This site is going to be the basis of two posts. This is the first one, about the plot holes in Skyfall and why they’re so annoying.
Looking at a couple of people’s comments and then at mine and then at a few others around the web, what is apparent is that some people are left brain and others are right brain [that's not meant as a political designation]. Some are happy to suspend disbelief because the whole spectacle, the atmosphere created, transcends pesky little details.
Others, usually men of a certain socio-political point of view, see plot holes and that can ruin a movie. This comes through below over and over. They can’t just sit back and enjoy a movie for the image it’s trying to create in people’s minds, they can’t just accept that image in the interests of the narrative. They have to pick holes in it and those holes can quite genuinely destroy a movie for them.
Those more, say, emotionally inclined, more carried away by the spirit of something, shake the head and think these other guys are sad cases. So be it. Here are many of the problems with Skyfall:
I really liked it. Thus I am saddened to report that there are so many ludicrous plot holes that, driving home as the adrenaline ebbed, the movie totally fell apart as a story as I turned it over in my head. The more I thought about it, the less sense it made.
Here are some of the more glaring problems:
1) Bond meets a glamorous femme fatale at a casino. She invites him to join her on her boat should he escape the (inept) henchmen waiting to kill him. He joins her for assignation on said boat, which puts off for her lover’s headquarters. Upon arrival at said headquarters, Bond and woman are bound and taunted/tormented by Bad Guy. Woman has appropriately cinematic demise.
I will put cash in your hand if you can explain either Bond’s motivation or the woman’s in this case. Despite evincing manifest terror for herself when she meets Bond, she still wants him to join her on a boat from which escape is impossible, packed with her menacing lover’s heavily-armed goons as it sails toward an isolated location where they will both almost certainly be killed? Why? I guess Bond had enough confidence in his own skills but it was flagrantly suicidal on the part of the woman, and a transparently dumb plot point.
1a) Unhinged evil guy’s HQ is apparently an island he coveted, which was abandoned when (via computer) he created the illusion that it was contaminated with poisonous chemicals. Fine. OK. As much sense as the usual Bond Bad Guy HQs go. But nobody with a preexisting interest in the island ever sent guys with Hazmat suits to actually check on its status? No dudes with gas masks and test tubes to confirm the computer readouts? They just wrote the whole thing off? Baloney.
2) Much of the plot hinges on M keeping her job at MI6. We are meant to be rooting for her to do so, because she is played (in usual first-rate style) by Dame Judi Dench at her brusquest. Brusque British women = competent, right? We want her to keep her job, which seems mainly to consist of barking orders and then staring stonily into the rain.
No. In “Skyfall,” M is disastrously incompetent and at one point criminally negligent.
The movie opens with Bond and another agent tracking a man who has stolen a computer file with the fake names and real identities of all the undercover British agents embedded with terrorist organizations. They do not retrieve it. Later, MI6 headquarters explodes, killing eight agents. (I counted the coffins.) And a little later, Bad Guy starts revealing the names of the undercover agents via YouTube. (Topical!) At least three of them are killed.
Let us remind ourselves that in real life, the head of the CIA resigned in disgrace because of an affair. And political hay was made when the ambassador to the UN mischaracterized a terrorist attack as a spontaneous burst of violence, possibly jeopardizing her chances at career advancement. (I think the latter is particularly weak tea, but that’s not my point.) Yet we’re meant to want the head of MI6 to keep her job as she presides over a steady stream of death and destruction? No. A real-life M would have been forced to leave promptly with the loss of the computer file, and rightly.
But that’s not all! NO! When the Bad Guy escapes (again, on her watch) and is (correctly) believed to be heading for her to kill her, rather than heed the urgent pleas of her agents to get to a secure location she ignores them and remains at a government hearing so she can defend her reputation. She does not calmly but firmly shut the meeting down and allow people to get to safety. Nope, she quotes Tennyson. She knowingly remained vulnerable to attack (which claimed yet more lives) in a room that also held several high-ranking members of the British government!
Garbage! Not only should she be sacked, but she should be put on trial for reckless endangerment and negligent manslaughter.
2a) When it became apparent that their boss was choked with hubris and not leaving the hearing, why did MI6 not immediately swarm the building with additional security? How were three men with guns able to blast their way in, when agents knew a lethal criminal was making a beeline toward Westminster? Stupid!
