THE FIRST-TAKE CLUB
Novelist John Niven watches Skyfall, and isn’t happy about it. Look out, 007! An angry Scotsman is coming for you!
EMPIRE’S FIRST-TAKE Club is simple: we ask someone to choose a film they haven’t seen from our 301 Greatest Movies list (published in 2014), watch it, and then tell us what they thought. This month, John Niven — the author of Kill Your Friends and
The Sunshine Cruise Company — tackles the biggest Bond film of them all… Since I haven’t been a 14-year-old since the early 1980s, I haven’t much bothered about watching a Bond film since then. So it was somewhat mystifying to me to see Skyfall on Empire’s list of classic films. (Full disclosure: the only other film on the list I hadn’t seen was The Lord Of The
Rings, but you’d need a soundproof basement, some rope and an M-16 to get me to watch that.)
Like Freddy Krueger, Halloween’s Michael Myers and Jeremy Corbyn, the Bond franchise is unkillable. They could cast Danny Dyer as Bond, have a storyline where Bond becomes a ruthless HMRC employee, call the film ‘AUDIT ANOTHER DAY’ and you’d still have every A-lister on the planet lining up to do it. You’d be hearing Taylor Swift warbling, “AUDIT ANOTHER DAYYYYYYY” all over the radio for months, and the bloody film would still gross over a billion dollars. But enough of that. Like Mark from Peep
Show hunkering down with some gay porn I said to myself, “Watch without prejudice.”
The plot is this: Bond is out and then he’s back in because The Bad Man (Javier Bardem,
eating the scenery) wants to get M. Where best to protect her? Perhaps somewhere within the ten-foot-thick concrete walls of Whitehall with a couple of battalions of troops outside and nukes tipped with anthrax pointed in every direction? Nah — bollocks to all that, as Danny Dyer Bond might have said. Bond takes her alone to his remote childhood home, the worst Airbnb in all of the Scottish Highlands.
Having heard that the Sam Mendes/daniel Craig partnership was a crisp, invigorating reinvention of the franchise, it was confusing that many of the old clichés were still present and correct, including one of my favourites...
“An urgent crisis needs our full attention.” “Okay then. I’ll just pour us all an absolutely monumental belt of Scotch and then we’ll hunker down and think hard on this one.”
Bond goes to a casino! He hangs out on yachts! He beasts women who are instantly rewarded with death! Now, I get that this is not Mike Leigh. We’re not going to see a socialrealist take on the franchise (Bond glumly choosing a new suit in Primark), but come on...
Finally, after much arse, we’re off to the Highlands. It seems to take the film about two hours to get to this point and then, somehow, it still manages to go on for another hour. I confess, it was around here that I made like M in crisis mode and reached for the Scotch myself.
Somewhere into the endless third act, when everyone is just fruiting about dementedly in an empty country house (You’re doing Bond, you’ve got a pretty much unlimited budget. “Where shall we do the climax?” On a gold Learjet plummeting towards the Empire State Building? Inside the head of a 100-foot-tall robot eating Big Ben? Nah — the basement of a fusty hotel near Inverness) I moved into the zone of “I want to make hundreds of copies of this film on huge old V2000 video tapes and hammer one up the jacksie of everyone involved in making this shit.” Roll on Danny Dyer choosing that suit in Primark in Mike Leigh’s