a variation of M in the Craig films than what she did in Brosnan’s episodes, she’s a strength that the filmmakers wisely play up. It’s also good to hear that in this third installment of the reboot, they are playing up character development rather than fall into the rut of silliness and cliches that troubled the Brosnan run.

    • Thanks Stephen. I actually think the first three Brosnan films had pretty fine characterisation, but The World is Not Enough is the point where the silliness overwhelmed the solid character work. (Incidentally, it’s the only other film that really hinges on M as a character – and it’s interesting to note how differently Craig and Brosnan react. Brosnan treats her as any other ally, while Craig is more like a young kid trying to protect his mother. The World is Not Enough has some great character stuff, but it’s the most bi-polar of the Bond films. At its best, it is as smart as GoldenEye. At its worst, it’s crapper than The Man With The Golden Gun, Moonraker and Octopussy rolled into one. The result is less than satisfying, but it’s not as soul-destroyingly bad as Die Another Day.)

  2. Flashed over you review as I do not want know too much. But it was the final push I needed to go out and buy the blu-ray box and start watching all Bond movies in order to be fully prepared for Skyfall
    James Bond the ultimate cinematic hero. My (first)hero since I was little kid and made want to become a spy. It encompasses everything that a
    (action) movie should be.
    Gotta go and buy the box now , which also enables me to give away all the blu-rays and DVD’s of Bond I allready had to my friends and family.
    Congratulations Mr Bond!

    • Let me know what you make of the box set.

      I was thinking about upgrading but couldn’t justify it. However, Sky Movies’ 007 HD channel is perhaps the best possible advertisement for the set. They look and sound so ridiculously good. I’m thinking about upgrading at Christmas.

  3. The box itself is nothing special , but the blu-rays are absolutely gorgeous. On the extras of the Dr. No there is a special on the restoration and they went all-in and have done a wonderfull job in my opinion. The color is “back”. There is hardly any graining left. I have not compared them yet to the blu-rays I had and to be honest do not even know if there is a difference in quality between the earlier blu-rays. But since not all the movies were available on blu-ray before, this box was a must for me.(No SKY movies HD in Holland)
    Have now watched the first 4 movies and have never experienced them like this. Seeing details I had never seen before. Especially the sets from Ken Adam sparkle. never realised how ridicously expensive and detailed Dr.No’s lair is and looks. And the early Bond girls have never looked so good.
    Having a blast watching them in order and great quality. Brings back memories and what strikes me most is how incredibly and utterly charming , funny and good looking Sean was , especially in the first 2.
    There are also some very funny and interesting interviews and specials from the 60’s on the first discs.
    Truly enjoying all your articles on Bond.
    Tonight : You only live twice. What I remember most is the volcano and Ninjas. Haven’t seen this one in whole since I wasa kid.
    PS , I am not receiving notifications of follow-up comments via e-mail?

    • Hm. I thought that follow-up comments thing worked. Maybe my nonsense is being spammed!

      Actually, watched You Only Live Twice at the weekend. Best camp Bond, if you ask me, because it never asks us to take it too serious and it just keeps moving. Also, Adams’ designs look amazing enough that you accept the dated special effects as stylised touches.

      And thanks for all your kind words. Sorry I am so slow in replying. Things are busy, which is good, but I’m often left running to stand still. And I may upgrade at Christmas now. You’ve tempted me!

      • Follow-up is working now.
        YOLT is definitely the most fun Bond sofar and it has Ninjas in grey gymsuits! Loved it.
        And no need to apologize.

  4. Skyfall was so bad, I don’t know where to start. Bad plot, corny lines, not enough action, no gadgets, bad flow, nonsense ending. Your review doesn’t match the film. Really disappointing.

    • Such a tired old movie full of silliness. I give it 3 out of 5. A few things:

      • why don’t the Shanghainese talk and act like Shanghainese? Why is it necessary to goto China and them force things to be like American’s image of things.
      • why does he keep doing that fake intense look with his eyes?
      • make Q into a computer hacker so it’s modern, right, got it, dumb.

