Skyfall: Anti-Chicken Little
I went to see Skyfall last week. As a long-time Bond watcher (I hesitate to say something like, “aficionado”), I had a significant degree of trepidation for this movie. The previous film, Quantum of Solace, was so abominably bad that I nearly walked out of the theater in disgust. After the promise shown in Casino Royale, it was inexcusable that they put forth such a paltry effort.
Therefore, when I heard they would be releasing Skyfall on the 50th anniversary of the first Bond movie, Dr. No (in itself a fun if not particularly memorable movie save for the scene with Ursula Andress stepping on-shore), I was somewhat skeptical that it’d even be worth it. The cavalcade of positive reviews for the international release only deepened this skepticism, given my low opinion and general distrust of most movie reviewers and the fact that they are generally not too friendly towards movies of this type.
So I went to see it anyway. I’ll go ahead and state the TL;DR version: it was so much better than Quantum of Solace that my movie-going palate has been sufficiently cleansed for future movies. It’s no Thunderball or From Russia With Love, but it was enjoyable and restored of my faith in the franchise.
One unavoidable aspect of any Bond review is the matter of Daniel Craig. I’ve heard people talk about raw sexuality and animal magnetism and stuff, but I don’t see it. It could have to do with my being neither female nor homosexual, but I can sense little charm or charisma present in the man.
Whether this is a professional failing or the fault of the director, I don’t know, as I’ve not seen him in any other capacity. With that said, I did sense some chemistry there between him and his partner at the start of the movie, and later a rapport with M herself. This inclines me to believe it’s to some degree a directorial matter. I think he did a much better job in this movie than in the previous two of making Bond have something less of a mechanical feel and a little more humanity if, sadly, none of the classic Bond swashbuckling wit.
Judi Dench’s M is what I’ve come to expect from her: stern and in-control, with the sensibility of a Vince Lombardi, whose job is to wring every drop of performance out of her staff by any means necessary. She’s tough on Bond because he needs tough, but she also exhibits a trust in him that has been cultivated over time…I would venture even before the events of the previous two movies, despite the continuity change that occurred following Pierce Brosnan’s tenure. This movie deals with that seemingly loose string in surprising fashion, which I shall not spoil here.
I was expecting Javier Bardem’s villain, Raoul Silva, to be as diabolically evil and cruel as his character of Anton Chigurh from No Country For Old Men, for which he won an Academy Award. While quite diabolical, he comes across as a genuinely creepy individual whose cheerful demeanor hides a world of vindictive malice. Granted, this guy can do anything he wants with a computer, which was pretty overblown (hey, Bond villain…he has to be unreal) but also was an angle that gave him unparalleled power and control that had to be overcome. And he has some major “mommy issues” with M and how she treated him on his final assignment.
At this point, I encourage those who haven’t seen the movie but intend to see it before long should skip everything between here and the end.
Years previous, M had essentially left Silva to die in the field rather than mount a rescue. As a result, he underwent intense torture for months, holding out until he realized she wasn’t coming for him. Biting his cyanide capsule hidden in a molar, he was hideously burned and eventually released. With prosthetics hiding the damage done to his face, he seeks revenge against M and her organization.
Bond, who’d been accidentally shot by his partner, Eve, and believed dead on a previous assignment, comes in after Silva begins his campaign against M by destroying MI6’s office. The person he was chasing turns out to have been working for Silva, which initiates contact between hero and villain.
Following Bond’s “death”, M was put under pressure from the British government to resign due to losing the information Bond was trying to get back–info on NATO secret agents–by Gareth Mallory, the new Intelligence & Security chair. Hearings are held, at which time Silva attacks and attempts to kidnap her. Bond pulls her out and carries her to his ancestral home in Scotland, Skyfall. It is here that they battle things out. Silva is eventually killed, but not before mortally injuring M, who dies in Bond’s arms.
At the end, Mallory becomes the new M. Eve, who has since become his liaison (re: secretary), is revealed to actually be Eve Moneypenny. And the new MI6 office bears more than a striking resemblance to the classical MI6 office from the previous generation Bond movies.
Personal takeaways from this movie include the following:
- There was plenty of action, but surprisingly few adventures between the bedsheets…uncharacteristic of a Bond movie.
- The re-establishment of the Bond franchise to the status-quo of the old movies (M != Judi Dench, a new Moneypenny managing the familiar old office, and the return of Q…even as more computer guru than quartermaster) was a welcome change. Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Desmond Llewelyn…you aren’t forgotten.
- Why are the hottest Bond chicks in the past few outings used for ten minutes and then cast aside/become villains/become worm food? Sévérine was drop-dead gorgeous but soon was just drop-dead.
- Silva making a pass at 007 was a hoot. Craig really sold Bond’s discomfort at the notion. It of course was meant to show how old-fashioned and out-of-place the character is in modern times, but still…
- Why in the heck did it take 45 minutes for us to even get a hint as to who the villain really was?
- I am hoping that the single worthwhile contribution to the lore from Quantum of Solace (the introduction of Quantum, which sounds decidedly SPECTRE-like) will crop up in future films, especially given how “throw-back” the ending was in terms of look-and-feel for Bond flicks.
- The introduction was suitably trippy but not really that impressive to me. Adele’s title song sort of fell flat, as all I heard was “croon croon croon Skyfall croon croon croon”.
While not the greatest of all Bond movies, Skyfall thankfully sidesteps the abomination that was Quantum of Solace and completes the reboot begun in Casino Royale. We’re officially ready for 50 more years of Bond./a