Skyfall: a review

Saw Skyfall. Generally speaking liked it. However, a few niggles, and a whole load of spoilers.

First, the end of the pre-credits scene. There’s a train roaring over a bridge towards a tunnel. Bond and a villain are fighting on the roof of the train. A sniper is close by, not getting a clear shot at the villain.

M (Judi Dench) screams at the sniper to take the shot. She does. Bond is hit, falls off the bridge, is presumed dead; the train zooms into the tunnel and the villain escapes.

Now.

Two questions.

It was established that Bond and the sniper were connected by a radio. It was established the radio was working at the time. (Later Bond quotes M’s words right back at her, so he was at least receiving.)

So why did the sniper not, for example, tell Bond to back off so she could shoot? Bond falls down, villain says “Huh?”; the sniper shoots.

Second question. The sniper shoots; Bond falls off. Why does she go into gasping horror instead of shooting again? It has been established to my satisfaction that she’s not an inexperienced agent; someone with her driving skills ought to have the presence of mind to shoot again. (Later, she and Bond banter over some people not being suitable for fieldwork like this; I kept waiting for Bond to say, “Actually, dear, what I mean is you women are not suited for this.” Happily he didn’t.)

As if continuing from this awful bridge-moment, there was the whole idea that Bond then disappears for three months of walking on a beach, drinking, and having sex. Nice, Mr. Bond; how do you square that with your mutterings of devotion to duty? When would you have come back, if you hadn’t seen the iconic MI6 building flaming on the TV?

(Come to think of it, the villain wanted M destroyed. If he had done nothing after the credits, there would have been no MI6 explosion. M would have been in bureaucratic trouble already. She would have probably been driven out of office into what she would have considered a shameful retirement. Bond would have went on throwing days away; the villain would have read the news and smirked, snorted, laughed out loud, done similar theatrics. But oh, what trying too hard does.)

And when Bond finally comes back, he acts like a petulant brat. He’s not just ran away from a job without a word; he’s also ran away from a personal friend (I don’t even know if he has any others except M), leaving her to think him dead. What kind of a callous psychopath thinks that’s… oh wait, Bond. James Bond.

(I really hope some theatre owner took the reels and spliced the end credits to the place of the beginning credits. That would have been fun. And a lawsuit, no doubt.)

Secondly, there were two rumblings I had heard about Skyfall: that one scene was kind of rapey (and isn’t that an adjective), and that the villain was, irritatingly enough, gay. (Having a gay villain in a Bond movie would be really awkward when the only thing Mr. Hypermasculine swings around as much as his gun is his cock.)

First, the shower scene and its ambiguous consent. Bond has been talking to a woman the villain keeps as a toy, promising to kill the villain and save her. The time she expects Bond to come passes; her ship sails; she goes to the ship’s shower, and shortly after Bond (having just found her, or having creepily waited for this) shows up, strips, and slips into the shower and into a hug without alerting her beforehand.

Now, as for Mr. Bond, to go nude into a shower after a woman that doesn’t know you are there is creepy, but he does risk getting run out of the shower naked while a woman is screaming “Do not want” after him; this is what would happen to normal people. That he’s willing to take such a ridiculous, creepy risk just for some sex is so very Bond of him. (Though you could say it’s doubly creepy of Bond to make such a move, knowing that the woman is a rape victim of the past, and possibly of the present as well.) I don’t know what to make of the shower scene, but it isn’t screaming instant overt creepiness at me. Then again, I am stupid about these things.

As for the villain, hey, I loved him. And I have no idea whether he was gay or not; I took his first scene with Bond, with the touching and the caressing, to be just a nice case of fucking with the arch-heterosexual’s head. Given how theatrical he is for the whole of the film, and given how he has a pretty girl to run around for errands, makes that the better explanation for me, not that you couldn’t argue the opposite.

And relatedly, the scene where Bond doesn’t understand this young man that’s talking to him out of the blue is the new Q? Combined with the villain-entry scene, I started forming thoughts about how this movie wasn’t just prodding Bond with his age, but also with his aggressive, macho super-heterosexual image. I wish I had a screencap of the Q-Bond scene with a thought bubble for Bond: “Is he trying to pick me up? Is this what it’s like? HALP I DON’T KNOW EVEN—”

Third, the whole Skyfall-is-the-Bond-family-farm idea? Didn’t seem particularly relevant to me; I think (in my vast ignorance of all things dramatic and cinematic) that the ending would have better played out in some scene with personal relevance for M and the villain. (Sorry, but when you don’t mention the guy’s name enough I’m not going to remember it. I’m just calling him Mr. Gorgeous-In-White… wait, that’s creepy. Sorry.) We learn — has this not come up in any prior film? If this has, is this the same story or not? What about the books? — that Bond is an orphan, his parents died… uh, I missed how, though I don’t think they were mugged, leading the child to fixate on flying rodents and superhero stuff — and this bearded Kincade is an old neighbor. (Also, Kincade? He’s really too eager to go into full deadly traps and shooting people mode. Remember, when the shooting starts Bond shoots first. How does Kincade even know Bond isn’t some Breivik psycho, with these gentlemen being a police unit? Or is loyalty to the point of murder a Scots thing?)

Also, I don’t think I’ve seen a Home Alone montage in a Bond movie before.

Also, does Skyfall being in Scotland mean Bond is Scottish? It’s portrayed as the place he grew up; but I suppose it could be a wealthy English family’s vacation place.

Fourth and final, and this is more an observation: I think this is the first Bond movie I’ve seen where the villain wins. At the end of the movie, the Dench-M is dead. Not as personally as the lovely villain might have wished; but dead as a result of his actions, and dead in the middle of a controversy over her fitness for her job. Now I wonder what the political establishment will say over a MI6 chieftain that falls off the map just to die in a shootout when she’s supposed to be the boss of the people who do the shooting; a boss that’s now not in a position to protest the blame being piled on her…

(Also, the villain? I would love to see a series where that character was the star. Possibly in his MI6 days; possibly as a freelance troublemaker.)

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