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November 07, 2012

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Josh Z

John Berry?

Owain Wilson

My one big problem with this film, which I loved, concerns the ending. I promise not to give ANYTHING away.

I'll just say that what should have been a thrilling climax ended up - like a lot of big action movies - inexplicably petering out, losing precious momentum, and then ambling on for another ten or fifteen minutes without tension.

I'd love to say more but every one of your American readers would kill me.

kdringg

I'll give something away on the ending - it's HOME ALONE.

This is the most over-hyped, expensively made B-movie of the year.

Clayton Sutherland

Yeah, once M started breaking up shards of lightbulbs and whatnot, I was thinking the same thing. But I liked it more than you, overall. In fact, I would definitely put it amongst the Top 5 best Bond films ever made (it's certainly the best acted, and possibly the best looking), but keep in mind that I only really enjoy less than half of them.

Where would you slot it in on your Top 25 list, Glenn?

Melissa D

Can't wait to see it!

Glenn, just your positive impressions of the score would be enough to convince me. I'm already pretty pro-Thomas-Newman, endlessly mimicked "American Beauty" score notwithstanding. And I will remain always in love with Barry's "You Only Live Twice" score.

(My fiance was showing my 5-year-old stepson an exciting early action sequence from "You Only Live Twice" this past weekend, and he wanted to keep watching... then some of the more ballad-y music started, and my stepson said, "aaw, I hate this music! It sounds like getting married.")

BTW, Glenn, as a first-time commenter and longtime reader, can I just say thanks? Your blog regularly helps keep my lurking daily life-of-quiet-desperation at bay. Merci. :)

Brian Dauth

In some ways, watching SKYFALL a few days after the re-election of Barack Obama (and the vote percentages that won for him) is an odd experience. Here is a film that proudly asserts the need for white men after an election that showed definitively that they can no longer dictate outcomes. When at the end of the movie, Bond tell M that they are going “into the past where we will have an advantage,” he seems to be echoing Bill O’Reilly in his lament: “The white establishment is now the minority.” Now, O’Reilly has been using this “end of white civilization” meme since last autumn, but it has been picked up by others subsequent to the results of the recent American election, and SKYFALL is an urgent please-come-back-Shane beseeching to white male control and power. M, the first female the series has had, loses the list of agents embedded in terrorist organizations (women are always losing things in those big purses of theirs). When M is brought before a Parliamentary committee, the film cleverly has a woman lead the attack (having a man do it would just seem sexist, so have a talkative viper-woman do it as M is resolutely stiffer than any British lip in history). Even Miss Moneypenny comes back – and she is black this time! But alas, she is also the one who fires the shot (taken on M’s orders, of course) that misses the assassin and hits Bond – not only do girls lose things, they can’t shoot straight either. Moneypenny has decided that the field is not the place for her (Whew!), and settles in behind a desk to be a dutiful amanuensis. And wouldn’t you know – her first name is Eve (we know all about the trouble her namesake started; fortunately her descendant has been securely secretarialized).

And then there is the super villain – Rosa Klebb resurrected as a gay man with a bad dye job. Silva’s (real name Tiago Rodriguez – those damn Latinos! – traitors to the nation who expose agents so they can be killed and, more importantly, do not vote Republican) entrance is lifted from SUDDENLY, LAST SUMMER, and when he begins to speak I was tempted to think that Cousin Sebastian did not die at Cabeza de Lobo after all. Once again we have the queer male killer – ruthless, heartless, turned out in the fashionable way heterosexuals think gay villains would dress. All he wants is revenge on M(other) for her sins (yes, SKYFALL brings back Momism with a vengeance – the 1950’s never seemed so near). Made me wish I could have Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd back!

But do not worry – once Bond and M(other) get back to the past, they are able to defeat Silva (who even tosses hand grenades like a girl). M(other) dies looking at her good son, who takes up the cause again from the new M (who is white and male, of course). The film then ends with the resurrection (which is what Bond claims he wants at one point) of the classic shot (denied to the audience at the start of the film) through an eyeball of James Bond turning, aiming, firing and killing. As red pours down from the top of the screen, the old order has been restored and a new beginning announced. As I said: a most odd experience.

D

In some ways, watching SKYFALL a few days after the re-election of Barack Obama (and the vote percentages that won for him) is an odd experience. Here is a film that proudly asserts the need for white men after an election that showed definitively that they can no longer dictate outcomes. When at the end of the movie, Bond tell M that they are going “into the past where we will have an advantage,” he seems to be echoing Bill O’Reilly in his lament: “The white establishment is now the minority.” Now, O’Reilly has been using this “end of white civilization” meme since last autumn, but it has been picked up by others subsequent to the results of the recent American election, and SKYFALL is an urgent please-come-back-Shane beseeching to white male control and power. M, the first female the series has had, loses the list of agents embedded in terrorist organizations (women are always losing things in those big purses of theirs). When M is brought before a Parliamentary committee, the film cleverly has a woman lead the attack (having a man do it would just seem sexist, so have a talkative viper-woman do it as M is resolutely stiffer than any British lip in history). Even Miss Moneypenny comes back – and she is black this time! But alas, she is also the one who fires the shot (taken on M’s orders, of course) that misses the assassin and hits Bond – not only do girls lose things, they can’t shoot straight either. Moneypenny has decided that the field is not the place for her (Whew!), and settles in behind a desk to be a dutiful amanuensis. And wouldn’t you know – her first name is Eve (we know all about the trouble her namesake started; fortunately her descendant has been securely secretarialized).

