Film review: Skyfall


Skyfall is the latest in the James Bond saga. It starts out with the obligatory very long chase sequence using multiple modes of transport and has the usual large quota of action scenes, but it also tries to make the characters of Bond and his boss M more complicated and develop her character and their relationship. At times Bond looks old and weary, more like The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.

supermanBut on the negative side, at almost two and a half hours, the film is too damn long, dragging quite a bit at the end. It also suffers from serious implausibilities. I know that Bond stories are escapist fiction and am willing to concede major implausible premises in order to build the foundation of a story. What bothers me is when the writers take that premise and then are inconsistent within it. It is like the Superman stories. I will buy the absurd premise of the title character but what bothers me are little things like that the only way he hides his secret identity is by wearing glasses.

In this Bond film, the major problem is the villain played by Javier Bardem. Before the film starts, he has managed, all by himself and unknown to anyone, to build a vast criminal operation that takes a lot of money and computer skills and requires meticulous planning down to the last detail to pull off. He is capable of bringing the world to its knees. That’s the major premise and I can go along with that.

But what you would expect a person like that to be? I think he should be cold and calculating, who has a team of amoral technocrats to implement his plans. A good model for such a character would be the heads of the major investment banks in the US that were responsible for the financial crisis. Instead when we get to actually see Bardem, he goes over the top, with his character having cartoonish and effete mannerisms and psychotic obsessions, not the kind of qualities that would enable him to build such an operation in the first place. His climactic scene with M was so ridiculous that it made me want to laugh, even though it was supposed to be dramatic.

Many films of this genre involving a criminal mastermind fall prey to this failing. The villains are required to have the qualities of corporate CEO types before the film begins and then become psychotic and reckless action figures afterwards. I hate that.

Here’s the trailer.

Comments

  1. Enkidum says

    What drove me the craziest about it was the fact that [spoilers about really stupid stuff, for those who care] when Q was examining Bardem’s laptop, he connected it to MI6’s entire network. Someone in charge of network security might know a little bit more about things like that…

    Of course that pales in comparison to the final poker hand in Casino Royale, which has never occurred in history and likely never would, even if people kept playing poker until the heat death of the universe.

    That being said, I quite like both films.

  2. MNb says

    “It also suffers from serious implausibilities.”
    The plot holes always have been OK with me as long as James Bond was a self parody.

    “it also tries to make the characters of Bond and his boss M more complicated and develop her character and their relationship.”
    This is the fundamental problem of Skyfall. The action scenes being over the top, James Bond himself being over the top and the plots being over the top are simply contradicting complicated characters and relationships. Skyfall tries to be two different kind of movies at the same time and predictably fails in both respects.

    “it was supposed to be dramatic”
    I thought the Bardem character the most enjoyable one, exactly because he was so over the top and thus reminded me of the good old days. It’s not a coincidence he had most of the way too few funny lines.

    “I hate that.”
    In movies that pretend to be serious yes.

  3. says

    What drove me the craziest about it was the fact that [spoilers about really stupid stuff, for those who care] when Q was examining Bardem’s laptop, he connected it to MI6′s entire network. Someone in charge of network security might know a little bit more about things like that…

    Yeah the computer stuff was as usual pretty ridiculous. I’ve been to MI5’s offices and was not allowed to so much as take a data key into the building let alone my own IBM laptop and I was DV cleared! So yeah, plugging a laptop into a network that is not isolated would never happen… Or at least the person doing it would be out on their ear pretty fast.

    The bit at the end really annoyed me *spoiler* where she gets an injury, walks miles with it, then suddenly drop down and dies pretty quickly. Not at all realistic I would think…

    But overall better than Casino Royale which was boring as hell to me.

  4. sw says

    Of course that pales in comparison to the final poker hand in Casino Royale, which has never occurred in history and likely never would, even if people kept playing poker until the heat death of the universe.

    Couldn’t that be said for any poker hand?
    …sorry.

  5. AxolotlXolotl says

    The odds of getting any one specific hand of cards is pretty low, but you have to get something.

    Maybe relqted to the over the top villainy, this movie made a point about bringing bqck old things we haven’t seen in Bond for a little bit. Moneypenny, the old office, the old fasbioned car. Contrasting the new Q branch’s mistakes with the exploding pen and a simple radio.

    The part I didn’t like was his name proven to be James Bond by his parents’ graves. I preferred the fan theory that the James Bond name was assigned to every 007 so that all the different Bonds could be part of the same continuity.

  6. Andrew Ryan says

    What got me was that Bond didn’t affect the outcome in any meaningful way. Bardem wanted to kill M and himself and at the end both were dead. He wanted to get captured and escape and he achieved both. If Bond had done nothing, all the same people would have ended up dead.

    It reminded me of a Jack Reacher book, when the villain wants to kill a witness, who Reacher tries to protect. He fails – she dies – so he goes after the villain and they end up in an underground compound. Reacher kills him, but then finds out the villain has been double-crossed by his minions and the compound is about to blow up.

    So to summarise, if Reacher had left town right from the off, the witness would still have died, and so would the villain. So, like Bond, what was the point in him being there, dramatically speaking?

    Or to put it even shorter – Bond pretty much fails throughout the film.

  7. Mano Singham says

    Wow, those were great! Thanks for introducing me to the Honest Trailer and Everything Wrong series. I now have entirely new ways of wasting my time in entertaining ways and thus am forever in your debt.

  8. Timothy says

    All of the above comments are exactly on, in my opinion. (Especially Mano’s comment about Honest Trailer, etc … :-D)

    For me, though, I’d watch a movie with Judi Dench reading the phonebook. I think she’s a phenomenal actress!

  9. stevefines says

    The one that got me is the gunshot in the opening scene that knocked him off the train.

    A big caliber torso shot (it lifted him off the train), but then in subsequent scenes he only has the gunshot scar from the gunshot received when he was in the cab of the loader.

    And as HT pointed out, the basic plot idea was a bit unbelievable even for a Bond film.

    That being said, I just love Bond films – I’m sure I’ll see the next one.

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