Warning: This review discusses the plot and reveals the fate of some characters. You may want to defer the pleasure until you’ve seen this title.
Did those lucky chancers Neil Purvis and Robert Wade, this time joined by Star Trek franchise killer John Logan, drop in on a wedding, like Timothy Dalton’s Bond, in the days before getting to work on Skyfall’s screenplay?
Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue: that old rhyme seems to have guided their hand. The old, with the weight of anniversary expectation baring down on each decision, is the stuff you associate with a half century of 007’s exploits: a sultry opening ballad, bother abroad, lady shapes and thank God, Q branch – all employed in the service of nostalgia and reassurance; a balm for an audience still bruised by the crazed experimentation of Quantum of Solace.
The new is identity politics, a move away from the familiar defaults to something we can associate with modernity. Bond hints at a bisexual past, Javier Bardem’s blonde villain, Silva (was Flaxenmane not even considered?) doesn’t need to hint. The female M finally bites the dust but no fear, Miss Moneypenny returns with a new race. Surely, you say, it can’t be long before Bond is using the ladies for matters of bowel and bladder rather than libidinous release, and I don’t mean that Bond 24 will feature tarmacing and golden showers.
The borrowed is the continuity from the pre-Craig run of Bonds and an ending from the ‘80s. Skyfall’s screenplay may be deadly serious and bulked out like its intense leading man, for the talk runs on and on, but it’s also confused, perhaps as those old hands Purvis and Wade are confused, betraying the reality that this Bond reboot was only ever half-hearted and, you sense, not fully embraced by the poor hacks that had to make it work.
From the moment Craig appeared there was always a problem: Judy Dench’s M. Just what was she doing there? She’d been present, younger and newly installed, when Brosnan crowned in Goldeneye, then the recognised successor to Robert Brown. If Bond had just become 007 then her presence made no sense. Clearly a new actor was required to draw a line under previous entries, but perhaps because Dench was under contract, or maybe because the producers liked her in the role, she was retained and consequently Bond continuity, already problematic given the series’ ultra-long lifespan, became a headache. Skyfall promotes that ache to a full-on migraine.
With the familiar elements of a male M, antiquated Whitehall office, hat stand and everyone’s favourite secretary reinstalled at the close, Dench looks to be both successor and predecessor to the old order. The Aston Martin DB5 that plays a minor role here, isn’t the standard issue model won by Craig in Casino Royale, rather the kitted out version from Goldfinger, complete with frontal machine guns and ejector seat. Goldeneye gets its anniversary nod in an exchange between James and new Q Ben Whishaw, leaving us all scratching our heads in a twilight Bond universe in which all 22 previous entries have some canonical value.
You might think that 6 actors and 50 years blows a hole in continuity anyway, but how much easier things seemed before the half-reboot, when Licence to Kill could make a direct reference to Tracy’s death in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and we could suspend our disbelief enough to imagine these movies as the ongoing adventures of the same man. Skyfall pays the anniversary piper but in doing so it muddies waters that were already clay thick.
The borrowed ’80’s ending resembles another couple of sequels, Superman II and Crocodile Dundee II. Bond comes home for his 50th birthday, spending much of the running time looking distressed at various London locations, but he truly goes native in the final reel, retreating to his childhood abode, the eponymous pile in the Scottish Highlands. His gambit, to gain the home advantage on personal turf, will be familiar to fans of the aforementioned movies who saw both Superman and Mick Dundee even the odds in similar style. The only problem with Bond using the same ruse in a bid to decouple techy-villain Goldilocks from his cyber-infrastructure, is that it leaves him dangerously exposed. In this he is one with the screenplay.
Action is sparse and absent from most of the 2nd act, making the story’s thinness more conspicuous, but the climax illustrates that in a bid to tie Bond’s present to his past, the hacks at the typewriters have taken leave of their senses. Silva is good enough to show up with just a clutch of men and one helicopter but what if he’d sent 50, or, having deliberately being handed Skyfall’s location by MI6, just destroyed the place in a drone attack? Being in a place with no technology doesn’t make you less vulnerable to weapons controlled by technology. Lucky that this virtual criminal insists on carrying out an analogue hit.
Despite that fortuitous flaw in his enemy’s intellect, Bond will have been disappointed that his intelligence colleagues couldn’t be roused to send a single man to help him defend the family home. Scotland may be just one hour from London by plane but MI6 seem content that Bond has a geriatric gamekeeper on side, so won’t require back up.
Finally the blue, in this case M’s declaration that “I’ve fucked this up, haven’t I?” Well no ma’am, not you but Sam Mendes and his team of scribes who’ve created a handsome but oddly laid back affair that lacks urgency, even in its most dramatic moments and eschews action for character development. A noble shift in emphasis you’ll say and right you are, but such a change requires a screenplay that’s got the requisite depth to cover the sacrifice of spectacle.
Skyfall doesn’t have the layers it needs to strut so casually for so long. The sort of balance reached for but manifestly not acquired, is something like Timothy Dalton’s couple of entries: Bonds that added grit and light behind the eyes while delivering the thrills that has made this cinema’s most enduring franchise. Mendes, eyed with suspicion on appointment by those that suspected the theatrical wunderkind was no orchestrator of action, promised not to kiss off the bang bang in pursuit of brains. He lied.
What kind of psycho this guy, Ed Whitfield. It seems that he has some kind of hatred for Bond. I saw skyfall today, and let me tell you it is one of best movie this year.
