Finally! I not only watched a Bond movie for the first time in ages, but I knocked out the most recent one. The same movie I nearly saw in the theaters upon its initial release 18 months ago. The same movie I nearly bought the day it was released on disk. The same movie that has been in my Netflix queue for months.
Better late than never, right?
I forget how I did these in the past, so forgive me if I’ve strayed from the format I’ve used before, or if it’s extra disjointed. I’m out of practice.
So to quickly reset, Daniel Craig took over the role in Casino Royale and, as the kids say, ripped shit up. It was a stunning introduction to the newest Bond. Craig’s next movie, Quantum Of Solace suffered due to a writers strike, but wasn’t terrible.
From moment one of Skyfall, we’re reminded of exactly how Craig has made Bond his own. He strides into a room, jaw clenched, pistol ready, menace radiating from his body. That continues throughout. Never, for a moment, is there any confusion as to which Bond we are seeing. And even now, in his third movie, it is remarkable.
A persistent theme of Skyfall is age. People grow older, skills diminish, old ways are found to be inefficient. Technology, meanwhile, advances, making the impossible accessible; easy, even. That theme is addressed directly at times, notably in how Bond isn’t getting any younger.
But I especially enjoyed the subtle comparison to the old days in the moments when MI6 and Q are able to track Bond’s every movement in real-time. Long gone are the days when Bond flies off to some tropical locale for a mission while the higher ups in London sit back and hope for the best until word of success or failure arrives. Now, he is never off the grid. Unless he turns back the clock and chooses to be, of course…
I remember hearing, when Skyfall was released, how it wasn’t just a great Bond movie, but it was flat out a great movie. It’s certainly not Best Film Oscar material, but that assessment fits. It isn’t just about the story or acting, though. This is a wonderfully directed movie. It is gorgeous to watch. Sam Mendes takes the innate colors of the cities the story rolls through and makes them integral to the picture. Dreary, gray (or grey in this case) London is suddenly made cool by sexy black cars and stylish, athletic people dressed in blueish hues. Shanghai is lit up in glorious Asian pastels. There is a thickness to the scenes shot in the London Underground.
It’s not just color that makes this movie look gorgeous, though. Two scenes in particular, both on trains coincidentally, are fantastically shot. In the opening battle on top of a train, the cameras are kept away from the action. We view the fight through trees and passing landscape. Rarely are the fighters in clear, high definition view, adding to the drama. When Bond is pursuing Silva through a London tube train, the view is compact and crowded, mimicking the feel of being on a rush hour train. These are simple things, but both well done.
Javier Bardem as Raoul Silva
Sometimes Bond villains are so silly you can’t take them seriously. This one, though, is spot on, as a Brit would say. There is the perfect motivation for his evil. He has the perfect plan of attack, a clever, technology-based thrust aimed right at MI6 and M rather than at the broader world. And Bardem is fantastic. Silva is an odd fucking duck, to put it crudely. But not in a cartoony way. You can sense both his original brilliance and his current madness in every scene. He’s an unsettling man to watch. And his entry speech is one of the better introductions to a Bond villain in the series’ history.
Bérénice Marlohe as Sévérine.
A thoroughly delightful companion for Silva. Creepy and odd, but crazy sexy at the same time. I approve.
Naomie Harris as Eve Moneypenny.
Nothing wrong with a British sister kicking some ass. And that accent! Whoo! A bit underused, but it all comes together at the end. She’s Moneypenny! While the original Moneypenny could never have been a field agent, it’s fun to think that her competency and strength were born in field duty rather than just good, old fashioned British fortitude. A lovely way to set up the next few movies. Oh, and that shaving scene was special.
Choosing Adele to sing the title song for a Bond movie made in 2012 was a no-brainer. Like using Sheena Easton in 1981, it was perfect for the time. The song? Not bad. Not bad at all. But given her ubiquity in the two-plus years leading up to the movie, I don’t know that the song is particularly memorable.
Several good quotes I jotted down.
“Gun and radio…”
“Were you expecting an exploding pen? We don’t really go for that anymore.”
A nice bit in the first encounter between Bond and the new, shockingly young, Q. Another sign that these are better movies that those of the past eras. They don’t need gimmick weapons to grab your interest.
“What makes you think this is my first time?”
Brilliant line by Bond when Silva caresses him in a rather suggestive, sexual manner. What made it brilliant wasn’t that you couldn’t imagine Connery or Moore saying it. Times were different, and if they said it, they would be sure to say so with a grin just to make sure everyone knew they had never even thought about having a gay experience. But Craig says it so matter-of-factly that, given the rest of his Bond’s personality, you think, “Yeah, I can see him doing that if it meant success in a mission.”
“That’s a waste of good scotch”
Bond after Silva kills Sévérine when attempting to shoot a shot glass of scotch off her head. A weeeeee bit tasteless, but also shows the cold heartedness of this Bond perfectly.
“How safe do you feel?”
M to the parliament council questioning her. A very interesting, if subtle, point made during our Age of Intelligence Gathering, for lack of a better phrase. Do you want MI6 (and the NSA) snooping, or do you want another 9/11 seems to be her argument. A question that will continue to be addressed for a long time.
Lovely to see the Aston-Martin DB5 return. That is a dead sexy car. And perfect placement, as Bond and M go off-the-grid, and leave behind the modern trappings. A terrific little retro-Bond music as they cruise away from London. And then the subtle dig by M, “It’s not very comfortable, is it?”
Speaking of M, I like that they killed off Judi Dench’s M rather than just brought in a new M, unexplained, in the next movie. And the introduction of Ralph Fiennes as the new M was perfect. He begins as a know-nothing, bureaucratic antagonist, proves himself in the line of fire – with a combat record to boot – and then slides as the new M. Well done one both ends.
People were right. This is a fantastic movie. It is Bond for smart people. Yes, there is violence and action. But there’s also an intelligent story that limits the ridiculous, completely implausible twists. Other than the standard hero beating the odds stuff, most of the movie you think, “That could happen…”
The story is less about brute force than about learning to combine old tools and new to solve cases before too many people are harmed. It’s almost a techno-thriller And rather than the old “ends justify the means” attitude, it addresses the times we live in and how we operate spy programs when we’re not sure who the bad guys are.
And they finish it off with a glorious orgy of ridiculous, over-the-top, military violence. Hey, it’s not perfect.
But it is very good. Certainly one of the Best Bond movies ever.