3) Bond eventually spirits M back to his childhood home to lure the Bad Guy (the famous “Crocodile Dundee 2″ gambit). There, with naught but his old groundskeeper for back-up, he takes down a small army of henchmen when many of them conveniently step on all of his booby traps (the “Home Alone” defense). As the Bond manse is blasted and bombed into smithereens, James bravely holds Bad Guy off while groundskeeper takes M to safety via a secret passage.
But do they stay hidden in the vast dark of the Scottish moors? No, friends, they do not. They signal their location via bobbing flashlight (a move so dunderheaded I was sure it must have been a trick on their part — it wasn’t) as they make their way to the family chapel, a confined space that they then illuminate. When Bad Guy arrives, he finds M not hiding in some concealed cranny, but sitting alone and unarmed in a pew. (See above re: M, incompetence and.) Bond arrives just in time to save M, so she can die of battle wounds in his arms a couple of minutes later.
What an awful lot of trouble to end up with a dead M. Doesn’t that mean the Bad Guy, um… kinda won? And wasn’t there the little matter of the stolen computer file with the names and everything? I guess that problem just… went away?
3a) Upon finding M sitting alone and unarmed in a confined, illuminated space, Javier Bardem spends a few minutes gnawing vigorously on the scenery. He then presses his cranium against hers, puts his gun in her hand, and tearfully implores her to shoot them both with the same bullet.
3ai) M! You have his frigging gun!!!! Move your goddamn head and shoot him in his!
3aii) Whence this maudlin shitshow, Javier? Weren’t you just a few scenes back happy to blow her away without hesitation? Would you not have done so, were it not for the heroics of Ralph Fiennes? You seem strangely conflicted now. Maybe you should have seen your analyst before heading up to Scotland?
I agree, and have so many other quarrels with this flick. Was Bardem’s character not and identical replica of the joker? They even had a scene when he was walking away from Bond’s childhood home in which Bardem was a silhouette with his hair in a tangle that could have been placed in the Dark Knight and I wouldn’t have been the wiser.
There was no solid, standard Bond Girl, and there was no (okay there was a little bit of) Bond suave. Mind you the “that’s just a waste of good scotch” line after Bardem shoots the girl in the head was pretty classy.
1) Bond has the transmitter, he’s confident he can signal his location. The woman is irrational due to years of crushing psychological torment, and clings to the possibility that Bond can kill him. Yeah, it’s a double-stretch. I did like the way that Bond lets her get killed, though. One thing I like very much about the Craig reboot of the Bond series (and let’s be clear, these last three movies are nothing more than a single over-arching retcon) is that they do make Bond more than a little bit of a monster, which he rather is. He’s not a hero, he doesn’t always save the girl. Often, he gets her killed.
2) That part made no sense at all. Particularly M’s history and character thread of ruthless efficiency. She would have snapped her case shut, stood up, and said, “Unfortunately, we have had an incident to which I must attend” and stomped out in Grande Dame fashion. M’s treatment in this movie was shabby.
“He’s not a hero, he doesn’t always save the girl. Often, he gets her killed.”
As much as I love Goldfinger (because how could you not!), it’s one of the nastier ones in that Bond gets two women (sisters, at that) killed. And his attitude toward both is a shrug at best.
I don’t protest any of your points except the first one (1). Strongly implied in Chick’s fear is the fact that this particular villain is everywhere, he can do anything and get anywhere and fleeing him will only make things worse. Sure her three escorts are left to fail to deal with Bond but she clearly feels incapable of escaping or, if she escapes, making good on it. The invitation to the boat is proffered because he expresses interest in meeting her Boss.
She knows he has no interest in rescuing her so a request to “Get me out of this mess” would be a futile and humiliating endeavor. Her message was essentially “I’m stuck and I’m screwed. Bad Guy is gonna tow me out to his lair and kill me, possibly horribly. I can’t get away and if I somehow did he’d just get me again. But If you can survive my goon escort’s attack, feel free to join me on my death boat. At least I can shag some Daniel Craig and maybe throw a Hail Mary that you’ll somehow off the dude before he kills me.”
I see where you’re going, but consider:
1) She has witnessed personally that he had the resources and skill to track and kill Patrice, this supposedly ghost-like super-assassin.