Ed I couldn’t agree with you more! The Judy Dench character has sucked from the very begining. In this meandering film what you get are a series of mini tributes to the James Bond films of the past. When Bardem removes his teeth you immediately think of Richard Kiel as Jaws. The opening sequence on top of the train is very reminiscent of the one in Octopussy. The addition of Money Penny and the Aston martin take us back to the early Connery films. Even Bardem, who does not appear until you are half asleep, is no more than a take on Chris Walken in View to a Kill. The oneliners also abound and Craig is just not so good with those… In Skyfall Bond reveals he has experimented with men and the new Q hands him a transmitter that looks like it’s an alarm fob from radio shack… This movie is just preposterous from begining to end. Their is higher use of technology in any current espionage series such as Hunted, Stikeback, 24 etc… The plot of a list being released is old… The Straw Dogs type ending is pitifull and nothing makes sense. The only positive of this movie may be the insertion of Ralph Fiennes. I have been a very big fan of the Bond films over the years and have found something to like about everyone who has portrayed the famous secret agent! Daniel Craig is solid, but he is being short changed by lousy scripts and a terrible sense of direction for the character of Bond. I don’t think anyone wants to see a Bond film for its deep character portrayals. The Bourne films do this much better… Let’s get back to the real James Bond and kick some ass!
If continuity of the previous Bond films is one of the major issues for you, and you find the whole reboot concept so confusing, there is no wonder Skyfall went over your head. Perhaps you should stick to watching Bond movies like Die Another Day, as this will probably suit your intellectual level far more. Implausible storylines, OTT gadgets and invisible cars are far more exciting to watch, right Ed? Either that, or stick to watching Tom & Jerry, and give up your already failing career as a film critic.
Hey man, don’t knock Tom and Jerry: they’re one wacky duo.
Your spiteful suggestion that I re-watch Die Another Day is noted. Just know that you’re going to hell and your children will be born ugly and deformed for saying it. That’s not my justice, that’s the universe’s justice.
On your one substantive point though, rest assured I’m not confused. I’m drawing attention to the confusion of Messieurs Purvis, Wade and Logan. It’s a minor distinction but an important one.
It’s a pity that reviewers even respond in such a childish way. Makes them look less professional. And still these reviewers get picked up by Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. Really a pity.
Still it is his own personal opinion. We live in a free country….I might hope so.
Good point, Gert. Well mad- no, wait…
I agree with your review pretty almost entirely.
It did feel especially confused about whether or not is was the Serious Bond promised in Casino Royale or the Silly Bond from all of his titles prior. It seems their attempt at marrying these two elements ultimately had the Silly Bond lead us down a garden path whilst the Serious Bond was left looking foolish at the altar. There are many other things that I could nitpick but shan’t because to do so would be trivial.
The one thing that I do not share with you is your harshness. At first I thought this could be just your style, which could simply add a humorous overcoat to a fair judgement but having a look at the comment section it seems that it’s just ingrained in your character.
You seem to attack anybody that disagrees with you, as if their opinion might invalidate yours. It always looks childish when people bicker, but for an actual critic to act in such a way is hilariously bizarre and pathetic. I think it’s time you stop taking other peoples’ opinions, and perhaps your own, so seriously. Just remain confident with yours because of course other people with disagree with you.
Jack, stop backing me up!
Rest easy knowing that I have absolute faith in my point of view and have no fear of being challenged.
Stowing the psychoanalysis, if you don’t mind, I’m a little perturbed by the odd deference implicit in your comment, a point oft repeated, that critics should remain aloof and not condescend to talk to the people who comment on their reviews. The idea it’s in some way bad form, inappropriate or unprofessional is, and I hope you won’t mind me borrowing a Jackism, bizarre and pathetic.
I accept that we can’t win because if we bat back reader’s conclusions we’re defensive and if we don’t we have no answer but I’m a fan of engaging with readers (time allowing), not because I feel compelled to argue the toss out of deep seeded insecurity as you imagine, but because I want to argue the toss; the debate being an enjoyable extension of the review and a chance to talk about the flick at greater length – sometimes with people who’ve seen it.
Why have an interactive forum and insist on a way one conversation? The print age ended last Wednesday – we’re not obliged to sit in an ivory tower any more. Besides, a lot of elephants die to make those towers so…
Ultimately it comes down to this: sites like this one allow people to comment freely on what they’ve read but they shouldn’t assume that this constitutes having a free pass to misrepresent the writer, presume to tell them what they think based on a half reading of what’s been written – mental shortcuts filling in the blanks, or reheat old cliches, for example chestnuts like genre movies shouldn’t be scrutinised too heavily or that the majority view should be automatically respected; dissenting voices being contrarians, etc. It doesn’t. If you make that argument you should be prepared to back it up; I’m not obliged to let it stand. I don’t see any harm in returning that argument to the reader with a lovely little half-lob at the net and asking them to account for their comments.
As moderator I keep the definition of what’s on topic pretty loose, that much should be obvious – I approve personal abuse aplenty. The price of that getting through however, is that you may get an equally robust response. That’s the deal and that’s what all commenthacks should consider when posting.
Just back – magnificent movie, carrying off a very difficult trick of marrying old Bond with new. Seemed simply to get better as it went on. A Bond with heart and wisecracks and I’m not really sure how much more action this critic requires. Perhaps he’s a Michael Bay fan.
Now you’re just getting nasty!
I have to say, i agree with you , Ed. I have been dissapointed with this new series of Bond films ever since Craig took the mantle. Throughout the pre-Craig Bond years, through unbelievable fight sequences, cringeworthy quips, and over the top fight sequences, one thing that was the common thread in all the films was this: They were fun. I enjoyed the films when I was too young and unable to appreciate the plot. So many fist-pumping moments, elevated becuase of the love of this martini drinking, flirtatious, funny, dangerous man. It was escapist, fantasy fun that made you go to bed with dreams of becoming a spy,or at least bedding one, just before reality hits and then you hit the snooze button at five o’clock in the morning. FUN, folks.
Since Daniel Craig entered the scene with this team of I -don;t-know-what writers behind him, Bond had been one tedious affair. From the barely tolerable CR, to the crappy QOS, and finally this. Bond was never about great, big explosions and careeening trains, and car chase after car chase. I mean it had those, but it was more about the man, the man made the bond films. It was light, quippy, enjoyable, a bit tacky,(okay a lot tacky lol) but all in all a good two hours well spent. Enjoyable and Fun. Those two things have been missing since 2002. And I can’t take it anymore. All this MOODY, GROWLING, ANGSTY BOND is driving the rest of the world insane, while the UK seems to grab onto whatever is thrown at them in the cinemas and applaud.
