Movie Review: Skyfall (2012)

‘Last rat standing’

Sometimes, in this life, a licence to kill might come in very handy. But that is not how James Bond 007 is feeling as we join him for his third Daniel Craig incarnation, in Sam MendesSkyfall (2012).

Yes, official Bond 23 is in cinemas as of 26 October 2012, and I am going to have to make an addition to my Bond. James Bond. post, but where will this one go in the rankings? Do read on, I think it’s safe to say you’ll know by the end of my review.

And Picturenose (myself and Colin) was in attendance en masse at the rather splendid Belgian premiere on 24 October – it’s always the same with a new Bond film, the sense of expectation, the big questions as to what the present director, writing team and stars are going to bring to the mix this time but, after the astonishing success of Martin Campbell’s Casino Royale (2006), which itself (before now) can lay claim to being best Bond ever, and the perceived-as-disappointing-in-certain-quarters-but-not-by-Picturenose Quantum of Solace (2008) by Marc Forster, Bond by Craig has taken on a completely fresh dimension, and has brought the franchise to far and away the most faithful-to-Fleming rendition of the character.

And guess what? The truly wonderful Skyfall is absolutely no exception to the new rule.

A few, more than a few years appear to have passed for our (anti)hero – we join him as he is desperately trying to retrieve a hard drive that has been taken from MI6 containing the names of many secret agents who are ’embedded’ in terrorist organizations – their lives are at risk if the information falls into the wrong hands, and Bond, while trying to wrest the hard drive from such a pair of hands (on top of a moving train, preceded by a rooftop motorbike chase, preceded by a break-neck, breathless belter of a car chase) is accidentally shot by his fellow agent, who was acting on the orders of M (Dame Judi Dench) on remote. Missing presumed dead (surely MI6 knows Bond better than that, don’t they?), 007 goes into temporary hiding, starts hitting the bottle big time (he’s not even shaving), before a devastating cyber-terrorist attack on MI6’s HQ in London brings him back to M. Needless to say, her welcome is as chilly as we have come to expect, but she begrudgingly acknowledges that she needs Bond’s help to battle the new threat of unknown enemies and battles without frontiers, as a mystery entity starts tapping in to every bit of security that MI6 holds dear. And there is a cryptic message for M herself: ‘Know your sins’. What is the grande dame of intelligence hiding? We’re about to find out, naturally…

Writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, here joined by John Logan, have simply outdone themselves this time around – while the previous films finally brought us a Bond that bleeds, Skyfall goes completely to the heart of Fleming’s character, entailing a journey into both his own past and that of M’s, and there may be a terrible reckoning awaiting both, as near-enough the best villain in any Bond, ever, who is eventually revealed as being one Raoul Silva (an amazing Javier Bardem), has a very specific agenda against his former employer.

And it is the language of the film’s exchanges, and the credibility that these bring to what is a thrilling central premise, that truly separates this from all its predecessors – Sam Mendes was never going to make a run-of-the-mill action yarn, he is too much of an auteur for that, but what he has managed, along with amazing performances from his principals, is a Bond that may as well be the first ever made, it is just that good.

I could quite happily list and describe in detail the scenes that brought so much joy to Colin and me at the premiere, but to do so would be treachery of the first order. Why not just get yourself along, discover your own favourite parts (believe me, there will be many) and enjoy the very best Bond film ever made. There – I have officially said it, and I am standing by it.

143 mins.

29 thoughts on “Movie Review: Skyfall (2012)”

  1. I’m sure it is quite good, for a Bond film without Roger Moore. It’s like butter versus a low-fat spread; they should really not have had the neck to call this a ‘Bond’ film, they should call it ‘I Can’t Believe it’s Not Bond’, or ‘Totally Bondy’. I haven’t seen the film yet, but I am not going to let seeing it cloud my judgement, which is very simple – Daniel Craig is not Roger Moore.

  2. Drew, James Drew (North Yorkshire’s very own Bond) ๐Ÿ˜‰

    A splendid review, up to your usual standard. I shall go to see it as soon as I can. I shall expect nothing less from your review of Black Hatted Cowboys.


    Bryan Ma\rlowe

  3. Bryan,

    Excellent to hear from you, you’re too kind. And I promise that my review will be to your liking. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Hope to hear from you again soon – maybe let us know what you thought of Skyfall after you’ve seen it?

  4. Right, you have gone unanswered long enough, C – word reaches me that you have in fact now seen this complete masterpiece, so care to share your thoughts on the film itself, as opposed to a completely unwarranted Roger Moore love-in? I thank you. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. Yes, indeed, I finally got round to watching ‘the very best Bond ever made’. I’m afraid you must have got carried away with all the hype. This is not Bond.