      • The first two are pretty subjective. As for the third, I have a bit of difficulty believing that any gadgeteer in a modern intelligence organisation would be computer illiterate. And he’s not really a hacker, just the expert in hardware and software. Just like the original was.

    • Each’s own.

      I thought the plot was effective, and character-centric. The lines were grand – it wouldn’t be a Bond movie without a bit of cheese. The action was well-balanced I thought: the only gap was between the opening sequence and the Shanghai confrontation – and that was spent on character work, which I enjoyed a great deal. Nonsense ending – that’s a bit subjective. Depending on what you’re talking about:

      (a.) The death of M was perhaps the most emotional death in a fifty-year franchise. Only Tracy comes close, and that was (in my opinion) ruined by Lazenby’s acting.
      (b.) The “full circle” thing was a nice thematic acknowledgement that Bond tends to come and go in cycles – things change, and change back, change and change back. Sometimes Bond is serious. Sometimes he’s corny. Sometimes he’s realistic. Sometimes he’s driving invisible cars. This moved Bond right back to a setting he hasn’t been in since the Moore era – in about twenty years. It’s a radical departure from Dalton/Brosnan and the two previous Craig films, and yet it’s familiar. It’s old and new, at the same time.

      I thought my review encapsulated my opinion of the film quite well. Obviously, it won’t capture yours. Doctors differ and patients die, but there’s room for a divergence of opinion on movies. I liked it more than you did, that’s fine – I’m sure there’s a number of films (even Bond films) where the same or the opposite is true. World would be boring if we all agreed, eh? Room for all sorts of opinions.

      I can only defends and articulate my point of view, as you can only do the same for yours. There’s no “right” answer. I liked for my reasons, you disliked it for yours. Such is life. Neither of us is correct, neither of us is incorrect.

  5. Its awful. really awful. I mean dog breath bad. The plot – a bitter ex employee gets revenge is as old as the bible – literally. ‘the bridge’ TV series used it earlier this year.
    the most spectacular moment involves a digger (go figger). the opening car chase is in a… land rover – not even driven by bond.
    there is no internal logic to half the events.
    this is a film made by a north london vegan who won’t let his children play with action men because they encourage violence.
    the script is lame. the action sequences are all in the trailers. how often can you grab a gun when being held at gunpoint? twice in the film is absurd and deeply unimaginative. its a wankas film beginning to end.

    • To be fair, Will, what did you want?

      The land rover comment (“not even driven by Bond”) suggests you wanted a more traditional Bond film.

      I think Skyfall’s plot as far more internal logic than most Bond films, and I say that as a Bond fan. The plot of “a bitter ex employee gets revenge” isn’t original, but then very few Bond stories are. Indeed, the plot has driven one of the other best-received films in the franchise, GoldenEye. And again, the most spectacular moment in GoldenEye featured a means of transportation that was not a sports car.

      Bond manages to grab a gun while being held at gun point quite frequently during the film series. Twice demonstrates considerable restraint, if you ask me. You might as well suggest that the film was crazy for suggesting he could do that thing with the elevator. Of course it’s actually physically impossible, but given you were complaining about the use of a practical off-road vehicle, I doubt you’re looking for gritty realism.

      As an aside, I fail to see how any personal choice made by Mendes affect the film that he produces. I sincerely hope that very few of the film makers endorse Bond’s morality or lifestyle choices – as fun as they are to watch, I think fewer people aspiring to his driving technique makes the world a better place. And, to be fair, an artist’s family is generally considered out of bounds when it comes to attacking their body of work, whatever you might think of that.

      • Darren,
        It’s awful. the opening scene of a bond film is meant to grab the audience by the nuts. I’ve seen better openings on ‘Spooks’
        Compare the land rover chase through the crowded streets of natives in the asian city (ever seen that before?) to the free running chase sequence on the construction site in casino royal. no comparison.
        as for the train fight scenes – steven segal did better in under siege. Honestly.

        where was the fabulous cars? using that old aston implied bond should be nearly 80 years old – sorry I don’t think the post modern nudge nudge cleverness works as a justification. you need a great plot/film to hang that on. mendes tried to do it the other way round – hang the film on the post modern use of references.