I want bond back.
I want the fun back.
Rest assured that the rest of the world, and by this at least I’m talking about Singapore , didn’t go insane. In fact my wife and colleagues enjoyed the movie very much–It is a thoroughly fun movie.
I can’t attest to Quantum of Solace, but Skyfall was a joyful–at times intense–ride and as much as I enjoy the old Bonds movies during my 42 years of living, this one was definitely one of the best.
Also, Ed, I think you sound miserable and should definitely get a life. Really, go out and try to have fun.
I also believe any change in Bond canon can be forgiven, if the characters are well written. A young Q and a black, gun-wielding Moneypenny. It remains to be seen if these characters will stand the test of time, or will be seen as a cheap attempt to appeal to other demographics. But don’t be fooled, I’m a thirty two year old black woman, and I hate to be patronized.
I saw the film and I’m trully disapointed, Mendes is trying to steal all Nolan tricks..(and new Bourne).. but in the end he fails. The story of Skyfall is infantile .. The last scene is brainless.. I have the same observations as Ed.. Great and brave article.
Thanks for responding Ed, and hopefully you’ll be in Hell before I get there. Out of interest, what is your favourite Bond flick, just so I can get a sense of perspective here with what your definition of a decent 007 movie is?
I hope not, I wouldn’t want this talkback to continue in perpetuity.
Actually Ed, forget responding. I just read your review of Kick Ass, which clearly displays all I need to know about your taste in movies. There is no wonder you didn’t enjoy Skyfall.
In fact you’re confusing me with my colleague Ed Perry but that minor factual inaccuracy aside, I’m fascinated to learn that you can extrapolate an individual’s entire taste in movies from whatever they thought of Kick-Ass. Who knew it was so pivotal? You read it here first folks.
I’m glad you had the balls to respond, both on here and on RT. You’ve gone up a few notches in my estimation, despite you not liking Skyfall. Tell Ed Perry he has crap taste in movies (yes, that pretty much sums up his entire taste in movies as far as I’m concerned). And glad to see you like Jaws. It’s in my top 10 all-time favourite films….(unless it was Ed Perry that liked Jaws, which will confuse the hell out of me…….. 😉
I won’t tell him if you don’t mind – he’s 7’1 with arms like tree trunks.
I wouldn’t go as far as saying I didn’t like it; there were moments I enjoyed very much – the Q meeting, the fall from the train, the, er, fall from the Shanghai office block… I accept it reads that way, but it’s more a case of liking much of the thinking that shaped the film – in terms of tone, character exploration, etc – while lamenting the execution. Skyfall has problems but despite those, it’s still 450 times better than say, Tomorrow Never Dies and at least you could see it, which puts it above Quantum of Solace – a movie that had much that was good buried in it but was shredded in the editing suite.
I’ll take the credit for the Jaws review as it’s also one of my favourites.
I saw this movie today…well, even QOS is much much better than this one…this movie is simply ridiculous and disgusting….a very well written review….
Nice to see other people agree. I had to walk out of the cinema, a dire bond film if ever I saw one but seems to appeal more to the masses than ever before. Dumbed down Hollywood guff now, thanks Sam.
Completely agree with Ed ( apart from the continuity). There are two enormous plotholes that blow the film to smithereens. Why does Barden need to be captured ( surely he could have acheived the same aim with just his iphone being captured) and if Bardem has so much cyber control why not just nuke skyfall ( which is what a proper Bond baddy would do).
Indeed. Send the bomb and forget. That said, you wouldn’t then have a movie but if Purvis, Wade and Logan had had time for another draft they might have thought about Bond using the Glencoe countryside as a hideaway, like Mick Dundee used the Bush to pick off those Columbians, rather than a tiny house in a flat, clear area with no hiding places for miles around. After all, James knew the area – he grew up there. Did Silva and his mercenaries know the highlands? I doubt it.
I thought including the house was a great idea, it gave us a sense of Bond’s history which fans would love.
I also thought the film was brilliant, and you’re splitting hairs to be honest.
See previous responses dealing with the “house problem”.
Oh you don’t need to be curt, I am actually quite impressed how you’ve managed to troll a film in such a pretty way (your review is just supposed to be pretty isn’t it? After all, we all know that your comments about continuity and nuking the protagonist are ludicrous 🙂 )
Your pretentious and incessant bullshit is enlightening in one way, however. It proves that even in this economic climate someone can make a living from talking nonsense on the net, and even manage to scrape a spot on Rotten Tomatoes – it must be exciting to have your name displayed next to ACTUAL professionals!!!
Oh it’s very exciting. Some nights I can’t sleep; it’s being amongst that prestigious company you see. That and the fox humping, obviously.
[“The female M finally bites the dust but no fear, Miss Moneypenny returns with a new race. “]
How nice. M gets to be a man again. I’m so thrilled. NOT.
Naomie Harris goes from being Eve the field agent to Miss Moneypenny the secretary. And doesn’t sleep with Bond in the process. Man. I keep forgetting that Bond fans still have forgiven Broccoli and Wilson for allowing Halle Berry to not only sleep with Pierce Brosnan’s Bond, but be the last woman in his arms. I guess James Bond fans have yet to embrace interracial sex in the franchise – at least when it comes to women of African descent. And for once, EON Productions obliged them.
I’m not sure you’re being entirely fair, Rosie, though in a way you’ve remade my point about modernising the franchise; your focus being on gender and ethnicity. To put my argument another way, I don’t think EON should think about gender or race when re-casting well known supporting characters, rather just choose the actors best suited to the parts. My suspicion is that shuffling the gender, sexuality and race deck in non-essential roles, or inconsequental asides, is their way of fostering the illusion that they’ve updated the franchise, as we associate women in positions of authority and characters that represent the true ethnic makeup of the land, with the modern world.
