The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

And now I’m a believer

with 33 comments

For some people Skyfall is the most anticipated movie of the year. I wasn’t one of those to be honest. I’m not exactly a Bond hater, but let’s put it this way: I thought it was time to consider sending him to retirement.

All those “g-words” that worked so well in the 70s had become irrevocably dated, not up to par with the standard I expect from a film. The girls, the gadgets, the gags, the gambling and the glamorous settings – I was done with it. Done with clichés. Done with misogyny. Shaken or stirred – I didn’t care anymore. Enough was enough.

Considering this skepticism you may wonder why I bothered to see the film at all. And what can I say? I guess it’s a case of “for old love’s sake” and nostalgia. There’s something about the Bond theme that puts even me – an unbeliever – in a mood of anticipation. Besides the first reports I had heard from people who had seen it were quite favorable. And when I gave it a closer thought I realized that while action isn’t my favorite genre, I still enjoy having a rollercoaster run once in a while. And that was at least something that I expected the Bond franchise to deliver.

So I ignored the fact that it was one of the first sunny days we’ve had for months, which is a great sin in Sweden, where the sun is worshiped more than any other deity. Instead I joined the abysmal audience for a midday screening in the largest theatre in my city, because I knew from experience that in the case of Bond movies, the size is essential. The bigger screen, the better it gets.

It turned out that I wasn’t the only one who had been mulling over the need to put Bond at rest. As a matter of fact it was the red thread that went through the entire film. James Bond’s physical and mental capability to work as an agent was questioned – but also MI6’s working methods and reason to exist. Who needs spies anymore?

A convert
Two and a half hours later I came out from the film as a convert. I hope it’s not a spoiler to say that the movie ends with a message to the audience that Bond will be back. Before watching Skyfall, this message would have made me sigh a little. “Why?” “Really?” “Can’t you come up with something new?” Now I received the information, if not with surprise, at least with an approving nod. More Bond? Yes, please, as long as it is in this version!

Gone are the days of when the main occupation of Bond was to drink and mess around with innumerous women in minimal swimming suits, only interrupted when he needed to perform yet another chasing scene in a vehicle that had been adjusted for underwater purposes.

Now they haven’t ridden themselves with the girls completely. There’s at least one typical “Bond chick” around, whose main purpose is to provide eye-candy to the male audience. But compared to how it used to be, we’ve come a long way.

Rather than focusing on Bond being smarter, richer, fitter and getting more girls than anyone else, it focuses on existential and psychological questions – such as aging issues and the exact nature of the relationship between M and the agents. We also get glimpses of the early life of Bond, which could be used as a set-up for the next few Bond movies to come.

I’m not sure what fans of old-school Bond will think of it. If the playboy lifestyle was what attracted you most to the franchise, you might get disappointed. If you ask me, all I say is: “good riddance”.

However I think that those who disapprove of the change of environment and tone still won’t have anything bad to say about the action. From the initial pre-credit chasing scene to the final blow-up, it holds the level you can expect from a movie with this kind of budget: exciting, sometimes jaw-dropping and with enough of variation for it to never get boring.

The cast
Finally I have to say something about the cast, because it’s just so good.

I love Javier Bardem’s villain – evil, dark, crazy and intelligent as you can expect from a bad guy of this caliber, but with a back story that brings you some insight to from where he’s coming. Judi Dench has been around for long, but this time she gets a great deal more screentime than we’re used to, and is as much the main character of the film as Bond. I was also pleasantly surprised to see Ralph Fiennes – one of my favorite actors – and completely charmed by the new, young version of Q (or “cute”, as I promptly re-named him), in the form of Ben Whishaw.

After watching Skyfall I sent this tweet: “I was reluctantly impressed and entertained. Pre-movie I advocated his retirement. Not anymore”.

I will look forward to the next Bond movie, even though I could do with a little less of publicity around it than we’ve seen for Skyfall.  The media coverage is just a little bit too much, and the risk is that you get an overdose of Bond before you’ve even watched it.

And that would be a shame on such a good film.

Skyfall (Sam Mendes, UK, 2012) My rating: 4,5/5

Written by Jessica

October 29, 2012 at 1:00 am

Posted in Skyfall

33 Responses

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  1. An interesting take on it Jessica. I’m practically a Bond newbie — of the “real” Bond films, I only remember seeing GoldenEye — so I’m probably not going to make it to Skyfall myself this year. But it’s interesting to read how it comes across to somebody who is not only familiar with the franchise but had become jaded to it.

    Morgan R. Lewis

    October 29, 2012 at 1:37 am

    • I think the new Bond film definitely isn’t just for fans. It’s good as a “movie”, not just as a “Bond, if you get it.

      Jessica

      October 29, 2012 at 6:57 am

  2. You wasn’t a believer after Casino Royale, which really started the Bond reinvention? I feel like your review could have been written for that film as well.

    Jojjenito

    October 29, 2012 at 6:48 am

    • I guess it could. I remember loving that too, but it’s been a few years since I saw it. And you don’t wash away decades of the old Bond all that easily from your mind. Top on mind when I think about the franchise is still the oldstyle Bond, which I don’t care for all that much anymore.

      Jessica

      October 29, 2012 at 6:56 am

  3. Since I still have to see this (will so on Wednesday) I have not read your complete review on it, but since you are enthusiastic about it I’m looking forward to seeing this. Like you I don’t consider myself a big Bond fan…

    Nostra

    October 29, 2012 at 9:10 am

    • My review is kind of spoilerfree I think. Someone said it could as well has been about Casino Royale, it’s that general and I don’t say anything about the plot. But better safe than sorry, so I understand you. Looking forward to see what you make of it!

