Skyfall (2012)
October 29, 2015 4:29 AM - Subscribe

Bond's loyalty to M is tested when her past comes back to haunt her. Whilst MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.

This is the 23rd James Bond film adventure.

The Wikipedia entry. reviews Skyfall.
The James Bonding podcast (Matt Mira, Matt Gourley and guest Steve Agee) covers Skyfall.

Some Top Critic reviews from Rotten Tomatoes:

Richard Corliss, TIME Magazine: "The cool accomplishment of Skyfall, 23rd in the Broccoli franchise, is that it seems a necessary, rather than mandatory, addition to the year's popular culture."

Christopher Orr, The Atlantic: "Among the most ambitious imaginings of Bond to date: dark, supple, and punctuated with moments of unanticipated visual brilliance."

Dana Stevens, Slate: "Skyfall leaves you wondering whether this incarnation of the character has anywhere left to go. It's the portrait of a spy at the end of his rope by an actor who seems close to his."

Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal: "The movie's smartest suit is emotional intelligence: Skyfall keeps us caring, intensely, for a hero who, by any rational measure, is a vestige of a vanished era."

David Denby, New Yorker: "The director, Sam Mendes, has taken a pop concept and solemnized it with Freud, which is not, perhaps, the best way of turning Bond into grownup entertainment."

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: "This is Bond like you've never seen him and a dynamite Daniel Craig, never better in the role, nails Bond's ferocity and feeling. Skyfall is smashing, just smashing."
posted by doctornecessiter (27 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Behild, the age of omnipotent villians! So crafty and wise, they allow themselves to be caught to reek further havoc on our helpless heroes.

Well, until the final act, when those vast stores of intelligence are depleted, like a company of dwarves raiding the pantry.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:29 AM on October 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

Behild, the age of omnipotent villians! So crafty and wise, they allow themselves to be caught to reek further havoc on our helpless heroes.

This is probably my one significant complaint. The villain being two steps ahead is fine, the villain having a bomb explicitly placed so that he can derail a train into Bond is a bit much, unless I missed something that made that make sense.

In a lot of ways the themes are fairly old territory at this point (how could they not be?), Bond being out of touch with the modern world, Bond being a step too old, the former MI-6 operative coming back to punish Britain for its sins. The film handles the themes well, though, and looks great. For a series that often visits the most beautiful places in the world, it gets a lot of mileage out of the very different feel of rural Scotland. I'm a sucker for desolation, though.

I also like the ways in which the Craig Bond movies are different, but with homages to the classic style. In this one we get a glimpse of Bond living in a idyllic paradise with a random beautiful woman, but it's just a glimpse. In a Connery Bond that would have been its own entire subplot, complete with some gratuitous shots of Bond scuba diving or something. It's like how the films are shying away from full theme song, but tease it. I love that. As someone who grew up watching these movies,* I get a little thrill whenever I hear that music, even for a second, and the movies are doing a good job of using that thrill without just pandering to it

I think its also interesting to turn the tables and have Bond end the movie by luring the villain into his lair. It sets up a nicely different action piece for the ending, if nothing else. I also think its connected to the fact that, ultimately, Silva is basically successful. He dies, sure, and he doesn't kill Bond, but his beef is with M and she dies. He bombs MI-6, he kills Séverine, he gets most of what he wants. Bond fails at basically every juncture of the film, except for killing Silva and his men. Ultimately, it seems, he isn't actually fit for active duty.

*I might have mentioned this before, but Bond VHS tapes were consistently free of effective copy protection, so my family would make copies of rental tapes then bring them on long car rides. I spent an entire cross country road trip with like four James Bond movies and a copy protection scrambled version of The Rocketeer.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:03 AM on October 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

While I will concede that Casino Royale is a better example of a Bond movie, I've really become obsessed with this one. It has some problems, but it hits a lot of my buttons.

I love the tense conversations, where Mendes and the actors craft really deft emotional performances underneath very stylized dialog. Bond and Séverine talking at the bar is particularly good. The way she lets her fear show through is very precise and subtle.

