Reason Writers at the Movies: Peter Suderman Reviews Skyfall


Reason Senior Editor Peter Suderman reviews Skyfall, the twenty-third James Bond film, in today's Washington Times

When I first heard that "American Beauty" director Sam Mendes had been tapped to make the newest James Bond film, I wondered how the choice might transform the series. Would we find Bond sitting in a McMansion wearing a cardigan and brooding over a failed marriage? Would his spy gadgetry be disguised as high-end kitchen appliances that symbolize the emptiness of American life? Would we discover in the end that the true enemy was, in fact, the inescapable horror of suburban ennui? Would he switch his drink order to white wine?

Fortunately the answer on all counts is a firm no. With "Skyfall," the 23rd entry in the Bond franchise, Mr. Mendes has not altered Bond so much as found the character's core and polished it up for a modern age. He has made a Bond film that is different from its predecessors, but almost entirely in ways that are improvements. It is the most beautiful Bond film. It is the darkest Bond film. It is the most psychologically revealing Bond film. And for these reasons, it may also be the best.

The movie's story is simple — left for dead after a botched mission, Bond (played for the third time by Daniel Craig), the storied British superspy, must rebuild himself in order to confront an enemy from the agency's past, one who knows all its tricks. It's an apt metaphor for the way the movie handles its central character: Bond, facing down his own history and potential obsolescence, asserts both the value of all that came before and his continued strength today. The movie is not merely another globe-trotting adventure but an argument for the permanent relevance of Bond: past, present and future.

Read the whole review

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  1. If Loder won’t turn in a review of the same movie we’ll just post Suderman’s twice.

  2. I’m definitely glad to see that it’s a quality movie. I wasn’t so hard on Quantum of Solace as others were, but it’s biggest flaw was that it so boring! Even Brosnan’s lesser flicks were fast-paced and exciting enough to watch. Just glad that they didn’t waste the last four years.

  3. Is there any reason on Earth why you couldn’t have started with this:

    “With “Skyfall,” the 23rd entry in the Bond franchise, Mr. Mendes has not altered Bond so much as found the character’s core and polished it up for a modern age. He has made a Bond film that is different from its predecessors, but almost entirely in ways that are improvements.”

    and spared us the first paragraph of silly, throat-clearing questions? That’s 10 seconds of my life I will never get back.

    1. And there goes another 4 seconds.

    2. I have to admit I didn’t care for that intro either. Point could have been made without getting convoluted.

      1. But he gets paid by the line.

    3. Yeah, like directors have to keep making the same movie they did before.

  4. re: movies

    just wanted to thank whoever for the recommendation of “The Thin Blue Line” and “The Two Escobars”. Both were eye-openers.

  5. I’m sure Mendes slipped in a few bon mots about how retarded suburban/small town Americans are. That guy REALLY hates people who don’t choose to live in vibrant urban shitholes.

  6. I liked Casino Royale a lot; as someone who read all of Fleming’s Bond novels, I felt that it was probably the closest to his Bond yet (other than maybe Lazenby’s Bond in In Her Majesty’s Secret Service). I haven’t seen QoS, mostly because the word on it was very bad. If Skyfall seems good, I’ll go see it. I’m no fan of Mendes but I’m willing to give him a chance in this.

    1. QoS sucked. Really sucked.

      However, Daniel Craig is the guy who is closest to the Fleming Bond.

      1. QoS sucked. Really sucked.

        It clearly wasn’t as good as Casino Royale, and I’m sure it isn’t nearly as good as Skyfall, but I won’t go so far as to say it sucked.

        1. The villain’s plot was laughable even by Bond franchise standards. The marxist lines that Bond was uttering were so out of character that I found myself going MST-3K on the movie from nearly the get-go.

          Even Roger Moore’s Moonraker was less laughable.

          1. I found myself going MST-3K on the movie from nearly the get-go.

            I bet your fellow theater patrons lived that!

            1. I don’t watch movies at movie theaters.

              I have a nice high def TV, comfy couch, warm dog and a non-sticky floor. Why would I ever go to a theater?