    Where to start…yes, I remember, the plot. I am sorry, but a pseudo-psychological ‘mummy doesn’t love me’ story is just not Bond. The critic has been very dismissive of Moonraker (1979) – I agree it goes on a bit, but at least the villain had a pretty amazing plan, based on a slightly flawed, but nevertheless utopic vision of the future. And Judi Dench (M) would never have employed someone who used the word โ€˜Mommyโ€™, I mean please!

    What next… there is so much that is wrong about this. Daniel Craig just hasn’t got enough swagger or smarm to deliver an innuendo, it wasn’t helpful that the innuendos were also a little lame. Some raise an eyebrow at Roger Moore’s range as an actor, but with that one raised eyebrow he has seduced a thousand women and any innuendo, lame or shamefully presumptuous, is putty in his hands.

    The Bond girl is beautiful and seductive, but there isn’t a lot of her in the film. I put this down to Sam Mendes’ difficulties with women – don’t want to get all Heat magazine, but how can anybody cheat on the wonderful Kate Winslet? Anyways, moving on, as Kate already has, the scene where Daniel Craig walks into the Bond girl’s shower, is just scary. Roger Moore would have said something like: ‘Would you like me to help scrub (raised eyebrow) your back?’

    So, just as you once tried ‘Utterly Butterly’, slathering it over a toasted crumpet and delicately placing it your mouth, awaiting that molten sweet and salty pleasure and were immediately disappointed, so it was with Skyfall. The makers have observed the master, they have tried mimicry, they have even dabbled with innuendo, but they have not churned butter, they’ve emulsified some fat, thrown in a bit of salt and come up with a poor imitation.

  6. And another thing, they paid their money, and they got Albert Finney โ€“ we all need to pay our bills, but what a waste. This is the man who immortalized Daddy Warbucks and Scrooge in musical form, couldnโ€™t they have thrown in a few songs or at the very least a decent script? While he played his role with pleasant exaggeration, so that an American audience might know that he was Scottish and still be able to understand him, it wasnโ€™t hammed up in the glorious way it would have been back in the day.

    Audiences loved Ginger Rodgers and Fred Astaire movies during the 1930s because they offered an escape from economic woes, and Roger Moore took us away from the 70s, the UK, general strikes, work-to-rule and Harold Wilson. It was a time when Bond meant expressos (whatever they were) on Italian piazzas and the French Riviera, swiftly followed by some skiing in Gstaad. A time when joining the Common Market was an exciting prospect and not an endless budget negotiation. It was also a time when very few people had set foot in Spain, when spaghetti bolognese was exotic and when the Eurovision contest was a serious competition likely to attract talent such as Abba, and not Jedward.

    This was an insular Bond – other than some rehab on an exotic island, a trip to Macau and some god-forsaken isle, it was not an international Bond. I realise that with the euro’s current woes, Italian piazzas and the French Riviera donโ€™t have the same allure but still, a bit more international glamour, please. We can turn to Hanneke and Loach and Leigh when we want a reflection of the human condition, for Bond we want complete escapism. I mean, look at Javier Bardem in his rather scruffy ‘lair’. Anyone who knows their Bond knows that Bond villains are fastidious, they like to keep a clean house and a lot of loose women, preferably sporting bikinis and Berettas. Is this economic crisis not deep enough for these producers? Iโ€™m sorry Mr Mendes, we donโ€™t want Beckett or Bergman, we want Bond. To conclude with an earlier analogy: โ€˜No buts, itโ€™s got to be butter!โ€™

  7. Well, C, while I am eternally grateful for your comments, it must be said that your knowledge of dairy products far exceeds your understanding of Bond. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Am I right in assuming that you have not in fact read a single word of Ian Fleming’s original novels and short stories? Thought so, because, if you had, you would understand just how close Craig’s performance (and the relationship that he shares with M, male or female) is to Fleming’s original vision. It may not matter to you, too busy swooning over Roger ‘Show me pain, Roger! (raises eyebrow)’ Moore, that this ‘great’ actor was in fact nothing (apart from in a few choice moments, such as in For Your Eyes Only (1981)) but a fun pastiche of the original character, but for this reviewer, who grew up with (and enjoyed, to be fair) all the films as a child before coming to a better understanding of Bond via the books, it is simply essential that Craig’s take is the template for how the character should be played, from here to eternity.