The visuals are so dramatic. Bond on the boat going into the dragon's mouth entrance of the casino. The whole set-piece in the windowed room with the neon jellyfish projection. Even the sets that are objectively a bit dull are shot and staged so well, like Silva's ruined island and server farm.

Besides the jellyfish fight, the cold-open action sequence is great. It really showcases that this Bond's superpower is his force of will. And I think that carries through the rest of the movie. I also like the shoot out in the court room for having a lot of character bits in it.

Things I don't care for: Bond's treatment of Séverine. The Home Alone finale, including the introduction of a superflous Albert Finney in the last act. Yes, Silva's magical escape plan in the middle strains the suspension of disbelief, but I've come to terms with it.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 6:47 AM on October 29, 2015

MetaFilter had some pretty good discussion about the portrayal of women in this movie back when it came out. I still stand by what I said then, which was a) no, Bond does not rape Severine, and b) yup, Moneypenny's arc is pretty sexist. I'm glad they brought her character back, and I'm glad the main recurring cast isn't just all white dudes (especially since they replaced Dame Judi Dench with a white dude), but I wish they hadn't spent so much time establishing that she can't drive and is an incompetent field agent.

Anyway, I do really like Skyfall, and it's one of those movies that seems to me to improve on every watch, mostly because of the visuals and music. Great theme by Adele, and I love how the motif from the classic Bond theme plays as soon as the word "quartermaster" is mentioned, i.e. that's right, we are bringing Q back! I love Whishaw's Q, too, as a foil for Bond. He brings back Llewellyn's cheekiness to the role while still bringing something entirely new to the character. I'm telling everyone who will listen that I need someone to write a fanfic where he's secretly Q of the Q Continuum.

Boy, are the themes heavy-handed though. If I'd had a drink every time someone asked whether the traditional ways are still necessary in the modern world, it would be a rough night of movie watching.
posted by capricorn at 7:32 AM on October 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

I struggle with this one. There is a lot in it to enjoy - Bardem is a great villain (even if his plot is insanely complex and reliant on a bunch of bizarre coincidences, like the bomb that drops the train onto Bond and the fact that M will happen to be testifying in front of committee on that particular day at that particular time, when Q makes the convenient to the plot decision to plug a suspect laptop into the MI6 network), I like a lot of the visuals, and I enjoyed the opening action and the Shanghai fight. I appreciated the modern touches, where we don't see M as a static authority figure for Bond to bounce off of, but rather a human being in her own right. I liked Q (except for his moment of incredible plot-driven stupidity of plugging the recovered laptop into the fucking network). I liked Eve right up until the point where she becomes Moneypenny; it takes a character who was shaping up to be interesting (female agent who needs some seasoning/development who can bounce off Bond's methods and thug-like tendencies) and then ties her to a desk and basically says she's not really cut out to be an agent.

And that's probably the fundamental problem I guess I have here - whereas Casino Royale showed us how damaging it was to be Bond and that his overbearingly masculine style (being a loner, his blunt thugishness, his relationships with women) was problematic and not always healthy or effective, Skyfall seems to be trending in the opposite way - that an agent has to be those things; that he is right to be those things; that his methods are needed and damn anyone who calls them into question. And I don't disagree that someone like Bond is necessary in an agency like MI6; but I think the movie had a chance to show us that MI6 is composed of many different skillsets and people and that they all are needed. It could have made this new Bond part of a larger, more complex world, with Bond still at the centre, but with a bit of a fleshed out team around him.

I think the film treated the character of Severine inexcusably poorly. And they really could have cut away the entire last half-hour and not lost much. The Scotland sequence felt jarringly out of place; almost a light hearted Home Alone-esque montage of setting up the house and then a drawn out, poorly shot fight sequence.

And the film seems to be quite popular, so maybe I'm off base on what the Bond franchise needs to do to stay profitable.
posted by nubs at 8:47 AM on October 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

I liked Eve right up until the point where she becomes Moneypenny; it takes a character who was shaping up to be interesting (female agent who needs some seasoning/development who can bounce off Bond's methods and thug-like tendencies) and then ties her to a desk and basically says she's not really cut out to be an agent.

