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

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