And then there is the super villain – Rosa Klebb resurrected as a gay man with a bad dye job. Silva’s (real name Tiago Rodriguez – those damn Latinos! – traitors to the nation who expose agents so they can be killed and, more importantly, do not vote Republican) entrance is lifted from SUDDENLY, LAST SUMMER, and when he begins to speak I was tempted to think that Cousin Sebastian did not die at Cabeza de Lobo after all. Once again we have the queer male killer – ruthless, heartless, turned out in the fashionable way heterosexuals think gay villains would dress. All he wants is revenge on M(other) for her sins (yes, SKYFALL brings back Momism with a vengeance – the 1950’s never seemed so near). Made me wish I could have Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd back!

But do not worry – once Bond and M(other) get back to the past, they are able to defeat Silva (who even tosses hand grenades like a girl). M(other) dies looking at her good son, who takes up the cause again from the new M (who is white and male, of course). The film then ends with the resurrection (which is what Bond claims he wants at one point) of the classic shot (denied to the audience at the start of the film) through an eyeball of James Bond turning, aiming, firing and killing. As red pours down from the top of the screen, the old order has been restored and a new beginning announced. As I said: a most odd experience.

Brian Dauth

D

Sorry for the double post. It did not seem to take by just using my name, so I signed in to try and make it appear that way.

Josh Z

Brian, don't you think you're reading far too much into the movie? Your attempt to impose a political message on the content strains credulity at every level.

Steve

I agree with much of Brian's take on SKYFALL, but I don't find it nearly as sexist as he does. Judi Dench's performance, and the affection with which Bond treats M help mitigate the plot's treatment of her. I can't imagine a character like her appearing in a film like GOLDFINGER or FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, even if Silva seems like an unfortunate throwback to a more homophobic time. How many supposedly "progressive" films would devote so much time to a woman in her 60s and make her so central to their narratives?

Shamus

I too largely agree with Brian- the main thing about SKYFALL, apart from its remarkably strong Oedipal theme, seems to be nostalgia for the good old days of colonialism (something implicit in every Bond film, but especially so here), and everything else colonialism entails (cf. Moneypenny's decision to take the secretarial job seemed positively offensive). By killing off Dench's M, and introducing a new male M, the series seems to align itself very precisely with the Connery films (a desire expressed, at the very least, in the set design of the M's new office, and the oft-repeated line about the desirability of the old ways). I'll probably continue to watch the Bond films - I do enjoy them, and I've watched everything else - but I hope the writers know how ridiculous it sounds when Bond goes on about "the Empire".

(Deakins' photography was so extraordinary that everything else- plot, actors, direction- film felt secondary and unimportant: the Bond films have NEVER looked this good.)

Josh Z

I think you guys have entirely missed the point. The Daniel Craig reboot represents backstory for the characters. With this film, the pieces have fallen into place to introduce more of the iconography of the franchise. This is THE M. She is THE Moneypenny. What we see in this film is how they got to those positions.

With that said, it's still a reboot. Things are different in the modern day, and just the fact that a man is put in charge at the end doesn't automatically make the movie sexist. If that's the case, then any institution in the world with a man in charge must by definition be misogynist.

Killing M gives both Bond and the audience real emotional stakes. She's a character we'd come to care about over the last several movies. She has far more to do in this one, and is far better developed as a character than ever before. Putting another woman in that role to replace her, just for the sake of having another woman there, would represent obnoxious political correctness.

Josh Z

Nostalgia is not always a reactionary political statement, no matter how hard you may try to read one into it.

Shamus

I'm not exactly sure that the iconography of the franchise ever represented progressive liberalism (it was always "Queen, country... whatever"). Also, the iconography varied from Bond to Bond- Dalton's films, I think, had no Moneypenny, no M.'s office in London, and all that (although, I'm not really sure- it's been over a decade since I saw those films), unless you are referring to the elements in the Connery films, in which case it is a little disconcerting to see the writers pretend that nothing significant had changed anywhere since 1962.

I am more concerned (and Brian D. and Steve, too, I think) with the acrid whiff of the subtext rather than any particular intention of the creators. And the subtext here seems to be: women should stay behind their desks as secretaries and flirt (in the next film, wait and see) rather than go into the field, which is a man's job really.

And nostalgia for colonialism and the monarchy (let's just call it imperialism, shall we?) is just plain reactionary.

(For what it's worth, I always thought that casting Dench in the role as M was an inspiration. Killing her off just so the series could go back to formula felt regressive.)

andy

I guess this site is now a spoiler zone. Dang.

Josh Z

Shamus, are you saying that you think the James Bond franchise SHOULD represent progressive liberalism? If so, why would you ever think that?

Exactly where in Skyfall do the characters express a desire to return to colonialism or imperialism?

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