Skyfall – Puzzle Doctor at the Movies

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Well,  it’ll be a few days before my next book review. Struggling a bit with a longer than average historical mystery and simultaneously savouring a preview copy of a rather intriguing mystery in 1st century Jerusalem. And also Mrs Puzzle Doctor took me to the cinema last night to see the new James Bond film. Well that just about falls into my remit…

It’s a lot harder to be spoiler free with film reviews as the trailer is usually worse than the blurb on the back of a mystery novel. If at all possible, avoid the trailer as the only genuine major plot twist (happening very early in the film) is completely blown. But even so, there’s a lot to say about this film – most notably, is it the “best Bond ever” as some people seem to be saying…

No it isn’t. It isn’t even the best Daniel Craig Bond film. Don’t believe the hype!

Don’t get me wrong – it’s very good. It’s up there in the top five, but I think you’ll enjoy it more with more reasonable expectations.

Contrary to Mrs PD, Craig convinces me as Bond. He’s the sort of spy that you need in a modern day spy movie and he still has enough about him to convince that this might be the same character as has gone before. Judi Dench excels as M in an expanded role and Ben Wishaw makes an impressive debut as Q. I wasn’t so sure about Ralph Fiennes channeling Leonard Rossiter as the apparently jobsworth government type but to my surprise, I enjoyed his arc. Of the Bond girls, Naomi Harris stands out as the slightly out of her depth Eve.

Javier Bardem makes the screen light up when he shows up as Silva, the villain of the piece, and I think it was an interesting choice for him to play it as if he was in Carry On Bond – Mrs PD insists Craig is the spitting image of Sid James. Maybe Bardem got confused… Oddly enough though, despite the mostly serious nature of the film, the performance works.

The emotional relationship at the heart of the film is what carries it into the upper echelons of the canon. I’ll say no more than that, but there aren’t any other Bond films with this much heart. Some might suggest OHMSS but as one of the parties’ wooden acting was in danger of giving the other one splinters, I disagree.

So, issues? A couple.

After a stunning opening sequence, the action isn’t that great. The fight in silhouette is well shot, but the reflection-laden build up was hard to follow. You then have to wait until the finale for any extended fun and games but by necessity from the nature of the film, this is a restrained affair – effective but restrained.

And there is the issue that if you stop and think about it, Silva’s plan is bat-guano crazy. All I can say is – the emergency train distraction. How did he know? Unless he had a bucketload of other bonkers backups…

But I digress. This is a very good film and highly recommended. There are a ton of little touches that I won’t even hint at that will make you smile. The whole look of the film is fantastic. Don’t go in expecting the greatest Bond film ever* and you’ll probably love it.

* Hard to say categorically but I’d put Goldfinger and Casino Royale (new version) above it. And just because they make me smile – Octopussy and Tomorrow Never Dies as well. Yes, you read the last one correctly. ..

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About Puzzle Doctor

I'm a mathematician by nature and as such have always been drawn to the logical side of things. Hence my two main hobbies being classic mysteries and logical puzzling. Oh, and cats. No logic there, I'm afraid.
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12 Responses to Skyfall – Puzzle Doctor at the Movies

  1. OCTOPUSSY? Talk about bat guano … Glad you liked it. I think in many ways its better than the hype because I ignore the advertising and I think, as the 23 rd entry in a series, that it manages to go to new places and do it well is by itself a minor movie miracle. There is definitely less action, but after QUANTUM which had almost nothing but, I wasn’t sorry. I think the pace is a bit slow though – if they’d quickened the pace the reduced action scenes would have been a lot less noticeable. But definitely in the top five – Having given my top four elsewhere, this would probably be the fifth

    • Oh, Quantum was rubbish – still thought it was a shame that the storyline was abandoned… As for Octopussy, I saw it once when I was in a foul mood and it cheered me up completely. I know it’s rubbish… but it’s still one of my favourites

  2. Bill Selnes says:

    I saw it last night and loved the movie. I found it much better than recent Bond movies. Craig is actually a person in this movie. I was very glad I went to the theatre.

  3. Patrick says:

    I look forward to seeing this movie tomorrow. The only other Bond film I saw in theatres was the disappointing QUANTUM OF SOLACE. I hope that I can make seeing the Bond movie a tradition for me, since I love the character so much. I’m not sure whether I saw all the Bond movies, but at any rate I’ve seen most of them, and with the exception of YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE have read all the books.

  4. Erast Nameless says:

    Hi, long time fan, first time poster here. And it’s under a James Bond post, rather than under one of your informative-yet-refreshingly-conscious-about-spoilers reviews that have been my main allies against the reader’s block in the past months.

    But really, I simply had to chime in to add my support for Tomorrow Never Dies. It’s easily my favourite from the Brosnan era. For some reason it’s fashionable to make fun of how ridiculously over the top the villain’s plan in that one is (like it’s something unheard of in the franchise?), but the very fact of him being a media mogul is an idea fun and fresh enough to make up for it (and even more topical now than it was in 1997). Plus the film features not one but two women that are James’s match (one emotionally, the other in the kick-ass department), something almost all episodes before and since promise in pre-release publicity, but none, to my mind, delivered fully satisfyingly. (Unless we count the awesomeness that is Judi Dench as Bond girl,of course. For which a case could be made I guess, especially after seeing Skyfall.)

    On the other hand, I find Casino Royale hopelessly overrated. I thought it mimicked the style of vastly superior Bourne films way too closely. (Are you familiar with the Bourne trilogy by the way? They are not whodunnits by any stretch, but in between all the action, the screenplays have not only really well-sketched characters but also a couple of memorable twists any puzzle lover should be able to admire. Especially Ultimatum.)

  5. Dave says:

    Nowhere near the best … it’s just too different from Bond to be compared to the others. ‘Goldeneye’, ‘Octopussy’, ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ and ‘For Your Eyes Only’ are the best in my opinion. Craig isn’t Bond and Skyfall isn’t a Bond film.

  6. J says:

    I liked the first half of Skyfall, but the second half was kind of weird, and didn’t seem at all like a Bond film. All the people did was run around and shoot guns at each other… no ingenious devices, no Bond girl, no good lines…

  7. Pingback: November’s classic crime (well, espionage) | Past Offences

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