When they knew Dench was doing to leave, they had a problem as fans like yourself might read a male successor as a backward step (I don’t think that’s the case incidentally, I think Fiennes will make a great M and has been chosen because he’s a good actor and will bring some reserve, and maybe a little less waspishness to the role – plus we can get away from this M as mother, M as maternal metaphor crap), so they preempted that criticism by throwing the audience a bone – namely Naomie Harris as the new, but strong and self-reliant, don’t forget strong and self-reliant, Moneypenny. For the record I think she was very good and I look forward to seeing her next time round, but if the producers were serious about updating Bond, they wouldn’t be changing the shop window, they’d be refitting the shop. The “Bond girl” in this movie was still ornamental, Bond’s still a misogynist, etc. Now what we have to decide as an audience is whether that’s an integral part of his character and the pretty but one dimensional ladies part of the formula, or do we want to see a different take on Bond and his world?
As for Bond and Moneypenny not sleeping together, that’s the way it should be. Their relationship is the great tease, is it not? Personally, I’ve always believed that Bond had an affection for Moneypenny that prevented him from taking advantage. He knows he’s a bastard and he genuinely likes her, so he doesn’t casually indulge like he would on the road. That and he’s got to come home and see her frequently. A strong aspect of Skyfall, I thought, was that for the first time we could understand why Bond may have a special regard for her. The backstory made good sense for both characters.
I actually enjoyed “QUANTUM OF SOLACE”. I don’t know about this film.
I’m right with Ed on this one. Thought highly of Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace was alright but not great, and then … this.
I thought the movie tried too hard to connect two different age-groups of movie-goers, the Bourne-section and the original Bond-section. Didn’t work to my satisfaction. I’m in the latter section, incidentally.
What’s with Da Silva having only 4 hench-men to his aide when we’re on his private island, but when it’s time for the final show-down he’s suddenly found some 30 more? Rentathug.com?
I wholehearted agree. Just got back from watching this and I just couldnt put my finger on what was wrong with it, this review pretty much nailed it.
I think The DB5 was the final blow for me, it felt like a shoe horned nod to the anniversary and it really threw me out of the film. The equivalent maybe of a geriatric Roger Moore cameo, have him wink at Craig and raise an eyebrow… we’d all laugh knowingly. Could you imagine how awful that would’ve been?
Maybe if Bond had shown surprise on finding the ejector seat button, but both he and M knew about it – which had me thinking, the craig Bond is the same Bond from 50 years ago? Of course not, but this is the same bond car from 50 years ago? All questions I shouldn’t be asking during the film.
I enjoyed Casino Royale a much needed reboot after Bourne made bond to look silly and irreavent. It seems, with this effort, we’re back to silly bond.
So Morten is with Ed on this one? But Morten can’t figure out how Silva rustles up 30 baddies, despite clearly having lived in the shadow-world long enough to make the right contacts, while Ed can’t figure out why he doesn’t just rustle up a multi-million pound drone to take out Skyfall (clue, Ed, he tells his mercenaries not to touch M – she’s his. You may not have noticed but the entire flim is about him wanting to make it personal with her). I found the film engaging and entertaining, but, hey, what do I know? Actually, don’t answer that….
I got it Jon, I saw it – you’ll note I referred to Bond being lucky that a virtual villain favoured an analogue hit, but in reality James wasn’t lucky of course, he could just rely on hacks like Purvis and Wade botching the climax. They’re almost as reliable as Q branch. My point was that the decisions made by Silva in the final act only make sense if they’re a necessity rather than a choice. If it’s a choice, he’s an idiot.
I think that Purvis, Wade and Logan were so seduced by their core idea – “showdown at Bond’s childhood home!” – that they didn’t think about how to make it work in-story. They didn’t sufficiently lay the ground. Setting aside the fact that Bond decides to camp in a remote house, or easy target to give it its proper name, ask yourself, what does Silva know following the botched hit in London? He knows Bond and M are at one remote address in Scotland, because he’s been left a breadcrumb trail to follow, though a tech-savvy terrorist like him should probably suspect that a sign pointing to the target is likely a trap (if only MI6 had thought of it), and that’s it. That aside, he doesn’t follow immediately, he waits for around 24 hours. Now, how does he know that Bond will be alone when he shows up? If MI6 got their shit together they could have beaten Silva to the location by 23 hours. For all he knows there could be an agent with a rocket launcher perched on a hill ready to destroy his helicopter, or a team of 100 field agents ready to pounce and machine gun his crew to death. Yet he turns up, on faith presumably, with a small group and in person.
M knows it’s personal – he’s already revealed himself and his motives, so why does he need to be there to pull the trigger? After all, he’s not going to kill her, the bullet is. What’s the difference, to a tech head, who uses virtual infrastructure as a revenge tool, between firing a bullet into her head and firing a missile at her from 400 miles away? I might be able to understand the personal connection if he showed up and put his hands around her throat but no, he was going to shoot her. In fact, he didn’t really have the guts to do that because of some stupid mother complex, so a remote hit made a lot more sense. This looks flakey because it’s a free choice. Even villains as consumed by revenge and insane as Khan, in Star Trek II, understood that it was only necessary for the victim to know why they were being killed – you didn’t have to do it with your bare hands. Hence he first tried to do it with the Reliant’s weapons, then with Terrell in the Genesis cave, before finally, begrudgingly, being forced to chase Kirk into a nebula and finish him off. In other words, Kirk forced his hand.
If the name of the game was to force this techno-centric baddie into doing it the old fashioned way, camping at Skyfall makes no sense for all the aforementioned reasons. What would have made sense would be for Bond to take M into the Highlands themselves, where Silva would have to hunt for them, without giving him an easy target. Then he couldn’t kill her remotely, he’d have to go in with his mercenaries and finish the job by hand. That’s what Crocodile Dundee did and it worked a treat. He knew the territory, they didn’t; he picked them off with ease. I suppose that wasn’t deemed to have as much emotional resonance for Bond, so they went with the house, but actually they could have just started there and maybe have gone on to the peaks where, perhaps, his parents died. If they’re retconing, why not just establish that’s where they were climbing when they died? That would have been a powerful echo for James, wouldn’t it? But then you don’t get to blow up a house, so…
This annoys me because I know myself with all its respect that this Bond was a good film, I don’t see how in what way would it be a bad one. It was thought out with script, structure and emotion and action. To much off a vast majority of the world know this film as a great film by simple common sense, your review is deemed pointless as in almost some unneeded attempt to be clever, this and your replies to people.