    As I have written previously (quite brilliantly, I think ;-)), this Bond is witty but merciless, cavalier, haunted and scarred and, just like the Bond of the books, he has turned to the bottle to quell his inner demons. As I have previously said, being a professional assassin is really not a very nice line of work, and no amount of raised eyebrows, gondolas turning into cars or pigeons doing double-takes (both Moonraker (1979)) should convince audiences otherwise. I do understand why you might hark back to the crowd-pleasing innocence of the Moore era, but that was a long time ago.

  8. I agree that a gondola turning into a car is not an everyday occurrence, but pigeons often do double-takes, especially when they see someone driving a gondola across St Marcโ€™s Square.

    I will also concede that Craig may provide a more complex โ€“ and more plausible โ€“ character. And yes, you are right I havenโ€™t read the books, I will bow to your knowledge of Flemingโ€™s Bond. But if you are going to make the character more gritty and realistic, it is a bit incongruous to match this new grit with an incredible plot. Though I suppose my problem isnโ€™t really the plot, but the lame motivation behind it.

    When Craig played the role of Elaine Figgisโ€™s spurned lover for Comic Relief, he truly inspired compassion. I was thinking that rather than cutting away to Craigโ€™s recuperation on some stereotypical โ€˜exoticโ€™ island, with lots of rum and louche women, they should maintain the gritty realism you prefer and cut to him recuperating on a Yorkshire terrace with Elaine Figgis โ€“ a Bond girl of our times, more Marks and Spencer than Dolce and Gabbana, but with a certain inner strength. Like when Casablanca (1941) cuts back to happier times in Paris, we can see Daniel and Elaine enjoying their camping holiday in the Yorkshire Dales, Sam Mendes has clearly missed a trick here, the chance to get some Bogart and Bergman chemistry on the screen. Just as Bogart escapes Paris and retreats, cynical and hurt, to running a gin joint in Casablanca, so Daniel Craig returns to the secret service and, as we know from Casablanca, we can never really recapture love lost, but we can bravely look forward to a new dawn. Personally, I think this would work.

    As a reconciliatory gesture for the hard-nosed businessmen behind film-making, may I suggest that when you lose your sponsors with this new plot, you find new backers in Newcastle Brown Ale and Daddies Sauce. Frankly, Newcy Brown may not be nectar, but it does have a hell of a lot more taste than a can of Heineken.

    Mendes has missed out on the opportunity to raise Bond to movie greatness. He has fallen between two stools – he had a choice between a real, a gritty, a more realistic Bond, with true passion flowing through his veins or the escapist, debonair Bond of Moore. This was neither.

  9. C – you may have the last word in our discussion, you richly deserve it. However, if any other Picturenose readers would care to get involved in the eternal Newcy Brown/Daddies Sauce or Heineken debate, please, let’s have your thoughts. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. The most sympathetic character in the movie is a woman who glimpses in Bond an escape from prostitution, and is shot dead.

    Bond’s response? ‘A waste of good whiskey.’

    What a twat!

    I suppose it’s indicative of Bond’s ‘mercenary edge’ that he seduces the poor girl just to get to his villain, but then why should I care that Bond and his fellow 00s are treated as callously by M?

    This was a film that began with a woman in charge and women ‘in the field’ making life and death decisions over the lives of men and ended with men in charge, only men ‘in the field’ and women safely back behind desks suffering Bond’s turgid innuendos. In the space of two movies the promise of Casino Royale has been squandered and we have returned to the Bond of old. He’ll be slapping girls’ arses in the next movie.

    But I did think the opening scene was good. ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Chris, mate, would you ever do yourself and the film-appreciation world a favour and lighten up? I disagree with you utterly and, if you’ll forgive me, your argument is so facile, it comes across as if you are being deliberately contrary to get a rise. Well, you won’t get one – with hindsight, I can now see why so many were seemingly so disappointed with Quantum of Solace, even if I was not at the time, because Mendes’ film has simply outshone it, to equal and even surpass CR in my opinion, much as I enjoyed Craig’s first outing. I think it is safe to say that you simply don’t ‘get’ Bond, do you Chris and, by your own admission, you really do not enjoy the franchise anyway, meaning that you are always going to be biased against it? If you are waiting for a Bond movie to present an unabashed portrayal of sexual equality, you are going to be waiting some time. For myself, I only hope that Bond is slapping girls’ arses and upping the innunendo ante in the next film – it has been so long since this was last done, it will seem like a brand new direction for the franchise. I look forward to your next yah-boo-sucks response. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  12. I agree with Chris, this franchise is not going in a good direction. While Roger Moore’s Bond girls weren’t exactly equals, they weren’t really manipulated in the callous way Daniel Craig appears to have manipulated and then killed this vulnerable woman (or was it Bardem, peu importe, the point is this is fiction and Roger Moore would have found a way to save her). I preferred a bit of gallantry a la Roger, isn’t Bond just an extension of the Lancelot franchise? And, while I haven’t done a full review of the former Bond girls, weren’t they top scientists, his opposite number in the CIA, pretty villainous in their own right? Pretty woeful, my award goes to the academy.

