Skyfall

There are those among the millions of Bond fans who don’t like the formula breaking approach taken by the Daniel Craig films.  They probably won’t be happy with Skyfall.  But I feel that Bond is one of those cultural touchstones that have to be redefined for every generation.  When Casino Royale opened that redefinition was twenty years overdue.  I heard one Bond fanatic complain that Bond was not Jason Bourne.  Maybe.  But without Bond there never would have been a Bourne and it’s time for Bond to catch up.

In a strange way Skyfall is about this controversy.  It depicts a Bond who is vulnerable; the martinis are becoming a problem and there is a suggestion of PTSD.  His hands shake so much that he can’t qualify on the gun range.  What precipitates this decline is a botched mission that leaves one agent dead and Bond missing, presumed dead.  The hard drive with the names of all of MI 6’s agents in the field is lost.  M, played by Judi Dench, gives the order that drops 007 off a very high train trestle and into a river.

Eventually Bond washes up on a beach somewhere in the Caribbean, drinking tequila every night, nursing his resentment and satisfied that as far as the rest of the world is concerned he’s dead.  This is how movie spies take vacations.

When MI 6 is bombed in a terrorist attack, he returns, setting up a duel with Silva, played by Javier Bardem, an ex 00 agent, in fact a former protégé of M’s, who is even madder at her than Bond. 

But Silva isn’t the biggest threat to Her Majesty’s secret service.  The government is threatening to cut funding, saying that field operations are no longer necessary in this age of computer espionage.  M has a cabinet minister, Gareth Mallory, played by Ralph Fiennes, nagging her to take retirement and let new blood into the position. 

Can you feel the formula starting to tear at the seams?

Do I need to mention that Daniel Craig is terrific in this?  He is probably the most talented actor to ever play the role, although Sean Connery will always be the best Bond.  In Skyfall Bond is both furious with M and intensely loyal to her.  Craig makes those two conflicting emotions work.  He also shows us a great deal of vulnerability, somewhere no Bond has gone before, or at least not since On Her Majesty’s Secret Service when Tracy di Vicenzo died.

This is Judi Dench’s best outing as M.  She shows us a strong woman, now starting to crumble and not as sure of herself as she once was.  She’s still tough though.  Ben Whishaw is the new Q, a young kid, more interested in computers than in exploding gadgets, and yet he believably earns Bond’s respect.  There has been much talk about Javier Bardem’s performance as Silva.  It’s a good performance but I really don’t see it as being any better than some of the classic Bond villains of the past.

At the end they hint that going forward the movies will adhere more closely to the formula.  I hope this isn’t true.  I would like to see them dig deeper into Bond’s back story.  I’d like to see them hire exciting directors like Sam Mendes to bring quality acting and real emotional depth to the stories.  If I want to see the formula, I’ll put on From Russia With Love or Goldfinger.  When Casino Royale came out I proclaimed that Bond was relevant again.

I want him to stay that way.

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2 Responses to “Skyfall”


  1. 1 Larry Tumblin November 13, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    I appreciate what they tried to accomplish with Skyfall from an intellectual perspective, and I will watch it again to fully judge it. There were even moments that I really liked. The emotional depth rivaled that of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Casino Royale. Badem was great and Dench was superb. After a few days’ reflection, though, I am left disconnected and unsatisfied by the movie. It never really ramped up to a level of engagement that caught me up in the story. It was all just a little too deliberate for my tastes. Knowing that John Logan worked on the screenplay tells me a lot. I have always found his writing somewhat predictable. Great directors like Scorsese and Scott can overcome this, but I think Mendes needed to tighten up the dialog and quicken the pace to truly have made a great James Bond film. All the ingredients were there, but it just didn’t come together in a satisfying dish.

  2. 2 theotherebert December 2, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    Larry, Sam Mendes, who comes from the world of indie dramas, was always an odd choice for a Bond film and I think the decision to hire him represents a muddiness of thinking on the part of the producers. It’s like they wanted a prestigious directer and grabbed the first one they could, not caring that he was ill-suited to the project. I’d like to see a Bond film directed by Tony Gilroy or Paul Greengrass or even John McTiernan or Jan DeBont. John Woo would be interesting, as long as the Broccoli’s are in a mood to experiment. Brad Bird would be awesome.


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