I feel it to be a shame that there is such pointless rubbish like this to be read on the internet.
Bradley, did you write this in a foreign language and paste it into babelfish?
I agree that no one should ever attempt to be clever. We should all be as stupid as humanly possible. I promise never to think about anything ever again.
I am also equally surprised that how people can think it to be a ‘good film’ when the film is soooooo obviously bad by the same simple common sense….
Alrighty Ed, had a good read and obviously a good watch. Firstly, a very motivated review. More to the point – a very incorrect and spiteful review of a Bond film about to break nine figures at the box office. Secondly, let’s delve a little deeper before you dismiss my response (clearly from reading a few previous arrogant and self-righteous responses to other movie goers I can sense you’re out to draw attention to yourself).
”Bond comes home for his 50th birthday, spending much of the running time looking distressed at various London locations.”
I don’t know what on earth your issue here is, rather than perhaps to imagine yourself running around with assurance during a time of crisis at MI6, and hence, Britian as a whole when a computer terrorist has hacked an intelligence base of such importance. Ed for the new Bond? I doubt it.
”The only problem with Bond using the same ruse [as Spiderman] in a bid to decouple techy-villain Goldilocks from his cyber-infrastructure, is that it leaves him dangerously exposed. In this he is one with the screenplay.”
Baffling comment. Firstly to compare Bond with Batman in some sort of joke-like manner, attempting to discredit. Secondly, Bond is, and has always been exposed. Pray you tell me a movie in which Bond was backed up by an army which covers all bases in response to your quips that ‘Goldilocks’ could have brought one with him. You seem to be complaining about Bond-like screenplay, and yet you seem to somehow unwittingly, and hypocritically suggest Bond needs to turn into some play-along soldier amongst a battalion akin to your typical flop-action flick like Independence Day.
Further, I don’t know which Bond movies you have enjoyed, if any. However it seems likely you think you’d have written better scripts yourself for Dr No (Bond bringing an army to demolish the much talked about ‘man eating’ Crab Quay), or perhaps Bond bringing in a echelon of ships to strike at Scaramangers island hide-out in The Man with the Golden Gun (Bond could’ve been shot down, it was played upon in the movie, he was vulnerable! That is what Bond is! He is a single, resourceful, charming, all-defeating agent, as if I need to remind you of what the series is based upon. I suggest you go back and read some of Fleming’s novels.
“Action is sparse and absent from most of the 2nd act”
There are so many things wrong with this comment that I just don’t know where to start. Please watch the film again. Every other critic I’ve heard from has said just the opposite. And I’ll vouch for that too, considering I saw the movie. Did you perhaps go to the loo and return to Chicken Run in the wrong cinema?
“[intermittent references to series continuity mean it is impossible that] we could suspend our disbelief enough to imagine these movies as the ongoing adventures of the same man.”
Ed, you are so far from the mark here it’s laughable. There is no statement saying Bond is a series of continuity. If you care to watch the special features in the Bond DVD set you will hear from those at the top of it all (Broccolli, Michael Wilson, Salzman, and particularly John Glen, the director of For Your Eyes Only, that there are only references if it adds value to the particular scene or film as a whole. Why do you think Casino Royale went back to the beginning of the timeline and gave 007 his status as an agent? Why do you think this was set in 2006 and not 1960 (as it should have been in your view if this franchise were to be continual in any way.) This leads me to my final point.
“Judy Dench’s M. Just what the fuck was she doing there?… If Bond had just become 007 then her presence made no sense.”
You’re trying to suggest, yet again, that this is a franchise of continuity. It’s not! Please do some research into the reasons why certain actors are cast. In this case, watch the special features of Casino Royale where you will hear casting say that regardless of a new Bond and a going back in time to the beginning as an agent, M is just M. There was no other actor which suits the role considering previous movies and her lauded performances as a straight-shooting woman whom Bond answers to. The point is clear; M is M and if there is value in her presence in the film, that’s where she is cast.
To sum up Ed, I was disappointed to see your review. Even more so, I was disappointed and rather taken aback by the way in which you said the movie wasn’t up to scratch. Your argument is there, but a very motivated and poorly opinionated one. If you’re trying to draw attention to yourself for it, it has worked. But in a twist of fate, there will be very few who agree, and I for one will certainly not be returning to hear your tripe-talk about a future release. As a side note I do suggest you try to explain your baffling review a little more to others who come by it in disgust. I leave with some poetry for you: “If at first you don’t succeed… Try, try, try again Mr Whitfield” (or lack thereof).
Adrian, a few points:
1) A movie’s box office performance is no metric of quality. Bond has stratospheric brand recognition and a $20m marketing budget. If it didn’t track well and open big, something would be amiss. Good reviews may help a touch but the truth is they make very little difference to final figures.
2) What other critics say is irrelevant. This isn’t groupthink.com. I’m here to tell you what I think. Critics almost universally hated Blade Runner and The Blues Brothers, y’know. Sometimes the majority get it wrong. Plus, there are more impressionably minded people in film criticism than you might think. Trust me on this one.