        As for logic: why did the girl get the William Tell treatment? Why have a gun that only works for Bond – just to enliven the utterly unexciting and totally predictable comodo dragon scene?

        As for the ‘personal choices’ I criticise: I don’t care if mendes eats raw meat he strangled himself, I don’t know (or care) if he has kids or lives with a heard of adopted goats; my point was the film reads as something made by someone who doesn’t get or like action movies.
        It’s a bedwetter’s idea of and action movie.

        Where was the style, the glamour, the suspense, the locations, the love interest, the transported out of our humdrum existences into another world? We got London in the rush hour, the underground and bleak damp scotland. Oh yes, don’t forget Albert Finney in a beard with a shotgun (complete with 19century hammers) and no discernible accent.
        in fact I think they should have had a scene like the ones in ‘Merlin’ where Merlin talks to a dragon mentor, except Bond could have done it with the loch ness monster in a secret cave under his house. That would have really deconstructed the genre.

        And poor old ‘Scotland’? it’s shown as the most ghod awful cliche put on screen for years. heather, weather and Victorian gothic – even malt whisky firms are changing their advertising to avoid that cliche. the scottish lodge house is ridiculous. the ‘home alone’ booby trap scenes just embarrassing. sticks of dynamite lying around from the quarry? really? the parents grave stones…OMG why not have him as a split personality arguing with his mother’s desiccated corpse in the attic – shortly before taking his monstrous hound, with luminous mascara, for a walk on the moors?
        At the end he should have said ‘hasta la vista, baby’ as the baddy died… with a knife in his back OMG I can’t believe I’m not making this bit up. Where’d they get the script writers – on loan from Jean Claude van Damme

        Instead of a love or lust interest we get a close up of Judy Dench’s moustache. Please. I’m sure all the Islington filmos were wetting themselves at the cleverness of it all, but this film will be more quickly forgotten and less watched than Quantum. And that is saying something.

      • Fair point.

        And apologies for coming down so aggressively on the “children” thing. Sarcasm does not translate well on the internet, and I thought you were seriously suggesting that how he chose to raise his children was grounds for legitimate criticism of his movie. It’s clear now you weren’t doing that, but I really dislike this ad hominem trend in popular culture. It seems unnecessarily bitter and vicious.

        The Casino Royale free-running sequence is one of the best action sequences in Bond movie history. But it did not come at the start of the film in question. It came after the credits. The proper comparison, I’d argue, would be the Shanghai sequence. And I think that is one of the most beautiful sequences in a Bond film. (Along with the whole casino sequence which just looks lovely.) Either of those, I’d argue – are streets ahead of Quantum of Solace and on-par with anything in Casino Royale in terms of “breathtaking-ness.”

        The Aston was a pretty cool car. Bond doesn’t have to be eighty to own it. Indeed, Casino Royale does almost the exact same thing when he wins a similar car at Poker. It’s no more or no less of a gimmick here. And, to be fair, age, relevance, modernity and endurance were all recurring thematic plot elements. Is Bond outdated? Is M past her sell-by date? Is modern intelligence a dinosaur in the age of cyber terrorism? “Sometimes the old ways are the best.” The car actually serves a thematic purpose in that it’s an old item that is still useful. The vintage car in Casino Royale was more “post modern nudge nudge cleverness.” (And I love Casino Royale.) Here it had a very clear purpose, and it’s no coincidence that Bond used an old car to transport M and himself to his family home.

        The William Tell treatment was Bond testing Silva. He (a.) needed rid of the girl and (b.) thought he could corrupt Bond. He also wanted to see if Bond was as washed-up as the reports suggest Bond was. William Tell seems the best way to hit all those buttons. If Bond shoots the glass without hitting the girl, Silva knows that he’s back on top form. If Bond kills the girl, Silva knows that Bond can be corrupted. If Bond misses the girl and glass, Silva confirms that Bond is “weak” – he can’t bring himself to disregard the girl himself, but he’s also not on top enough form to hit a glass off a woman’s head.