I agree. I feel like the Moneypenny arc is made worse in retrospect by taking the character back to being Moneypenny, secretary, and the stuff that seems bad (the driving, missing the shot) wouldn't seem half as bad without that choice. If she's just a younger agent who's not quite there yet, then that's fine, but it gives it the feel "well gosh, we tried, but I guess she's just fated to be a man's assistant!" The part where she shoots Bond is also interesting, because, in the full context, it does seem like she's just not cut out for field work, but I'm not so sure. It's a basically impossible shot, she's ordered to take it, and she does. I don't think Bond would have followed orders there,* I think he would have refused, gotten a dressing down from M, and gone about his business. Moneypenny makes the hard choice, at least, and I think that's a sign she's cut out to be a field agent. The movie, of course, doesn't let it play out that way.

*No doubt I'm missing some time he does do something like that, but this is a dude who once refused to take a shot basically because the target was a pretty woman. Actually, he's probably done that dozens of times, but I'm thinking of The Living Daylights.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:59 AM on October 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

Bulgaroktonos, It's kind of interesting in general how Bond in Skyfall is so much more willing to take orders than many of his predecessors (for instance, letting what's-his-face bleed out in the opening scene). So many of the plots, especially Brosnan's, hinge on the idea that Bond knows better than M/MI6 and only by going rogue can he prove he was right all along.
posted by capricorn at 9:29 AM on October 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

And one of the big points has also been that the judgement of the person who is there, on the ground and aware of the details others don't/can't see is an important aspect (I'm thinking specifically of the opening to Tomorrow Never Dies, but there are likely others). Given the themes of Skyfall, it's kind of interesting they didn't play with that too much here. But I guess the big point here was the M/Bond relationship, so having him being all defiant of authority might not of worked as well.
posted by nubs at 9:39 AM on October 29, 2015

Plus Bond already had some defiance of authority going with Fiennes' character, who is now the new M. So I wouldn't be surprised if there's more of that conflict in Spectre.
posted by soundguy99 at 9:49 AM on October 29, 2015

The part where she shoots Bond is also interesting, because, in the full context, it does seem like she's just not cut out for field work, but I'm not so sure. It's a basically impossible shot, she's ordered to take it, and she does. I don't think Bond would have followed orders there,* I think he would have refused, gotten a dressing down from M, and gone about his business.

Maybe that's the point. She's a secure cannon with something to lose! We can't have a reliable agent who plays by the rules running around trying to the save the world by being orthodox.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:53 AM on October 29, 2015 [4 favorites]

It's funny... I never got the impression that Moneypenny was actually a bad driver or a bad shot. I just thought it was Bond being arrogant, and the shot actually being impossible.

That said, it made it all the more weird to me that Bond seems to think she's not cut out for the field and that she turns out to agree. So, I'm probably the one mis-reading that.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 11:48 AM on October 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

I didn't particularly like Skyfall, but holy moly does Roger Deakins ever shoot the shit out of this movie. I want to watch the whole thing on mute some time.
posted by selfnoise at 12:21 PM on October 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

yes, beautiful scenes - that fight in Shanghai! - but truly terrible throwback nonsensical script and the pacing is all over the fucking place, not to mention about three hours longer than it needed to be.

The treatment of Séverine is so lazy and reflexively sexist. Ugh. Was really frustrated by this one - much more than Quantum which was just irredeemably shit. Skyfall kept teasing me with glimpses of the all-time classic film it could have been with just a bit more effort. It felt lazy and undisciplined to me.

I feel like I'm alone in this opinion, everyone I know in meatspace loved it.
posted by smoke at 6:52 PM on October 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have a liking for this movie because of some of the truly stunningly beautiful set pieces - the fight in the skyscraper with the jellyfish, for one - but the longer you think about the plot the worse it gets. And even in the theater, instead of being swept away by the action, I was really confused about M wandering out on the heath with a light that gave her position away so clearly.
posted by PussKillian at 7:58 PM on October 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

The light on the heath ...not accounting for the fact that the baddies cannot have had any night vision after a massive explosion right in front of their eyes.
posted by idb at 8:09 PM on October 29, 2015

I never got the impression that Moneypenny was actually a bad driver or a bad shot.