    2. QoS biggest problem was that it was boring and utterly devoid of humor, which is the one part of the Bond formula that must be kept no matter what.

      1. If I recall correctly, there isn’t much humor in the books.

        1. If I recall correctly, I’m not slapping down 20 greenbacks to read a stupid book.

          1. That’s what eBooks are for, Luddite of Etiquette.

            1. You misunderstand. I’m going to watch a movie for entertainment, instead of reading a book which is never entertaining. I want funny Bond.

              1. reading a book which is never entertaining

                So you’re illiterate as well as tasteless? I’m not surprised.

        2. I think the casual racism is pretty funny.

          1. Oh yeah. Read anything old and you’ll get that all over the place.

            1. Somewhere I have a 100-year-old or so copy of one of the Tom Sawyer books. One of the central characters, a freed slave, is referred to throughout as “the negro,” and the character’s dialog is straight-up pickaninny.

              1. Maybe you missed the point.

          2. Yeah, but Diamonds Are Forever is better than most le Carr? in the areas he gets more credit than Fleming, and this is coming from a huge fan of the Smiley books.

        3. The nihilism of the books has a riveting quality of its own.

          Watching QoS, I found myself thinking that this is what would happen if Michael Bay directed a movie written by the scriptwriter for Manos: Hands of Fate.

    3. I agree on Casino Royale – despite his evil blondness I think Craig is closest to the thug-assassin that Fleming portrayed. I liked the books a lot (the Fleming ones; the later ones were not so good).

      QoS is good as a Bond thing only if it is an Empire-Strikes-Back-like segue from Bond as merciless random killbot to Bond as merciless semi-random semi-mission-driven killbot.

      And, again on Casino, since it cannot be said enough: Eva Green. Eva Green. Eva Green.

      1. Agreed on everything, especially Eva Green.

        1. Too bad Camelot was canceled.

          1. Too bad Camelot was canceled.

            Holy fuck that show was terrible. And that is even considering that Eva showed some skin in it.

  7. I’m excited. I have my tickets for the midnight showing in IMAX. Apparently, it came out today in IMAX, but I had to work today, so I did not go. My roommate and I have a sort of tradition of seeing big blockbusters on the first midnight showing. But because IMAX went a day early, we had to wait a day. But I have my tickets for tonight.

    I am excited. I can’t wait!

    1. My roommate and I have a sort of tradition of seeing big blockbusters on the first midnight showing.

      The only movie I’ve ever done that with was the last Batman movie. I’m glad I did, it was a lot of fun.

  8. Mendes movies tend to be beautifully shot and have great visuals, so I think he’s right at home in a Bond movie. Of course he has an obession with the water=death motiff, so that kind of telegraphs plot twists.

  9. This one better have a wristwatch tear gas dispenser or an Aston Martin with 50 mm chain guns in the fenders!

    1. Don’t know about the tear gas dispenser, but the Aston Martin from Goldfinger is indeed in the movie.

      They also considered asking Connery to cameo in the movie but decided against it.

      1. Well, the Bond girl in this one better be named Cooch O’Plenty.

      2. Wise, wise decision. Connery has too much presence for a cameo.

        1. As future King of Scotland, I should say so.

        2. Agreed, the idea was to have him appear as a groundskeeper at MI6 headquarters in Scotland but that would have been distracting and just beneath a legend like Connery. He’s retired from making public appearances anyway.

          1. What? He’d never fucking do that.

            1. Have you seen the Avengers? The British one that is?

              1. Yeah, but he wasn’t the groundskeeper.

  10. Bring back S.P.E.C.T.R.E.!


  11. Who needs the double-0’s when you have drones that don’t even need a license to kill?

    1. Yes, but drones do require permits to kill. A slight distinction but an important one.

  12. Man, I haven’t been this excited about a movie since…ever? Daniel Craig and Javier Bardem are both arguably two of the best actors in the modern era, and they’re in the same movie.

  13. Forget girly-boy Craig – why isn’t Bond played by Jason Stratham?

    1. Because James Bond would never be caught with a stupid look on his face just as everything is going to shit.

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