“What did you expect – an exploding pen?”
While André maintains that Pierce Brosnan was his Bond, Ben and Leanna think of Daniel Craig as the Bond we know best. He’s a very different Bond from those we’ve seen before. He’s cool, calculating, a master of dry wit, and is as well-dressed as any Bond. He represents a grittier take on the Bond universe, and while the term “gritty” has seen its fair share of critique in recent years, it is a change that we gladly accepted in this case.
Daniel Craig has been in a couple films up until this point, and each film has its own highs and lows. Ultimately we settled on Skyfall because we all agreed it was our favorite of Craig’s three film run (well, now four, but we haven’t seen Spectre yet), but we also wanted to refresh our memories on some of the bigger plot points that may or may not carry over into the next film. It wasn’t the first time any of us have watched Skyfall, and it is safe to say that it probably won’t be the last.
For our final Bond feast, we decided to pay tribute to his roots. We cooked a traditional British meal, starting with a Scotch Egg recipe from one of the UK’s most notorious chefs, Jamie Oliver. It doesn’t get much more British than a Scotch egg. From an American’s point of view, a quick review of popular British recipes reveals that they’re big on eggs, meat, deep frying their dishes, and dishes with multiple layers. The Scotch Egg does an excellent job of checking a couple of those boxes. A Scotch Egg is a soft boiled egg (check) wrapped in sausage (check) and bread crumbs (check) that is then deep fried (check). We planned to eat it as an appetizer, but it was quite filling and could almost have been a full meal on its own. It probably didn’t help that we followed Jamie Oliver’s serving suggestion and enjoyed our eggs with some pickles, pickled onions, English Cheddar, and a sprinkle of sea salt and parmesan. It was absolutely delicious, and we could see on an early, cold, foggy morning, having a protein-filled morsel like this could warm you right up and keep you full for hours.
Our next course was a British classic: Shepherd’s Pie. We chose lamb as our meat of choice (Shepherd’s Pie, after all), cooked it in some savory spices along with a vegetable medley including onion, garlic, carrots, peas, and corn. The whole thing is topped off with a layer of creamy mashed potatoes before baked in the oven to perfection. The result was exactly the type of hearty meal Bond probably whipped up (offscreen, of course) for M and Kincade at his Scottish farmhouse before undergoing the siege of Silva and his henchmen. We should note that this recipe was not from a famous British chef, but it was from Alton Brown, who is another of our favorite chef personalities.
We closed out the night with some sticky toffee pudding. Surprisingly simple to make, yet unbelievably tasty, these little mini cakes were the perfect way to complete our Bondathon. Their dense, spongy consistency was perfect for soaking up the hearty dose of toffee sauce we poured over the top of them. Add a little whipped cream and a sprig of mint, and you have an incredible dessert. We were all impressed by this dessert and we struggled to keep ourselves from licking up our plates covered in the toffee sauce.
In continuing with the theme of Martini’s for the Bond sereies, we finished out with a Vesper Martin. The Vesper was first introduced in Ian Fleming’s 1953 spy novel “Casino Royale,” and subsequently in the more recent film adaption by the same name. It’s an interesting combination: 3 parts dry gin, 1 part vodka, and splash of Lillet Blanc, served with a lemon twist. It’s a potent mixture, but the Lillet Blanc breaks the intensity of the vodka and gin and adds a unique flavor to the drink. Bond, you were on to something with this one.
Our standard rules for the Bondathon series are:
- Drink whenever Bond uses a new gadget.
- Finish your drink whenever a woman dies.
- Always have a martini in hand.
The Plot – 5/5
How entertaining was the movie?
This movie deserves five stars on its own, especially when compared to the other Bond films we’ve watched over the last month (and especially compared to Goldeneye). In Skyfall, we get to dive a little bit deeper into Bond’s character, visit his roots, and see him truly vulnerable at the end when he faces the death of one of the few people in his life we know him to respect and care for. The web of clues and espionage required to locate the villain, his brief capture and brilliant escape, followed by a final battle that showcases Bond’s ingenuity and tenacity in the face of overwhelming odds is entertainment at its finest. It keeps the viewer guessing and on the edge of their seat as they watch Bond combat a hauntingly modern antagonist described best by M herself:
“… I’m frightened because our enemies are no longer known to us. They do not exist on a map. They’re not nations, they’re individuals… Our world is not more transparent now, it’s more opaque! It’s in the shadows. That’s where we must do battle.”
The Bond – 4/5
How well does Bond embody the quintessential British spy?
You’ve probably gathered from our other posts or even earlier in this one that we’re fans of Daniel Craig and his portrayal as Bond. We would have given him full points, but his treatment of women is a little cold to our liking. In other movies, he exhibits more of an emotional attachment to the women he encounters. It’s humanizing, and reminds you that behind the expensive suits, flashy gadgets, and collected exterior, Bond is still a person who is capable of empathy. Although we see that brought out of Bond in his scenes with M, we didn’t feel great about his interactions with Severine, especially the scene where he appears behind her in the shower. Although it seems consensual, it’s nonetheless a scene that makes us feel uneasy. (For those unaware, he appears on the ship he is on and stealthily, in the buff, envelopes Severine with his arms). And what about the woman he so clearly had charmed at his tropical getaway at the beginning of the movie? We will talk about the Bond girls more later, but we’re docking Bond a point for his treatment of them.
The Bond Girls – 3/5
How did the writers and directors treat the female characters in the film?