3) The only information that matters when talking about what does and doesn’t work in a film, is the finished product – the film you see in cinemas. Not the DVD extras, not the missing scenes, not the novelisation, that explained all that stuff that wasn’t clear in the final cut and not the Christmas pop up annual, the movie. That’s all. If it doesn’t make sense on screen, it doesn’t make sense. Keeping Dench on as M for a series reboot didn’t make sense. Of course the producers will say that it doesn’t matter – they’re not going to tell you that it does, else they’d have to justify it, and the fact they half-heartedly did with a non-explanation like “M is M and Judy’s M, and that’s it” – indicates, I suggest, that it was a question they knew people would ask but didn’t have a good answer for. “M is M” doesn’t mean anything, does it? If M is M, why not retain John Cleese or Samantha Bond? The point surely, is that it’s problematic, because if you’re rebooting the series, because you think it’s become bloated and self-aware, then you can’t have any hangers-on from the previous films, especially when Bond’s 007 status pre-dates that character’s introduction. And don’t give me any shit any parallel universes, as some fuckhead did on RT; it’s a fuck up, plain and simple. Why? Well that brings us on to…
4) You say this is not a series of continuity. I think you should re-watch them. Go on, i’ll wait. It’s true to say that Bond continuity is problematic because obviously Connery and Brosnan can’t be the same man because of their age, not in the real world, but Bond years aren’t like human years. Bond exists in a sort of weird temporal space were time is distended. Bollocks, you say? Well consider that pre-Casino Royale many Bonds referred to previous entries in fairly conventional ways, like any sequel does with its predecessors. Consider Tracy’s death in OHMSS followed up with Bond at her grave in For Your Eyes Only – different Bonds, same continuity, or the same incident alluded to in Licence to Kill, a movie in which David Hedison reprises his role as Felix from Live and Let Die, or the scene in Die Another Day in which Brosnan’s Bond walks into Q’s underground bunker and sees a selection of gadgets from different Bond movies, going back to Connery’s era. The common thread here is that each instance acknowledges the existence of the previous films and implies, sometimes outright states, that the new Bond shares the memory of those events – in other words, it’s one timeline that moves in only one direction. The difference with Skyfall is that having jettisoned that timeline, they’re now back in the business of referring to previous Bonds. Well no, I say, you can’t have it both ways. The truth is that Casino Royale didn’t need to be a full reboot at all. This problem goes away if Bond is Bond at the beginning. You can still change the tone and direction of the series, like they did with Dalton’s introduction, you don’t have to junk everything. But they didn’t do that and now they’re stuck with this odd mash up of the two sets of movies.
I’m shocked this is a contentious point. It seems to me obvious.
– Bond looking distressed in London wasn’t a criticism but an observation
– Bond uses the same ruse as Superman, not Spider-Man
– I didn’t compare Bond with Batman, you imagined that
– Chicken Run was not playing on the day I saw Skyfall, probably because it’s 12 years old.
Poetry may not be your strongest suit but I enjoyed the attempt.
I’m not convinced by the strength (read: weakness) of this review, that you were on form whilst writing it, Ed. It’s quite flawed compared to your other reviews, which I generally found enjoyable to read, even when I disagree with your point of view.
It just comes across like you have a personal contempt for Bond and the franchise and don’t judge it on its own merit. One of the best Bonds to date and one of the best films of the year for me. Great fun.
I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and imagine that you had a bad day writing this review.
That’s most kind but you seem to have imagined quite a bit more than that. For a start, you’ve read the review and somehow concluded that I have a vendetta against the Bond franchise in general; that I hate James Bond! Good luck pulling those quotes. Be assured that I have nothing against Daniel Craig as Bond or Bond films, in fact the eagle eyed will note I alluded to a couple of my favourites. If there’s contempt, though never personal I hope, it’s for the writers of this and the last few installments, that’s our old friends Purvis and Wade, who are, in my view, hacks, who tipped the series toward self-parody in the Brosnan era, with Die Another Day being one pun short of being an Austin Powers sequel, and have only been reigned in of late, thanks to polish from Paul Haggis, whom one assumes mollified the duo’s worst excesses and added some much needed grit. This time round they had John Logan as fixer, red pencil in hand, desperately burning the midnight oil in the weeks before principle photography got underway. Not a great writer in my view, he almost killed Star Trek after all. I cite Skyfall’s final act as evidence of all three’s shortcomings. Ultimately it’s the difference between providing a movie that has real weight; a film that really excavates the characters and drops them into believable, character building scenarios, and a movie that conjures the illusion of the same. Skyfall strikes the right tone, has the right aims but the script doesn’t work hard enough.
I’m glad you enjoyed it though and had, I assume, a good day as a result.
Stick to your guns Ed.
Watched Skyfall at the weekend and if this is what I can expect from a film rated 94% by all those sheep on Rotten Tomatoes then it’s not just piracy that the film industry needs to worry about.
Don’t get me wrong, watching Skyfall was a couple of hours very well spent, but would I bother watching it again? I don’t think so.
Just wanted to say that this review is absolutely SPOT ON. Hit the nail on the head.
Clearly this reviewer has gone off the deep end with an M-centered, overly cerebral analysis of a straight ahead action film. If he needs all loose ends neatly tied to enjoy a flick or for the film to merit praise, I’m surprised he even goes to the cinema.
Well Rich, if it’s M-centered, that’s because the movie’s M-centered. As for the familar charge that any review examining how the movie does or doesn’t work, with reference to the preoccupations of the filmmakers, is over intellectualising the material: tish. We can’t have a full and proper understanding of any movie, whether it’s a Bond or a Bergman, unless we look at these things. Consequently, I would dare to suggest you’ve under-intellectualised it. A film doesn’t have to have strict internal logic to merit praise but I’d list it as highly desirable in a film of this type. If I’m thinking about plot lapses I’m taken out of the movie and anything that takes me out of the movie detracts from my enjoyment, hence it’s always appreciated when filmmakers employ a bit of savvy in conception and scripting to avoid obvious pitfalls.
Yes. I couldn’t have agreed more. I also was annoyed with the analog hit at the end. He brings a helicopter, but no missiles? Even more confusing is that he’s smart enough to concoct a plan to get him captured by Mi6, escape, make an overt public attempt on M’s life, and then can’t see when he’s obviously being baited… by Bond with no backup.
If you’re going to try and make something more realistic, don’t do a shitty job.
Yes, Ed, well-done. I didn’t agree with some of your remarks in the review but the explanations in your replies have been helpful.
The phrase ‘plothole’ is bandied about all too often these days in place of the word “mystery” where the writer actually means “mistake” , but SKYFALL is I think full of more holes than you could fit in the Albert Hall.
