Skyfall Review

poster from the MGM film Skyfall

First of all, I should warn you that I am not a Bond fan. I like the movies in the sense that I always go to them, but the misogyny and clichés bother me and I always hate the psychedelic credit sequences set to wailing, on-the-nose, ballads. My favorite Bond movie is Goldeneye, precisely because it doesn’t take it self so seriously. They went for more grittiness with the Daniel Craig films, and while I liked Casino Royale, I thought Quantum of Solace was terrible, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from Bond 23.

After M loses a hard drive containing the names of all the NATO undercover agents, Bond must return to save the service that left him for dead.

Now that I’ve seen it, I can tell you it’s pretty good. Better than Quantum of Solace, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as Casino Royale, even though it tries to follow the Batman franchise’s example and tunnel further down into the land of darkness and grit.


One of the problems I have with Skyfall is the premise. Who would be stupid enough to a) store all the details of every NATO operative’s mission on a single hard drive and b) leave it lying around in a hotel in Istanbul for any idiot to steal? You may also recall that this was the central plot device in Mission: Impossible.

Mission Impossible vs James Bond

And must I say, they did it better.

In the Skyfall opener, James Bond (Daniel Craig) and his partner Eve (Naomie Harris), chase after the hard drive thief on motorbikes. Though there’s a cool moment with a backhoe on a moving train, this action scene can’t come close to matching the Parkour/crane sequence from Casino Royale.

James Bond on a motorcycle from the MGM film Skyfall

I mean: come on. How many motorbike chases have there been? Like a million?

M (Judi Dench) is so eager to get the hard drive back that she has Eve snipe at them while they’re still wrestling over it. Eve shoots Bond by accident, he dies (supposedly) and the hard drive is lost.

Eve Moneypenny takes the shot from the MGM film Skyfall

Um, M? I have good news and bad news…

Game over, right? Apparently not. Despite the fact that these bad buys no doubt intended to sell the info on the drive to the highest bidder, it’s not until several names are POSTED ON YOUTUBE that MI-6 actually pull out their undercovers. Stupid much? Why not just go out there and shoot them yourself if they’re worth that little to you?

M with the dead agents coffins from the MGM film Skyfall

On the bright side, we scraped enough of their bits up to fill a box!

The bad guy this time is a hacker who gets into their system and causes an explosion, forcing them to move their HQ into some sketchy old tunnels and to stop using so many gadgets. You would think that since all their agents are now compromised, they would need someone invisible (like Bond, who is officially dead) to go after the bad guy, but nope! Bond rejoins the team in an official capacity, even though the new uberboss Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) thinks he should be retired.

James Bond pokes at his injury from the MGM film Skyfall

This is a waste of a good death as far as I’m concerned.

Bond goes low tech on his hunt for the hacker, in a kind of old school vs new school way (kind of like R.E.D., but not as well executed). All he gets from his new Q (Ben Whishaw) is a gun only he can fire and a radio transmitter. Ho hum. Where are the exploding pens? The missile cars? The wristwatch with the garrote wire in it? Surely the bad guys can’t hack a wristwatch with garrote wire in it.

Ben Whishaw as the new Q from the MGM film Skyfall

Bad news, Mr. Bond. Your suit coat has been compromised. I’m afraid you’ll have to borrow my cardigan.

And don’t tell me it’s “more realistic” because “realism” and “James Bond” don’t belong in the same sentence unless accompanied by the words “not at all.” In a truly realistic Bond, he would be instantly killed the second he stepped foot in the requisite bad-guy controlled casino because he a) always uses his real name and b) never disguises his face. What, you think bad guys never talk to each other?

Gareth Mallory from the MGM film Skyfall

So would you say giving your real name to every terrorist in the universe is stupid or stupid?

Once he gets his kit (such as it is) he spends a lot of time lurking around in shadows, hunting the assassin (Ola Rapice) who stole the drive and a hot lady named Severine (Berenice Marlohe), who happened to be in the office building across the street when Bond whacked his assassin friend. This part was actually kind of boring, and I kept zoning out.

Berenice Marlohne as Severine from the MGM film Skyfall

Hello hello and welcome to… my pants!

After a lot of stupid minions get killed in horrible and obvious ways in fancy hotels, office buildings, and casinos, (and Bond meets a woman he can boink for information) he finally he tracks down the bad guy Silva (Javier Bardem with a terrible dye job), who has a grudge against M. The way Bond could if they wanted to give him actual depth of character.

James Bond and Silva from the MGM film Skyfall

You can be my evil boyfriend. How does that sound? You can even keep the suit.

Anyway, everything falls apart like it usually does and Bond has to take M and retreat to his childhood home, a Mr. Rochester-eqsue manor on a dingy moor called Skyfall, which is where the movie gets its title. It’s supposed to help us learn more about M and Bond as characters, but the three or four facts they reluctantly hand over don’t make them any less two dimensional than usual. Mostly they spend their time setting up an ambush, which makes the final third of the movie kind of a like a gritty, grown up version of Home Alone (which is cooler than it sounds).

M and James Bond in the moors from the MGM film Skyfall

M: I thought the English countryside was supposed to be pretty.
BOND: We’re going for ‘gritty’ this time, remember?

By the end of the movie, we’ve pretty much caught the prequels up to the original series in all their misogynistic glory. Looking back over this review, I think I can conclude that I like the movie less in retrospect than I did in the theater. Once all the cool noises and explosions are over, we’re not left with much but the usual clichés, which makes me think that all the “real” critics who are raving about how Skyfall completely changes everything must have been watching a different movie. This is a movie for fans, not for people who are looking to see something different or realistic. Those people should watch Spooks instead.

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