  13. Hi C,

    Thanks for your comment. I fully understand if you don’t like the direction in which the franchise is going, and I also can see why you would prefer a bit more gallantry on the part of Bond, given your clear preference for Moore. However, (and I am sorry if this is becoming a bit of a chestnut of mine), Skyfall is once again so much nearer to Fleming’s original characterizations than many of the Bonds prior to Craig, and I do not feel it is fair to blame Craig or Mendes for this new direction. Somebody *had* to do it, in my ever so ‘umble opinion. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  14. Mate, I can spot arm-wavy ad hominem a mile off, so in the absence of legitimate argument I’ll move on. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Another thing that really gets my goat is when art departments in Hollywood try to sex up IT. Ladies and Gentlemen, we will never really be able to graphically represent a million lines of code as a mesmerising geometrically morphing blob. And however brainy Q is, he won’t be having real-time programming battles across the interweb with sentient self-adapting auto bots. And our enemies won’t be leaving little clues to their agendas and whereabouts hanging about in their obfuscated assembler code.

    That is not ‘espionage thriller with added gravitas’ – its Scooby Doo.

    PS. Thanks C. I’m with you too. The moment Bond crept into the shower was very creepy indeed. ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. So, Chris and C, unless I miss my guess, you are criticising a Bond film for being (i) sexist (ii) callous and (iii) displaying a lack of realism. Hmmmm. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  16. 1. Yep. ๐Ÿ™‚ Are you suggesting that not just the character but the film itself must be sexist?

    2. Well if Bond is making jokes when his lover is murdered why does he get so pouty when M risks his life for the good of the many? I felt like shouting ‘Man up you big blonde pussy!’ It’s like joining the fire brigade and complaining that your boss keeps sending you to fires.

    3. It’s that they are hackneyed cliches. Like when the villain explains exactly what he plans to do before leaving and allowing Bond to escape. I thought the Bond movies had gotten beyond all that?

  17. 1. Yep. ๐Ÿ™‚
    2. He can do what he likes, he’s Bond. ๐Ÿ™‚
    3. No, Bardem does not do that once in the film, unless you watched the ‘uncut’ version? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    There, not a trace of ad hominem anywhere, just duplicating your efforts to irritate, darling Chris. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  18. Chris, mate, your arguments are coming across as, quite frankly, tetchy. ๐Ÿ™‚ I cannot even tell whether you liked *anything* about the film or not (and you really should have) because your points against it seem to be based on the fact that you find the entire set-up irritating anyway, which is fair enough as, during our previous Quantum of Solace discussions, you indicated that you actually really don’t like the Bond films, and haven’t for some time. Just please don’t try to tell me that Skyfall is not an enormous leap forward, both for the character and the franchise, because I know that it absolutely is, and I am afraid that this is an impasse you are not going to pass. Have a nice day. ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. Mate, my posts have been about the movie. Your replies have been about me. In short, ad hom pure and simple. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Moving on…This idea that Craig is a ‘big leap forward’. Its nonsense. For all the script’s attempts to move forward and leave ‘exploding pens’ behind, its arc in fact leads us all the way back to Goldfinger: Aston Martins with ejector seats, puerile innuendos and women as secretaries. Its a movie that points forward while steadily marching backward. It was deeply conservative.

    Skyfall is the Bond movie that Daily Mail readers have been having wet dreams about for years.

    Happy New Year. ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. OK, Chris, I said that your points were ‘tetchy’, and that you have previously admitted to not liking Bond. I drew attention to this fact because unfortunately, to my mind, it means that you will always be biased against Bond, no matter what, both of which I feel *are* valid points. And if that qualifies as ad hominem, then tough. ๐Ÿ™‚

    So, seeing as we have been conducting this discussion paying scant regard to each other’s points, let me try. ๐Ÿ™‚

    (i) I do not perceive its referential (reverential) tone towards Goldfinger as being a bad thing, not at all. Again, it’s subjective, but I consider Goldfinger to be absolutely one of the best Bonds of all time, and I think the reference to the ejector seat was superb, one of the film’s very best wry jokes. It was almost done with a raised eyebrow as well, a la Roger Moore. ๐Ÿ˜‰ And I am not sure that I remember a single ‘peurile innuendo’ – if you would care to cite one for me, I would be happy to comment.