It seemed to me that she broke the second mirror on purpose, which would make her a good driver.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:50 PM on October 29, 2015 [4 favorites]

For me, this entire movie was saved by that gorgeous, unbelievably tense long shot of Silva delivering his monologue while walking through his server farm. It was so lovely.

That, and "What makes you think it'd be my first time?" was an internal squee moment for the queering of Bond.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:31 PM on October 29, 2015 [4 favorites]

The film is full of mirrors of Bond - Moneypenny, M, Mallory, Q, Séverine and (of course) Silva are all analogues who go different ways.

In the case of Moneypenny, what makes her not cut out for the field is that she is unwilling to sacrifice her self. The field strips away the operatives' humanity.

M and Mallory, of course, are ex-operatives who've made the same move as Moneypenny (actually, I'm not sure I'd go all the way arguing the case for M being ex-field, but it works for me).

The point of this is to rewire the classic Bond dynamic - whereas classic M and Moneypenny only appeared in "safe" locations and were protected from what went on. Skyfall establishes that they have experience and capacity in the field, but got out before it reduced them to a mere instrument of violence.

Q is Bond's new-world analogue (apparently more of this in the new one).

Séverine is someone who has been reduced to a sexualised body. I don't know anything about the actress, so I don't know whether it's by luck or skill, but it's an astonishing performance - the smile she gives Bond at the casino through which her terror shines, but also a kind of ecstasy at the possibility that there's someone who can release her, though not necessarily free her. I've always since I was a child had a problem with with this character - the woman who dies in the first half. It has always seemed callous and misogynistic. So strangely this is the one occasion - the one where everybody else seems to be complaining - where that character makes sense - she is as lost as Bond, and positively aching for death. Her death is still unsettling, upsetting and disturbing, but I don't see that as a failure of judgement. On the contrary, it seemed from the first viewing to be a deconstruction of the woman-that-dies trope, making it as ugly within the film as I'd always felt it to be in all the other films.

(I tend to think too hard about those sorts of things - worrying about Mr and Mrs Masters, wondering what exactly happened and why they don't have any daughters left. On the upside, I wonder whether the building contractors who work for Blofeld and his ilk are the same ones who built Tracy Island.)

Séverine and Bond are matched because they are reduced to their gender roles: she has been reduced to a sexualised body, an instrument of sexuality and he has become an instrument of violence. Masculinity in film and life is defined essentially by one's capacity to inflict and withstand violence.

I don't really need to go into any more details on the parallels between Silva and Bond than the film already does.

Another thing that's notable about Skyfall is the absence of the Bond girl into which the other characters - Moneypenny, Séverine and finally M - tumble. The final absence, actually, as all the other ingredients of classic Bond have fallen into place. Except the villain's secret lair. I assume with a villain's secret lair and a proper Bond girl, Spectre is classic Bond revived. But that's for next week, isn't it?
posted by Grangousier at 5:21 PM on October 30, 2015 [4 favorites]

I have a liking for this movie because of some of the truly stunningly beautiful set pieces - the fight in the skyscraper with the jellyfish, for one - but the longer you think about the plot the worse it gets.

Yeah, I felt that way too, especially the train/courtroom sequence. Was able to roll my eyes and go with it in-theater, however.

What was most striking to me about this whole picture was Mendes hammering the dying-embers-of-Empire theme like a drunken blacksmith. The whole film has this ache of longing not for the Cold War but for WWII and the Empire before it, When England Was Great. Churchill's bunker, the death-on-the-moors end sequence with the elderly game keeper, literally defending his castle with bits of string and jury-rigged booby traps, mend and make do, this is how we survived the blitz, etc. The last stand of the dying man. You half expected the Hound of the Baskervilles to turn up to deliver the finisher.