2) She asks “Can you kill him?” and he says he can. So…
Does she believe him? If not, why throw your life away shagging a handsome guy if doing so will inevitably get you killed? He’s hot, but he’s not that hot. If so, why not say “This is the name of his boat. We will be sailing to this abandoned island. If you’ve been told it’s chemically contaminated, it isn’t. (He just made it seem that way.) This is his name, so far as I know. Kill him. After that, the shagging.” She at least stands some chance of survival in that case.
I think it was implied that she was being taken to him to be killed anyhow. I didn’t get the impression that she was being killed due to her cooperation with Bond. Perhaps I didn’t read it correctly?
Yes. She was bait and she knew it.
She had been a sex slave previously. Through abuse, drugs, and violence, she’s become used to following instructions as a survival and coping mechanism. She’s given the job in the casino of finding out who killed Patrice because she’s shown signs of intelligence and maybe because she looks western and so makes for distinctive-looking bait in a Macau casino.
So, Bond comes in the casino and by virtue of presenting the chip is the guy who killed the dangerous assassin. Bond is therefore even more dangerous. Remember: danger = sexy.
Now, she knows her job is to either get him killed or bring him in to the boss. So she must see to it that either he gets eaten by the exotic pets, gunned down or beaten by the muscle, or he’s getting on that boat out to Abandoned Island Bad Guy HQ. If she fails, then she’s let the boss down and she will be punished or killed. So, her nervousness and fear make a great deal of sense. And I’m at least willing to suspend my disbelief that she wants him on that boat. Bond wants on that boat because it’s the best and maybe only way to get closer to the villain.
Now, as for the shagging? As to her, it’s either 1) dangerous guys are sexy and Bond is hot to begin with, or 2) Bond said he could kill the boss, so maybe he’s her ticket out of there and therefore worth pleasing (Doc’s “Hail Mary” theory). As to Bond, he’s got several hours of sitting around on a luxury yacht with nothing else to do other than the hottie. And it’s a Bond film, so as a member of the audience, I demand to see some seduction mixed in with the action, intrigue, and gadgetplay.
So the upshot is — I’m willing to suspend my disbelief here. I’m willing to suspend my disbelief that the groundskeeper would keep the flashlight on while guiding M to the chapel, blowing their cover, too.
M sitting there at the Parliamentary hearing while she’s aware that Javier Bardem is coming to kill her and everyone else in the room? Either she’s sociopathic enough to think that a good scare will rattle the MP’s who are trying to hassle her (which would be consistent with her willingness to risk killing Bond, also an insane risk) or it simply doesn’t occur to her that the threat is that imminent and she can’t think of a good political way to cut the hearing short while she’s the one in its rhetorical cross-hairs. None of which are good decisions for a spymaster to be making; any and all of which would demonstrate why Ralph Finnes was right and it was time for M to retire with her honor intact and the thanks of Queen and country in her pocket.
Re 1), it is well established that said love interest is in an, um, somewhat abusive and controlling relationship with who we are led to believe is one of the most powerful and evil people on the planet. Your advice is that she should…do what? Isn’t that Bardem’s boat? Aren’t those his employees running the boat? Doesn’t she know that? My guess is probably so. It’s an illusion that she controls anything. And Bond asked her to take him to Bardem. Why? Because a) he’s Bond and he dives into everything head first, b) Moneypenny, c) the radio transmitter.
I’ll get to the others later.
Oh but you may like this:
My biggest suspension of disbelief is probably detailed in that thread that North just linked, but before I read it I’ll go ahead and lay it out, here.
It is one thing to have a plot with plots within plots. This can work, where you have double-crosses and plans that lead your opponent to act in a certain way that you have in fact accounted for and used as a step in your own plan.
It’s another thing to have plots that are so convoluted that they require massive amounts of planning to cover contingencies that only occur through completely random chance. If you don’t constrain your opponent’s choices to the point where they must do Thing, you can’t reasonably suspect that Thing will occur.
Movie writers screw this up *all* the time, so it’s something I’ve come to expect and not get hypercritical about.
There’s no reason for Bardem to survive capture by Bond. Indeed, there’s no reason for Bond to capture him, at all. You have the lair, and all the computers, and Bond’s a 00 for cryin’ out loud. Why would any competent villain assume that Bond is going to capture him and take him back to MI6 where the next step in your plan will happen… when Bond can just shoot him in the face… and indeed, has no reason *not* to do so?