      Jessica

      October 29, 2012 at 9:12 am

  4. There’s a series of reviews by another of my favourite film bloggers here:

    http://movieglut.blogspot.co.uk/2010/01/james-bond-retrospective.html

    His reviews have often prompted me to take another look at films I’d previously dismissed, to appreciate them in a new light. Definitely recommended reading :)

    Andy

    October 29, 2012 at 10:09 am

    • That looks like a very nice series, especially for Bond fans. It remains to see if I can be talked into giving the older movies a new chance. As I said… I feel pretty much done with the oldstyle Bond.

      Jessica

      October 29, 2012 at 12:51 pm

  5. Great write-up as always Jessica. I seen this myself yesterday and I agree with a lot of your points here. However, I think I liked it a little less. It was a good film but I don’t normally rate Bond movies very highly anyway. Still, theres plenty to enjoy. I should have my review up today.

    Mark Walker

    October 29, 2012 at 11:57 am

    • Thanks Mark! I just read your piece and I think we’re pretty much on the same page, even though as you said – I liked it a little bit more.

      Jessica

      October 29, 2012 at 12:52 pm

      • Thanks again Jessica. Yeah, when I read yours, I was nodding my head all the way through. We seem to echo similar feelings on this. I’m maybe a bit overly critical as the hype kinda got me beforehand.

        Mark Walker

        October 29, 2012 at 1:13 pm

  6. I do not think I am going to be able to get to see Skyfall in the cinema – just cannot justify the expense right now or the time. Also I have to say I have never been “sold” on Daniel Craig.

    stnylan

    October 29, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    • If there’s any comfort: it gets better. The years with small kids are tough in many ways – including the financial strain it puts on you.

      I like Daniel Craig very much actually. And I like Sean Connery. AND Timothy Dalton, as opposed to many others. Its mostly Roger Moore that I have a hard time with.

      Jessica

      October 29, 2012 at 11:54 pm

      • I would certainly go along with the general dislike of Roger Moore – the series did seem to get very tired under his tenure.

        stnylan

        October 30, 2012 at 1:54 am

  7. I’m a bond fan, have them all on DVD.

    Casino Royale was brilliant. Quantum of Solace was a letdown for me. But seeing that Sam Mendes directed Skyfall, I have high hopes for Skyfall.

    carrandas

    October 29, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    • I hope you’ll like it, even if it’s not exactly a traditional bond movie…

      Jessica

      November 5, 2012 at 8:17 pm

  8. Great review, Jessica. Glad you liked it. I’m very excited for this one and it opens around here on Friday :D

    fernandorafael

    October 31, 2012 at 6:15 am

  9. I’m a massive Bond fan as I grew up watching them, but I hear ya on your quibbles about this franchise. “Gone are the days of when the main occupation of Bond was to drink and mess around with innumerous women in minimal swimming suits, only interrupted when he needed to perform yet another chasing scene in a vehicle that had been adjusted for underwater purposes.” Well, I think you might give the two Timothy Dalton Bonds a try, he’s started the humanity in Bond, the closest to how Fleming wrote the character in his books. Every time I hear people praising Craig in his Bond films, I always think of how Dalton originated that gritty style before people were ready for them.

    ruth

    November 1, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    • Actually I remember liking Timothy Dalton a lot. I’ve never understood why he didn’t get more love from the audience than he did. But I think they’ve taken it even a bit further now. There’s quite a bit more of character story than there used to be, at least in my memory.

      Jessica

      November 5, 2012 at 8:05 pm

      • Glad to hear that Jessica! I think Craig benefited from great writers and better cast all around. I mean, it would’ve been nice to have someone like Judi Dench and Ralph Fiennes around the time Dalton was Bond. I know we Dalton fans always wish he had finished his 3 tenure as Bond as he was originally contracted to do.

        ruth

        November 5, 2012 at 8:09 pm

        • Yes, you’re right. They’ve really managed to get a fantastic set-up of actors and a good script in this one. But Dalton is an excellent actor and deserved to get more than two movies.

          Jessica

          November 5, 2012 at 8:18 pm

  10. [...] at the Velvet Cafe has one of the first reviews of Skyfall that I’ve seen. In it, she talks about how she had become a bit jaded with the [...]

  11. Well, glad you could appreciate this film in spite of your distaste for the series prior to this. This was a great action movie, and as you say, it did pose some thought provoking questions for a change. Definitely. And the cast WAS great. They were excellent.

    Personally, I miss the old playboy Bond, but I can see how that would have limited appeal for you. I’m still hoping that they’ll work a little more of that back into the series, but I’ll happily settle for a kick ass, high quality action film with a touch of depth to it! :D

    Fogs' Movie Reviews

    November 11, 2012 at 1:18 am

    • Well even if there are nuances in our take on this, I think we’re on the same side in our appreciation for the film. Great to see!

      Jessica

      November 11, 2012 at 10:19 pm

  12. I know exactly what you mean. I’ve enjoyed James Bind films in the past, but I never considered myself a die-hard fan. Might have to change those feelings now. Skyfall has me breathlessly waiting for the next installment now.

    Mark Hobin

    November 11, 2012 at 8:01 am

    • Yay! Glad to see one more fan! It seems as if we who were less enthusiastic about old Bond are the ones that like this version best.

      Jessica

      November 11, 2012 at 10:20 pm

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