        The gun served three purposes:
        (a.) which you allude to, setting up the Roger-Moore-esque dragon sequence;
        (b.) providing an affectionate call-back to Licence to Kill, the forerunner of the modern era of Bond; and, most importantly,
        (c.) “less of a random killing machine and more of a personal statement.” The movie is about how Bond’s humanity and all the tropes and clichés separate him from characters like Jason Bourne. Despite what critics of the Craig movies suggest, Bond is not a “random killing machine.” And the movies are not bleak grim-dark thrillers with nihilistic violence. The gadgets are distinctly Bond, part of what makes him who he is. They are part of his “personal statement” – what makes Bond into Bond. This is the most important aspect of it. The gun only works for Bond, in the same way that the plot only works for Bond. If he were less humanistic, or more cold and dispassionate like many claim, the plot wouldn’t work. You could make Quantum of Solace with any spy, and it would look similar enough. Skyfall, like the gun, is coded specifically for Bond.

        As for the “bedwetters” comment, each’s own. No opinion is, by its nature, inherently correct or incorrect. The world would be boring if we agreed. I thought it was a great film, and a great Bond film. You don’t. Such is life.

        I though an attack on London was a great way to shake up the franchise’s fiftieth birthday. Shanghai and the casino had more foreign flavour than anything in quite a while. And setting the finale on home turf was a great inversion of the inevitable “Bond storms the villain’s HQ” climax.

        As for the comment about Silva dying with knife in his back… didn’t the baddie in one of the best received Roger Moore films (For Your Eyes Only) die in similar way?

      • Will’s comments are brilliant!

        It did read like it was made by someone who didn’t understand where they were or what they were doing.

      • “And poor old ‘Scotland’? it’s shown as the most ghod awful cliche put on screen for years. heather, weather and Victorian gothic”

        Well Will, at least it wasn’t described to make you feel like ‘the last vestige of a foreign power’ in the country you were born and raised in, despite plenty of Scots clamouring for independence too.

  6. Saw Skyfall yesterday and thus ending my Bond in Order viewing of all the movies. And I absolutely loved Skyfall.
    All the references , the backstory on Bond , the constant questioning of relevance of MI6 , M and Bond.
    The sad but touching farewell of M, the Aston with accompanying Theme. Javier was funny and menacing as hell, one of the best baddies in a long time maybe even ever. I can go on and on but you did a perfect job in your excellent review.
    Bond being very human and the stakes being very personal is what gave the movie enough gravitas to get away with the sillines of komodos and Island lair. great performances from all actors involved
    At the ending when they entered the “old office” and our lovely new Miss moneypenny hangs on her coat I was so thrilled and than he walks trough that leather covered door of M’s office to our new strong M and it brought me right back to 3 weeks ago(or 50years ago or 23 movies ago if you like) when I was watching Dr. No and it felt earned and honest and great. I almost expected an interrupted transmission from Jamaica.
    Full circle with an all new and great supporting cast.
    only 2 requests for the new movie;
    A hatthrow (I know it is farfetched , but the coatrack is there)
    and Craig deserves to end the movie in a boat with a live girl
    50 years of bond was a great ride and I have made enough physical and mental notes to write an essay or at least an article on my favorite hero off all time.
    Meantime I am going to see how Bond is doing on his retirement mission in Never Say Never Again.

    Ps ; that fight scene in the Shanghai skycraper……WOW

    • Glad to ehar you liked it. Based on some of the other responses, I was beginning to worry that I was alone in my esteem of it. (Well, on-line. The people I’ve talked to off-line have generally loved it – regardless of hwo they feel about Bond, which is a very good sign.)

  7. My only complaint is that they didn’t resolve how they stopped the ID’s of the undercover agents from being leaked

    • That’s a very good point, actually.

      Although Silva seems so self-obsessed that the agents weren’t really important, save getting to M. Not that he didn’t want to hurt them, or anything like that, just that they were a vehicle to M.

      I have no problem believing that Silva simply lost interest in the list (and publishing the remaining names) as soon as the movie did. He couldn’t hurt M any more after he’d killed her, like he planned to in London, so I don’t think he planned beyond that. Publishing the names could continue too damage her legacy, but I don’t think Silva was interested in harming her reputation post-mortem.

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