And you have rigged a (very cool theater moment) crazy-ass booby trap in your escape route from MI6 that assumes that someone is going to be following you and you’ll be able to trigger an explosion that isn’t designed to kill them, but instead cause a train to come flying in through the roof and kill them? Looked great on screen, but lacked verisimilitude (would have been better if the train was full of people) and was simply a crazy plot point.
The plot also required that Q try to hack Silva’s computer at just exactly the right time for Silva to emerge into the underground station and get the police outfit handed to him, then head to Westminster where at that very moment M was being grilled by a government minister, and also that M will decide to just stay there after knowing about the escape rather than going somewhere else!
Not to mention Q not being smart enough to use an isolated computer to do the hacking after there had been prior evidence of Silva hacking in to MI-6.
I watched those scenes and thought to myself “I’m sure this would be driving me bananas right now if I knew much at all about computers.” But I don’t, so it didn’t particularly.
I keep saying that producers should bring their kids in whenever computers are used in movies. That way, at least somebody who has used a computer before and knows roughly what they look like during normal operation is there.
If they keep this up, everybody is going to figure out that we programmers do all of our human / machine interaction through crazy 3D virtual reality GUIs on giant projectors. That’s why we can write code and the rest of you can’t figure out why your email won’t load.
Frankly I think you understate [it] actually. A scenario where gunmen break into parliament and shoot up a hearing wouldn’t lead to M being fired in disgrace. Or rather it wouldn’t JUST lead to M being fired in disgrace.
Frankly I see no way that it wouldn’t bring down the entire government that employed her. Remember, in a parliamentary system the Government stands only until it loses a vote in parliament (any vote) which counts then as a vote of no-confidence and triggers a new election. I promise you that if a fish up of M’s proportion occurred in England that the ruling government would promptly fall.
Frankly I suspect it’d be considered a scandal if the Government didn’t resign and call new elections after the dust had settled. So in conclusion I think you’re more right in 2A than you even realized.
Of all my gripes with the movie, the bit with M’s head and the gun was low on the list. But still, she had his gun!
I think that the count of continuity and factual errors, let alone ineptitude etc is at 32 and counting. See:
Plot holes and nonsense abound in Skyfall for sure.
In the opening scene, why didn’t the lady agent shoot the bad assassin guy after hitting Bond by mistake?
I insert here – she was incompetent and a newbie, hence selected to be in a key admin role later in an office. Back to the comment:
For that matter, why did the lady agent also carry a crummy little popgun Walther PPK to shoot at the bad guys? Those little things are good for carrying concealed in your tuxedo to shoot the guy 4 feet from you.
The guards were comically inept in the scene where M is testifying to the panel of politicians. A guard runs in, bang, dead. Another guard runs in, bang dead. Clever that the guards standing around outside have various machine guns but never come inside to try them on the bad guys.
One unintentionally funny part for me was when the music came up after Bond’s old Aston Martin was destroyed by the helicopter and Bond looked enraged. I seemed as if his car being wrecked was the final straw dammit!
Small point: When Finney hands Bond his father’s shotgun he calls it his *rifle*. You don’t have to be the president of the NRA to know a shotgun is not a rifle.
I’ll never forget seeing Thunderball as a young man up on the screen, now that’s a Bond movie.
“Do you mind if she sits this one out? She’s just dead.”
“I think he got the point.”
“This seems to be a woman’s gun.”
“You know a lot about guns Mr. Bond.”
“No, I know a lot about women.”
I’m still waiting for someone, ANYONE to explain to me how Bad Guy killed all of the guards at MI6 when he escaped. What did he kill them with…his bad breath??? A hidden gun that no one ever bothers to show or mention????
Why does this gaping leap of implausibility escape everyone else?????? Ruined the movie for me.
Why they would go to the trouble to hire an assassin for four million euros, have him fly to Shanghai, cut a hole in the window of a skyscraper and shoot their target from next door when by all appearances everyone in the fishing room with the target was in on the assassination!??!?!? They all seemed totally blasé when he keeled over dead, clearly knowing it was coming. Why didn’t one of them just shoot him? Why all the elaborate hoopla?]