    (ii) True, the Bond-women relationship has been taken back to a more ‘traditional’ one (at least as far as Bond is concerned, and far nearer to Fleming’s original vision), but where exactly is the harm in that? As I say, if you are expecting Bond to be a representative of right-on sexual fair-play, I feel you will be waiting a long time.

    (iii) And, as for the crack about the Daily Mail, judging by the by-and-large universal acclaim that the film has received from virtually every paper I have read (with The Times being the first), I would venture that it is in fact the film that those who really have loved Bond through thick and thin, such as myself, ‘have been having wet dreams about for years’, and I have no shame in admitting as much. So, are all papers that have given Skyfall a glowing review to be judged as ‘deeply conservative’, then?

    As usual, Chris, I loved a Bond film and you did not – let’s both of us build ourself a nice big bridge and get over it, what do you say my friend? ๐Ÿ™‚ x

  21. And furthermore Chris, with M now a man (Ralph Fiennes, excellent) once more and Miss Moneypenny in her rightful place, Bond’s sexist, dinosaur outlook looks set to continue for some time – hooray, say I. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  22. Tchaw. Hello Chris, long time no speakee – well, virtually, y’know.

    I’m just out the door but I’m going to just fire this one before I go:

    1. Skyfall was a majestic return to form, The ‘good’ Bond was always a bastard. Shit blew up and there was an Aston Martin. Life is good – and I don’t even read the Mail. It’s probably a little late to accuse the Bond franchise (I hate that word) of misogyny.

    2. I agree about the computers. Why waste precious clock cycles displaying pretty rotating things when you could use it to crunch or de-ob code? However, much as I hate to admit, seeing a winking *NIX cursor is not good cinema. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    3. We don’t do ad homs here, you big smelly bottom.

  23. Down with ‘franchise’, ‘ensemble castโ€™ and down with ‘genre’. Not opposed to words that owe their origins to the French language, but opposed to the hijacking of these words to poncify and dress up something that is really very prosaic, such as yet another Bond movie.

  24. Now Colin M: ‘You big smelly bottom’ is an insult, not an ‘ad hom’. Here is some ad hom:

    ‘Jimbo has always loved Bond movies. There’s never been a Bond movie he didn’t like. He is biased towards liking them, so hey, lets ignore the reason he gives for liking Skyfall.’

    See how it is an argument about Jimbo and not about Skyfall? It as an argument directed ‘ad hominem’. ๐Ÿ™‚

    But for the record, my bottom is quite pert actually but of late has indeed been pretty smelly.

    As for Bond being a shit, that’s all well and good. I’m all for Bond being a shit. It’s when the movie itself applauds the shittery that I start to worry. Being a shit is shit even when it’s Bond and the movies should acknowledge that.

    All the best…

  25. Hi James,

    >> ‘True, the Bond-women relationship has been taken back to a more โ€˜traditionalโ€™ one (at least as far as Bond is concerned, and far nearer to Flemingโ€™s original vision), but where exactly is the harm in that?’

    Well the harm in that is to do with Fleming’s ‘original vision’, which has Bond relishing ‘the sweet tang of rape’ (Casino Royale) and has women pronouncing that ‘all women like semi-rape’ (The Spy Who Loved Me). His vision is trapped in 50s/60s mysogny and thank goodness we have gotten beyond that. To go back would be reactionary. Of course, a movie can depict a mysogynist without exciting my ire, but in the case of Bond it would be necessary to present him more as an anti-hero than hero. Skyfall, unfortunately, isn’t that clever.

    >> ‘So, are all papers that have given Skyfall a glowing review to be judged as โ€˜deeply conservativeโ€™, then?’

    In my opinion, they have been hoodwinked into praising a film that is. ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. Hi Chris,

    Fair enough – I can see now why you were (for you) so full of praise for Craig’s characterization in Casino Royale (2006) and, while I can and have praised Skyfall for many things, and my praise definitively still stands, it is true that Mendes has not gone for the anti-hero option in Skyfall which, to be fair, Fleming most certainly did do with his original books.

    However, I think it is a very sweeping statement to suggest that the Fourth Estate was ‘hoodwinked’ – my guess is they really enjoyed the film, pure and simple, that is all I am saying, and I do not think you are suggesting that people should not be ‘allowed’ to enjoy the film based on your arguments, cogent though they are. Fair enough? Honours even, Mr Bond? ๐Ÿ˜‰

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