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I do not go with great expectations to see James Bond movies. It’s something like a habit that survived childhood. Enthusiasm flared up again when “Casino Royal” decided to do away with the gadgets and goofiness, when they decided to make proper blockbuster films, joining the parade of Bourne and Mission Impossible franchises as state-of-the-art action cinema. These film rely on convincing leading men, and on competent directors able to raise the bar on what’s possible in terms of spectacle. Even though “Quantum of Solace” led its actors around the plot blindfoldedly, and had audiences left not caring anymore about 20 minutes in, the revamping has managed to establish faith again. Daniel Craig is responsible for this, and I think he is the only factor responsible. As a credible and physical actor, he holds things together.

And now, in “Skyfall”, an intelligent director and some sly authors discover that things might work even a bit better if you removed a bit of this pressure from James Bond’s shoulders. There are quite a few other interesting characters around, and they decide to use them. It is now “M” that slowly moves into centre focus, and with Judie Dench playing M, how could that not be a splendid idea?

I have to admit, I was very pleasantly surprised how well these new ideas were merged with the old cliches. Actually, had the film finished after the opening titles, I would not have regretted spending the money on the ticket. That was a terrific pre-title sequence if there ever was one, and it made even a chase-hater like myself savour the beauty of people running and driving around exotic locations.

Without needing to go into the details of what was good about the film (doing away with gadgets, getting Bond into a bad place of booze and boredom), there are two aspects I am not sure about (really not sure, maybe the choices were great, maybe not):

Javier Bardem as a villain playing basically a gay version of Anton Chighuir. Maybe this was overdone, maybe he should have been more contained as a character. Not just in the way he plays it, but also in the way the character is written as an all-foreseeing super-villain who has prepared for any given alternative. At the end of the day, he is supposed to be an alternate Bond – a Bond that could have been had he taken other choices at critical junctures. Playing this parallel would have been more interesting than elevating him into a mixture of Blofeld and Hannibal Lecter.

The final act: While I (now that I have written it down) am pretty sure that I am not perfectly happy with Bardem’s part, I am undecided with the down-scaling of the last stand to a low-tech, rural battle (somebody mentioned it has some “Kevin – Home Alone” features, and it has). I very much like the setting, and the possibilities it provides. I am again not too sure about how it has been executed. Was Bond dropped in the perfect place to rediscover his roots, and learn again maybe why it was that he did not make the same choices as his Bardem-counterpart? Yes. Did they know what to do with him there once he was dropped in his own history? Maybe not so much, it seems a bit that the very idea of bringing the characters there was met with so much enthusiasm in the writers’ room that nobody cared too much anymore about whether this allows for the perfect follow-up.

Hence: a very entertaining film, way above the level of Quantum of Solace, maybe at the end of the day too ambitious for its own good. It leaves plenty of room for criticism, but the points of criticism I have are of the kind that are directed towards a film I appreciate and take serious.



  1. Great review Thomas, and I understand your questioning of a few elements here. To me, I dont think the Bond franchise will ever be perfect b/c it’s in a film format; it will, esp now in modern times, forever be a dramatized and non-noirish, Layercake-y atmospheric kind of thrilling. That said, I love the Daniel Craig era. and Skyfall was the creme of the crop. I see what you’re saying about Bardem but I thought he smashed the role completely, he was great. Admittedly, he was similar to Chighur; the ending of the film in my eyes was genius. An absolute homage, almost a love-letter to the classic James Bond. But i also do see it’s flaws.

    Can’t wait for Bond 25.

    • thanks for the comment. Of course you are right: some of the camp Bond is intentionally camp because it’s Bond and is expected to be. There is a large burden on the franchise, and on the anniversary Bond most of all, to deliver on everything Bond stood for. And of course, it does not keep me from looking forward to the next one really – which is something that did not happen with previous Bond actors / directors / scriptwriters. It has moved into a very interesting direction, which is the only reason why slight disappointment or criticism now makes sense – who would have criticized Moonraker for being nonsense? There’s things you have to earn, criticism is one if it. With the new grown-up Bond setting, any bit of old goofy Bond is a bit more distracting, though… Which is why I prefer the rather bleak and non-goofy first Craig appearance. I hope they will allow the franchise to move again down these darker corridors once the anniversary expectations are out of the way.

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