Spoiler alert: I am going to be talking about plot elements so if you haven’t seen it yet you might not want to read the rest of this before seeing the movie.
I saw Skyfall, the newest member of the James Bond franchise, on the weekend. Overall, I give the movie a score of 8/10.
Very simply, the story starts with James Bond being shot in the line of duty by a fellow MI-6 agent who was ordered by M to shoot the person Bond was fighting on top of a train, but missed. Fortunately, he’s not actually dead (or it would have been a very short movie), but he is presumed dead by MI-6 for several months until an attack on the headquarters of MI-6 causes him to return to the land of the living. A list of secret agents stolen by the person Bond was chasing when he was “killed” starts being disclosed, leading to the deaths of some agents and threats of disclosures of others. It’s determined that a former MI-6 agent, Silva, is ultimately behind things, so Bond tracks him down eventually and captures him. Naturally, he escapes from MI-6, and things eventually culminate in a huge encounter at Bond’s family home in Scotland, with a surprising finale.
(Ok, that’s a very simplistic summary of the story that glosses over many key points in the story. Go see the movie if you want more details!)
There were a few things in the movie that I think could have been expanded on/clarified/avoided to help develop the overall story:
- More background on Raoul Silva could have been given through something like a flashback. It needn’t be a massive cinematic undertaking, but a couple of context-setting scenes would have been worth the effort.
- James Bond is known for the high tech spy gadgets of Q Branch. The new Q’s position vis a vis gadgets is problematic, at best. Cars with laser-guided missiles and ejection seats belong in Bond movies.
- Speaking of Q, what was he doing running the operational aspect of a mission? Q’s role is that of quartermaster, providing the guns and high-tech wizardry, not to run missions. (Yes, I understand that the New Q is one of the wunderkind of his generation when it comes to computers, but this blurring of responsibilities was an annoying inconsistency.)
- Oh, and if the new Q is a wunderkind, WTF was he doing plugging an unknown computer into MI-6’s network? Seriously, when I saw the cables being plugged into the laptop I thought “oh, that’s not going to end well”. And I was right.
- The character of Sévérine was a lost opportunity. It’s not hard to envision an alternate storyline without Sévérine in it which takes Bond to the same point on the island where he was rescued and Silva was captured.
- There were a couple of things about the final fight that are a bit nitpicky: night seemed to arrive very suddenly, but then it tends to do that in valleys in Scotland. And if you have hours to prepare for the arrival of the badguys by building fairly robust booby traps, you probably had enough time to remember the cabinet full of propane cylinders you “discover” sitting in plain view “just in time”. I’m just sayin’…
There have been 22 previous Bond movies, which generally have been released in chronological order in the Bond universe. The last few movies released with Daniel Craig as Bond hit the metaphorical reset button and started things at the beginning. (The notable absence of Moneypenny, for example, clearly implies that Skyfall occurs after Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace because we learn in Skyfall where Moneypenny came from.)
Recurring characters in the various Bond movies over the years have changed from male to female (M, for example) and white to black (Felix Lighter, for example), so I don’t have a huge problem with that happening again with Moneypenny in this Bond movie. It’s one of those Bond’isms that you accept and move along.
Like I said, overall, I enjoyed Skyfall, even given the things I grumbled about above. I’m looking forward to Bond 24 and Bond 25 when they’re released in a few years’ time.