1. Why does Bardem not just kill M at the very start with the gas explosion if in the end he was just going to try and shoot her? A personal greeting could play on her computer first I suppose
2. Why, if he “knew” MI6 would decamp to some random underground tunnel, and could “hack” it (jesus christ it isnt 1990 we know how computers work), did he “allow” himself to be “captured” just so he could “escape”. How about skipping all that and just turning up in Heathrow with a false passport?
3. How could he possibly know that Bond would chase him and stop at a particular point in his escape for some banter such that it would be worth placing some c4 just so.
4. And then knew knew it would go off at the exact moment a train was coming?
5. an EMPTY train?
6. Why does Bond allow that sniper fellow to kill a guy before clumsily trying to biff him on the ear instead of simply shooting him in the leg?
7. THEN all that stuff about the denoument in Scotland. I dont know where to begin, this article sums up a third of the problems with it, but misses the vital one where a guy like this Anton Chegurgh lite can procure an assault helicopter but not a few RPG’s?
One of these days I’d love to see a spy movie that had some espionage in it, you know, for flavour.
Oh God, thanks for this review. The other reviewers must be blind. Skyfall is such utter rubbish, I don’t know where to begin. Well, I actually remember two good scenes, the very first action scene on the train and the one where Bardem tells his little story about the rats and appears very menacing at first (of course, he soon becomes ridiculous after that – the audience was lauging. Not the reaction a villain wants.) That’s about it.
The sad thing is, I loved Daniel Craig as a hard-boiled, gritty Bond so far. CR was a great movie and QoS an exciting action flick. But this? The giant plot holes have been mentioned already, the dialogue is stale and one-dimensional. We now know that M stand for “Mum”. The villain has an unsolved mother-complex and Bond, of course, suffers from childhood trauma. Finally, Bond has been analyzed, we can now “understand” him, he has successfully been domesticated by our psychological discourse so that we don’t have to feel overwhelmed any more by his virility and lust for killing. Thank God.
I mean, alright, a psychological take does not have to be necessarily bad, I found Bond’s mourning over Vesper’s death in CR believable, but Skyfall executes it very badly. Freud for dummies.
Some more ridiculous stuff: There is a scene where Bond participates in a drinking bet with a scorpion on his hand – I thought I was in the new Indiana Jones movie. And the showdown felt more like Home Alone – only that the bad guys brought a military heli along this time. Oh, and there’s Q – he’s an emo guy now.
Skyfall literally falls from the sky and plunges right into movie hell.
Ed Whitfield is bang on, unlike most of the sycophantic mainstream reviewers who have lauded this Bond so they get invited back to the next junket. The plot stinks. Why does Chief Villain need a gigantic evacuated island to hack into computers? He could do it from his bedroom. Whatever happened to the threat to name the agents? Did they just get fed up with that bit of the plot? Who were the baddies in the casino? I’m still scratching my head. Were they there because, hey, we’ve got to have a casino sequence. What was Bond doing on an ice covered loch in Scotland in Autumn? What was all that nonsense about Chief Villain escaping like Hannibal Lecter and running about the London Underground dressed as a copper with a bomb in a paper parcel? Oh, come on. And let’s not even question why – with all the baddies going up the A9 to Scotland for God’s sake with the full knowledge of everyone – MI5/6/the police, the army don’t apprehend them? The Bond films used to create their own logic, far-fetched yes, but they were worlds in which you could suspend your disbelief. The idiots who scripted this and gave no thought to logical development have insulted our intelligence and given us what can only be described as seriously Dumbed-down Bond. The Bond films used to be masterpieces of pace and plot. Now they have become lazily written, lazily directed and – worse – slack in development. As for the Chief Villain’s hairdo, I won’t even go there.
Right on about the continuity issues! “Casino Royale” was plagued by similar problems. Most notably the scene where Vesper purchases 007 his first tuxedo and then he tries it on and dramatically poses in the mirror – as if the Bond we all know and love and came before (Connery-Brosnan) was inhabiting his trademark attire for the very first time. Only, except, he wasn’t. The slate was supposed to be wiped entirely clear with the reboot (new Bond, new missions) but the producers/writers keep running on and utilizing the tropes of the past. IMO the whole Craig reboot has been a confused mess. Some dodgy CGI aside, “Die Another Day” sits happily right alongside “You Only Live Twice”, “The Spy Who Loved Me”, and “Octopussy” on my dvd shelf. Remember those? Bond movies that flirted with international espionage and Le Carré-ish gravitas, but most of all were actually popcorn-munching FUN!
“…only been reigned in of late, thanks to polish from Paul Haggis, whom one assumes mollified the duo’s worst excesses and added some much needed grit.”
Really? As far as I’m aware, Haggis’s contribution to Casino Royale included the scene of Craig-Bond sitting alongside Vesper in the shower and suckling on her fingers. Probably the most un-Fleming and emasculating scene in entire 007 film history. Ys, even more than Roger dressed up like a clown on “Octopussy” or baking a quiche in “A View to A Kill”. Additionally, his story outline for Quantum involved Bond seeking out Vesper’s child (a plot that was mercifully axed by Wilcon and Broccoli). Haggis is NOT the Bond savior that he is cracked up to be.
I’ve shown this comment to 500 James Bond experts and we’re all agreed: we want to taste Roger Moore’s quiche.
No, that’s not an euphemism.
Ed you’ve hit the nail on the head with your review. I saw Skyfall last night and was really disappointed. Its such a bad,bland and dull movie. I loved Casino Royale and thought Craig was excellent as Bond. Quantum of Solace was an incoherent mess but that was more down to the frantic editing than the weak storyline. If only Martin Campbell would come back as director along with some decent screenwriters.
I just saw Skyfall at the cinema. Utterly disappointed. I went to the cinema because the reviews in Rotten Tomatoes and imdb seemed to favour this movie. But in all honesty, it was nothing but overrated. Bunch of explosions, lots of shooting, plenty of bloat – not much going on in terms of the plot or character dev. After watching the movie, my feeling was – okay, so when does the real story actually begin?