Actually, let’s talk about the Bond girls now. First, a moment of silence for M (Judi Dench) who died in this film, but not without an incredible fight. M proves herself time and time again in this film to stand up to mounting odds all while keeping her cool composure. She fights for the agency, for Bond, and for her life showing off her political and tactical prowess as well as her genuine commitment to her agents and everything they stand for. At the same time, her death is used as a means to allow Bond to show what scant amount of motion he can drum up and continue on his merry way. It is a an unfortunate end to an M that was refreshing and powerful.
Severine, oh Severine. A Bond girl who played a wonderfully scared yet strong character and who was taken from the story much too quick. Her life snuffed out like it was nothing, despite the movie trying to build something between her and Bond. Her death is especially frustrating because it comes during a game of target practice as she is tied up and essentially slaughtered at the hands of the villain.
And now, Eve Moneypenny. In other Bond movies, Moneypenny is limited to being a swooning secretary who’s feelings for Bond are seemingly stated so obviously just for his benefit as he brushes her off time and time again, or is played as a tease for Bond (see the Pierce Brosnan films). Skyfall’s Moneypenny actually gets some time in the field, and is a worthy opponent in Bond’s game of wordplay and innuendo. Although it’s ultimately disappointing that she chooses a life behind a desk when she seemed incredibly talented and reactive in the field, we can’t know for certain that her desk job will be permanent, and we sincerely hope it isn’t. In any case, this Eve Moneypenny was a breath of fresh air for the character and it was wonderful to see her exhibit her own level of sexuality and agency in a franchise known as a fantasy for heterosexual men.
The Villain – 3/5
How much did you love to hate the bad guy?
The thing is, with Silva (Javier Bardem), we didn’t love to hate him like the other Bond villains. Silva is an interesting character in that his motivations are exceedingly simple, and almost petty, but the life that Javier Bardem breathed into him gives him a certain gravitas. He is sinister and diabolical, but his eloquence and history with M and with the agency make him an interesting villain than the others we’ve encountered. It seems like he is the villain Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean) was supposed to be. Both were previously 00s and both had a botched parting with the agency. Where Alec never really got an opportunity to shine, Silva flourished on screen. When Silva reveals (quite literally) the event that ultimately transformed him into the villain he is now, you feel a certain amount of understanding and sympathy for him. Although your loyalty to M and Bond won’t change, you feel sorry for this villain and what he has become. Silva was a complicated and interesting villain, but his simplicity and motivations split the the Munch crew on whether or not we loved or disliked him. For some he was a diabolical villain with a backstory that built sympathy into the character, and for others he was a simplistic and forgettable villain, with only the talent of Javier Bardem to drive the character forward.
The Gadgets – 3/5
How cool were Q’s inventions?
Q’s gadgets are actually fairly limited in this film. Even the car that Bond takes to Skyfall is his own, and one you might recognize from a previous film – Goldfinger. It’s ejectable passenger seat gives it away. Q equips Bond with a fancy gun that only arms when he’s the shooter, a miniature GPS tracker, and… That’s about it. They call back to the over-the-top gadgets in Goldeneye, as a way to tell us audiences don’t really go in for that anymore.
But Q himself is incredibly impressive. He’s a Q for the modern Bond: part engineer, part hacker, and part inventor. This was the first Bond film we had seen where Q had appeared in a single scene other than the gadget-pass-off-scene that every Bond film has. In this movie, Q was head of cybersecurity as well as the quartermaster, and appeared throughout the movie. He was actually a really great supporting actor, and we hope to see plenty more of him in Spectre.
André: Top Notch. The first time I saw Skyfall, it surpassed all my expectations. The cinematography was great, which you don’t really expect from Bond films. Bond, Q, Moneypenny, and M all felt like fleshed-out characters, rather than just hollow archetypes moving the plot forward, which was also a nice twist on a typical Bond movie. The villain…well, the villain was a pretty typical Bond villain, but they really did a good job with him. I felt like they were trying to redeem Goldfinger for taking the concept of a MI6 agent gone rogue and not doing anything interesting with it. Skyfall revisits the idea of a MI6 agent who turns on the agency, but to much greater effect. All around, Skyfall was just a really top notch movie. I’ve seen it several times and I will probably see it several more.
Leanna: Quite possibly my favorite Bond film. Skyfall is a beautiful film: from the brilliant cinematography to the impressive locations visited in the film, it’s a wonderful viewing experience. Daniel Craig delivers witty one liners without it feeling corny or out of place, and Javier Bardem is a complex and ruthless villain that keeps you guessing throughout the film. I was very sad that Skyfall marked the end of Judy Dench as M, and her replacement will have a tough time taking over her role not only as a strong and upstanding leader for MI6, but as the one person who was able to call Bond on his shit and give his ego the reprimand it so often deserves.
Ben: 83%. It is easy enough for me to say that Skyfall is probably my favorite Bond film. Now I haven’t seen all of them and the 007 series is a very distinct style of movie, to a fault, but Skyfall , within the bunch is pretty good. First and foremost, this film is absolutely gorgeous. From the scene in the Chinese high rise, to Bond standing in a Scottish valley, from top to bottom this film is beautiful. Every shot was well thought out, and the lighting played to wonderous effects. As for the villain himself, I found him a little simple and and his motivations lacking. I found it hard to believe that his being tortured and a cyanide capsule not actually killing him would be enough for him to attempt to control the world and go to great, at times ridiculous, lengths to kill M. Sure, M “betrayed” Silva because it benefitted the entire Agency. And I would imagine that that is actual protocol in any intelligence agency. Also M has shown time and time again that she is a pretty serious, could be viewed as cold, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of her agents that she would protect the agency over the agents life. That is pretty much par for the course in that type of career. Beyond that though, Skyfall is a fun movie, with a wonderful selection of action scenes all wrapped up in an extremely beautiful package. Skyfall manages to rise above the clouds.