arteejee

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Long Live Bond: Skyfall



This is definitely a guy flick.

The first action sequence starts within seconds after the studio logos fade from the screen. Our hero, James Bond, steps through a massacre scene, and for the first time in a long time, he is not the cause of the massacre. The object of his hunt — a computer hard drive — is just minutes ahead of him. He gives chase through the streets of Istanbul, over the roofs of Istanbul, and finally on top of a train leaving Istanbul. When this frontispiece is concluded, Bond is thought to be dead and his boss, M, is on the verge of being put out to pasture.

Thus begins Skyfall, the 23rd Bond adventure in 50 years, a story about transition, a conflict of the old ways to fight evildoers, and the new type of wars where the good guys aren’t fighting countries, but rather combatants who don’t have the decency to show up in military uniforms so we can tell them apart from the good guys. 
 
Naturally, news of Bond’s demise is premature, and after a brief fling playing chicken with scorpions — a hobby that only a killing machine like Bond could understand — he is resurrected and ready to fight for Queen and country once again. This time, the enemy is a former MI6 agent who has possession of a list of agents embedded in terrorist organizations all over the world. Silva, played by Javier Badem, releases the names not for profit from a king’s ransom, but revenge against M.

In the thick of this battle, some of Bond’s old methods and icons come through for him one more time. His iconic Aston Martin DB5 stars in a cameo appearance. Judi Dench plays M as very old (kudos to the make-up department) and very tired. Offered, or perhaps threatened, with early retirement, her character rises to the challenge of completing the job she has been given, and to hell with dignity. I don’t want to give away the ending but (HINT, HINT) some of the old ways do not survive the last reel of the film.

Daniel Craig is growing into the part in his third appearance as moviedom’s favorite superspy. He is still the cold, calculating killer, but this time the story allows him to show some compassion. He actually stops a pursuit long enough to offer medical comfort to one of his colleagues. He struggles throughout to regain his old skills, but let’s be fair. How many skills could any of us hope to retain after falling from a railroad bridge into a raging river and spending some time giving scorpions the hairy eyeball. In the end, Bond — for the second time in the franchise’s history — finds himself grieving (complete with tears) over someone very close to him. (HINT, HINT)

The Bond character has fascinated and held audiences spellbound since 1962. Undoubtedly, our mothers probably wondered how any man could forsake a stable life with a wife and family in favor of shaken martinis, long-legged women, and an overall sense of danger around every corner. Not surprisingly, adolescent males can’t figure out what’s up with their mothers, and don’t see a problem with Bond’s lifestyle. The last scenes in Skyfall go a long way to explaining James Bond’s preferences for getting through a normal work day in the employ of Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

In the film's climax, Bond dangles M as bait from his ancestral estate in Scotland. It turns out that Bond was not raised in the scenic, highly-romanticized Loch Lomond section of Scotland. No, Bond was bred in what I will describe as the butt-ugly barren side of Scotland pockmarked with moors. Look around at this scenery and, once you learn that Bond was orphaned at a young age, suddenly the martini swigging, skirt-chasing lifestyle makes a lot of sense.  

The new ways creep slowly into Bond’s life. Gone are the vast subterranean villain hideaways carved out of volcanoes and the matching destruction by the equivalent of a nuclear explosion. With the exception of Bond’s entrance into a train — while a Caterpillar wheel excavator tears the back off the train car (by the way, I’ve read somewhere that this shot was NOT computer generated) – the rest of the film’s action has been downsized compared to past Bond films. Shoot-outs, a la those fought at high noon in the American west, erupt in government buildings and very old, decrepit Scottish mansions. It seems old-fashioned, and dare I say a welcome break from the “bigger is better” philosophy that overtook the series 30 years ago (The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, etc.). Heaven help me, even the gadgets have been downsized!

Then there are some new faces in Bond’s world. Naomie Harris gave a fine performance as field agent Eve, keeping pace with Bond’s every move. Ralph Fiennes appears at first as a government bureaucrat who is easily dismissed as not really understanding the spy business. Thus the plot twist at the film's end was no big surprise. Let’s put it this way: Fiennes can look forward to a nice steady role as the Bond franchise continues. (HINT, HINT)

Skyfall has all the ingredients of the classic Bond films: action, exotic locales, and gorgeous women…what more could guys want.

Yeah, definitely a guy film! James Bond forever!!!!!!

(Thank you for reading. No computer generated images were harmed during the writing of this review. Okay, I can’t take it anymore! I’ve got to tell you who dies at the end! SPOILER ALERT:  R.I.P. Aston Martin DB5!)

4 Comments:

Anonymous Janey said...

Does Daniel Craig go full frontal???!!! :-)

November 14, 2012 at 7:05 AM  
Blogger Raybeard said...

Wow, that was certainly a comprehensive review! You carefully tread a tightrope between making pertinent comments and not giving too much away. I doubt if I could have done it so successfully - that is why my own review was much more circumspect about details. Having said that, I'm with you on the general tenor of what you say. Thanks.

November 15, 2012 at 1:47 AM  
Blogger todd gunther said...

Thank you, Raybeard!

November 16, 2012 at 7:33 PM  
Blogger Harper's Keeper said...

Just saw this film this afternoon. Your comments were spot-on. The one part that didn't quite work for me was the grieving Bond. Craig's performance was good,the reaction just didn't ring true to me. Nothwithstanding, liked it very much. I can't even remember the last time I didn't wait for the DVD on a bond film. It was worth it.

December 5, 2012 at 9:01 PM  

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