I guess re: Silva’s escape that we’re meant to assume he’s such a Super Bad-ass Former Spy that he can kill them with his Mad Skillz. Which means that MI6 is in the habit of hiring super-incompetent guards.
You know what bothered me? Why Bond would take the woman he was trying to save (i.e. M) to a place where there is no way of defending yourself (i.e. no weapons), bring no backup, and then just let her hang around instead of making her hide somewhere on the moor… or in the chapel from the get-go… or in the passage.
He could have also just had someone else he trusted (e.g. Mallory or someone like that- if he had just picked a guy at random, chances are he would have been safe in picking someone who wasn’t under orders from Silva) bring M to another remote location somewhere else while he proceeded to Skyfall.
This really bugs me. There’s some suspension of belief, but then this was sheer stupidity in the plot. And given that the only thing at stake in the whole movie is M’s life, the fact that she dies means that the good guys lost. Where’s the Bond in that?
Couple more plot points to ponder:
1) When Bond is shot by Moneypenny, where is he shot and how does he recover? The shoulder bullet wound was caused by Patrice when he’s in the construction equipment on the train and it’s the only bullet wound we ever see. Where did Moneypenny’s shot hit him that caused him to fly off the train to the water below?
2) That desert island that was Silva’s lair. How long ago are we to believe this island was deserted? If he caused the people to desert so fast, why does it look like the Chernobyl site or an atom bomb test site? How did it age that fast and become so decrepit so quick?
3) The flashlight thing killed me. I wanted to yell at the screen. No one escapes a psycho chasing them into the dark and then fires up their flashlight to show their position. Not a civilian, and certainly not a secret agent-type person.
4) If the plan was to lure Silva to his death to chase M, why go with no weapons and scarce means to defend yourself? And M dies, so it’s a wash between Silva dying and achieving his goal of killing M. And yes, the whole final scenes seemed like Home Alone except deadly.
I was entertained, but the plot holes and inconsistencies really made it a challenge. Especially with the rave reviews it’s been getting.
I found the misuse of tech to link parts of the plot together to be laughable.
1) No way anyone is going to decrypt a properly encrypted hard drive, but okay this is James Bond.
2) “Sorry, you’re going out of range” when Bond jumps on the train. Out of the range of what? GPS? Radio transmitters? Pointless line.
3) The tracking of the hack on the map was just silly.
4) “Only a few people in the world use this ammo” as a computer screen is pulled up showing them. Computers really are magical in this film. A terrible way to link to the Shanghai part. A simple identification of possible suspect photos would have been far better. (And why wasn’t the ammo removed earlier? Did James Bond not just have a full physical? Surely he’d have been sent to the hospital if he was shot?)
5) A gun that James Bond can only fire when he’s not wearing gloves. Useful. Pointless plot device that was used so that a bad guy could get eaten by a komodo dragon!
6) Let’s just plug Silva’s laptop into MI6′s network! Oh dear.
7) Look at how we hack! Encryption that would take anyone a bazilliongazillion years to decrypt can be solved with big colourful pictures with various words interconnected with lines! And look, a column of hexadecimal on the left with the computer’s password in plain text! And James Bond manages to spot it! Now we now Silva’s plan! Terrible, terrible, terrible. This is the kind of thing you’d expect from a film like that guinea pig thing (G-Force?)
8) Wahoo! A virus has opened all of the doors, Silva is free! Don’t worry, there are no security guards. I mean, this is just MI6.
9) M escapes from Silva in the mansion and then decides to waddle around with a flashlight. There’s no way that Silva would see that! Ridiculous way to get Silva to chase her.
I take it more personally. It’s an insult to the intelligence to think so little of your audience that you ask them to accept something second rate and shoddy as a piece of writing. How it became a box office topper is difficult to see – there must be a hell of a lot of people out there who fail to think things through, who take things as offered and who are perfectly happy to accept wrong things as reality.
And that really is getting into politics now.
To conclude with a quote by Marcus Williams [last commenter above]:
“I really thought that with Casino Royale James Bond was becoming a more serious, gritty affair. Apparently not. I’m surprised they didn’t have the invisible car in it.”
Amen. We’re in the hands of incompetents these days, incompetents with a narrative in many cases.
Filed under: Literature & performing arts