The Bond books have that queer tension to them, too --- they're a bit Rosencrantz and Guildestern-y really, vis-a-viz the Cold War. Told from the perspective of the supporting cast. Bond forever traipsing around ex-colonies, impeccable, cosmopolitan, and out of place. Out of kilter, really, because no longer the center of attention and authority; instead skulking around on the margins with wise eyes. But the movie is like that but tripled, the sense is of a power waning, a last gasp. It gives the thing a rather un-Bondian melancholia.
posted by Diablevert at 6:58 PM on October 30, 2015 [5 favorites]

This one gets a lot of bile from the "It's a code name" fans for torpedoing their pet theory (though some have crafted some elaborate theories about brainwashing in an attempt to cling to it). I myself say the jury's still out until the next actor picks up the role. Craig's on contract for what, one more after SPECTRE?

If the first film with the new actor manages to work in the Lazenby Bond's joke about "This never happened to the other guy," or even comes out and makes the whole plot about a new agent assuming the name of the old, then it'll firmly establish Casino Royale as a hard reboot of the series, with Daniel as the "first" of many Bonds.
posted by radwolf76 at 6:12 AM on October 31, 2015

I'm developing a theory that MI6 finds young men named James Bond, gives their parents an all-expenses paid vacation to the Alps -- where they have a terrible "accident" - - and then grooms the kid for service. All based on some twisted numeralogical calculation developed by Nazi mystics smuggled into Britain after World War II.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 7:17 AM on October 31, 2015 [2 favorites]

I suppose it's pretty good for a Bond movie, given there are so many awful ones. It doesn't deliver much on the things I want from Bond: some spycraft, some fast-talking, some good action. Scrapes, investigation, competence, a dip into sci-fi, interesting stunts.

(I don't think the Skyfall action pieces are very good, except the construction equipment on the train was entertaining. The scene with the sniper was a mess, and at the wrong place in the movie for being a kind of hall-of-mirrors showdown action scene, which are more emblematic of the hero being so deep into the conflict that things are downright conceptual, but here it's just an intro mission. Skyfall manor fight was eh and the chase on the moors capped it off poorly.)

There's a lot of dumb in the movie, to the point where it was off-putting while watching it. It was more than what's acceptable to me for just moving the plot along, and believe me I am pretty willing to give a movie some rope. Watching Skyfall was a constant stream of, "How can that even happen? Why did they do that? What was even the point of that scene and its outcome?"

I feel like it is a movie that has aped the style and feel of a good movie that might be about something. It has themes, it has setbacks... but they don't really add up to anything, nothing really made sense. Why did Severine have to die? Why did M have to die? Why did they have to elevate Moneypenny and nerf her back down? If Silva is the sins of the past, why is the movie intent on reverting to the past as if it's a good thing? Even if it was going for, "Stuff happens arbitrarily, nothing makes sense in the world of espionage, there are no moral victories yet the show goes on all the same," it didn't earn that either.

Maybe it's dumb to expect much from a Bond film, but I didn't like this too much as a Bond film, and whatever other kind of film its trying to be doesn't seem very good either. Its story is terrible. It has the style of quality, though, I'll give it that.
posted by nom de poop at 12:55 AM on November 1, 2015 [3 favorites]

I enjoyed this one, both on initial release and on rewatch, as a spectacle. But I remained troubled / annoyed by the reboot narrative arc from Casino Royale - it starts with Bond making his 2nd kill and getting his "00" status. QoS is a continuation of that film. But by the time we get to Skyfall, Bond is old, past it, scraping through an assessment and on the verge of being pensioned off. So what's happened in between? Ah, he has the old Aston Martin in his lockup. So have all the other films with the other actors happened between QoS & Skyfall? Is that what makes him now "so old"? But what happens when a new actor plays Bond - do we forget that Bond was about to be pensioned out of active service?
posted by khites at 7:50 AM on November 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

'Lost' James Bond film Once Upon a Spy would have seen 007 killing M - "Details of abandoned screenplay, and its part in the success of 2012’s Skyfall, revealed in new book about the long-running spy series"
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:11 AM on November 20, 2015

ITV2 have a tendency to show Skyfall to celebrate special occasions, like Christmas or "just being Friday", so I've just seen it again after an incalculable number of rewatches. It really is the most endlessly rewatchable film of recent years.
posted by Grangousier at 3:25 PM on December 25, 2017

FilmJoy - Movies with Mikey looks at James Bond in general and this movie in particular in Let the Skyfall.
posted by nubs at 2:11 PM on September 4, 2019

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