So for those of you who are putting Ed down for his truthful critique on this sad, disastrous epic fail of a movie – please stop. I am just a simple movie-goer who wants to watch a movie for entertainment purposes. Skyfall was NOT at all entertaining. I cannot forgive a movie that chooses to impress its audience with chasing scenes, explosions – just to increase the production value of the movie – thinking that we won’t see through that shenanigan and notice the movie for what it really is: WEAK and had so many holes in the plot. If Sam Mendes couldn’t see the script’s weaknesses before shooting, I really wonder what kind of a director he is. The movie had a Very weak plot. The characters were dumbed down – both villain and protagonist. They had a huge budget. Couldn’t they spend a bit more on script development? I’d say skip this and watch something else. Total waste of money and time. Acting-wise, Craig was okay, Bardem was stunning. But not even a string of A list actors could rescue such a shallow script.
Thanks, Ed, for saying exactly how this movie is. Your review is spot on.
Brilliant review. You describe so well everything I dislike about the current Bond, except for the terrible haircut (he looks like a skinhead). The film lacked excitement, charm, wit, sex appeal – all the things I hope for in a Bond movie.
Ed, stick to your guns. You were 100% correct about this film. By trying so hard to push forward, they left behind all the things that made the series great to begin with. These are action movies, and the action here was sparse and very dull; where was the climax? I know you didn’t draw a Batman comparison, but I will: we didn’t need to see Wayne Manor. The film was just too meta and too critical of the past, while still trying to earn cheap nostalgia points. This was a total misfire and a low point in the series.
Watching Skyfall and then coming out to check what online reviewers have to say, feels a little like being the dude that wakes up in 28 Days Later. It’s a zombie wasteland where there seems only one other alive (but crazy guy) taking potshots at anything that looks funny (that’s you Ed), while screamin’ “Soylent Green is people!”.
But oh how glad to run into you in this world where it seems the movie screenwriters took a running dive off the cliff of insanity and everyone joined in like a lemming Project X party.
Skyfall was pretty awful. Had to struggle to stay awake watching it. All they had at the pitch of this movie must have been the opening credits, coz after the theme song kicks in, the movie starts its downward trend and never seems to recover.
This is how a simple man like me talk about Skyfall after watching it yesterday:
“It’s like packing your luggage and intentionally leave one empty spot in the middle and you set-off for the airport. Next day at the hotel when you open the bag, it’s a mess inside..”
Really enjoyed your review Ed. Well done for giving us dissenters a review to enjoy. For me the big problem, like the last Batman, is that the ponderous psychoanalysis and angst stuff just sits so uneasy with the fantasy escapist stuff and spoils all the fun. I mean who really gives a tinker’s cuss how Bond was potty trained or if he was spanked at school? I expect light, breezy, witty actioned packed fun from a Bond movie. If I want a serious drama I’ll watch a Mike Leigh film.
Hi Ed, I have to agree whole-heartedly with your review. I spent ages trying to find anyone who disliked this movie – You are the only guy on RT (so far) with that distinction. The script makes no sense. Javier Bardem conveys no menace. Adele’s lyrics are laughable. And Bond himself does, well, nothing much really. Fails to catch the guy who stole the hard drive. Fails to catch Silva on his way to the Houses of Parliament. Fails to save M from Silva’s revenge. Guess the movie was telling the truth when Bond failed his mid-plot aptitude tests…
Completely agree with everything you said in your enjoyable review. I found the story uninteresting, irrelevant and unthreatening. I have found Dench’s M overexposed and, well, slightly irritating since her increasingly pivotal role from TWINE onwards and felt no sense of tragedy when she (deservedly) bit the bullet. Adele was crap – worse than Madonna if possible, humour was twee and actress who played Moneypenny seriously lacked chemistry. I was disappointed to have had to wait 3 (possibly more) movies to see the Daniel Craig ‘become the Bond he needs to be’ and not have witnessed this transition midway through Casino Royal. Blah blah bloody blah.
Regardless of what you (or any) critic thinks of a film, to “joke” that someone’s child will be deformed says more about you than the writer. Stay courteous indeed.
Why do people get so worked up over the rantings of someone who works for a site called “theoohtray.com” anyway?
I’ll take my “rantings” over nonsense spouted by a nothing who hides behind anonymity and self-importantly takes proxy offence on behalf of someone who had the good sense not to, spanks. I accept that tone and context doesn’t always travel across the great web barrier but trying a little harder to judge the same and not be literal minded wouldn’t kill you, would it?
Thank god at least 1 sane critic in RT
Skyfall is an endless rollercoaster of cliches. The story line makes little sense, its full of holes, the villain goes from genius to moronic, and some characters are completely irrelevant to the plot.
Only the shallow or ignorant could enjoy this movie.
How did an MI6 field agent get his hands on a list of NATO undercover agents on his laptop hard drive? How did Silva and MI6 find out that he had the list?
Why did Mallory persist in M retiring, when she was the only one who figured out that a former MI6 employee was probably responsible for all that happened?
Why did Bond screw Severine on that boat, even after figuring out that she was a victim of the sex trade? And surely Bond must have realized that Silva would not be pleased with him screwing Severine?
Why was Moneypenny deemed unable to cut it as an agent, when she shot Bond on M’s orders . . . after making it clear that the shot was not clean? Even after she saved Bond’s life in Macao, Moneypenny was deemed as an incompetent agent. And the movie never really revealed any angst on her part over the matter.
How did Silva find out that M would be appearing before a Ministry committee, while incarcerated at MI6? Or that Q would try to access his laptop on the very day M appeared before that committee?
Why on earth did Bond take M all the way to his family’s home in Scotland, without ensuring any backup from MI6 to help him deal with Silva?
Why did Moneypenny end up as a secretary, when Bond proved to be so incompetent in this movie?
I do get tired of the complaints about M’s “overexposure”. Is this because many Bond fans didn’t care for her appearing on the scene, when Bond was out of the country?
Hmmmm . . . as I recall, Bernard Lee’s M did the same in five Bond movies, starting with “YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE”. Robert Brown’s M did the same in all of the Bond films that he had appeared in. Why bitch about Judi Dench?