A blog about movies and filmmaking.

Was That Meant For Me? | SKYFALL

In Uncategorized on November 12, 2012 at 8:58 am

Well, hello there. Been a while. Well, let’s not get all teary-eyed and get straight to business, shall we? And that business today is Bond. (Bet you thought I was going to then say, “James Bond,” didn’t you?) In particular, the new Bond movie Skyfall. What is possibly the last 007 movie with Daniel Craig as the lead character, in a weird way, brings the entire franchise full-circle and closes the loop.

This time around Sam Mendes (AMERICAN BEAUTY) has been handed the reins, along with iconic cinematographer Roger Deakins (many Coen Bros. movies). You may wonder why I’m beginning this review with announcing the director and director of photography. The reason is this is really their movie and not that of Bond or the over-the-top villain (in this case played with a calm, and lethargy, by Javier Bardem). The shots are long and beautiful. There’s still frames and fantastic panning shots. An entire scene is shot in a beautiful LED wash, with lights flashing to and fro, while characters fight in silhouette. Various landscapes are shown in 65mm clarity. The lighting in every shot is magnificent. If for no other reason, see this movie for its visual aesthetic.

But, then there is the Bond story to consider. And what a story it is. While it is in no way ground-breaking, there is a great completion to this era of the franchise. And, makes this movie almost a precursor to everything that’s come before – I mean, the movies starring other “Bond”s, not the other more recent movies. In-fact, it could only be more-so, if at the end Daniel Craig jumped into a time-machine and landed in 1962.

The story begins with Bond chasing a man who has stolen a list (there’s always a list), and instead of breaking into a drop-dead sprint; Bond pauses to tend to a wounded fallen soldier. This, in one of many subtle instances, are the only allusions Skyfall makes to the previous two movies in the current series. Here, Bond, is a little softer. Takes interest in the safety of others. In CASINO ROYALE, he barges through drywall as, in a moment M (played, and returning here, by Judy Dench) calls him, “a blunt instrument.” In both that movie and QUANTUM OF SOLACE – a fantastic movie, though often misaligned and forgotten – Craig is dressed to look like Bond, but acts more of the Jason Bourne-line of action hero. Here, he winds up slowing down, letting the edges soften – and through most of the movie he’s got stubble that would have never flown for Bond before. And in the one moment, after there’s an erotic scene involving Bond shaving, we see him fail in his task. Times they have-a changed, and perfectly coifed spies are no longer the order of the day.

In fact, the entire movie’s theme is about stripping the external away to see what’s below. Bond is back, and looks in peak form. But there’s something off. He’s weakened – from an early gunshot wound as well as weary of his past. His gadgets have been scaled back to only include a gun and a tracking device. There’s numerous key set-pieces set in underground structures. MI6 is forced to go under-ground. There’s a chase through the sub-structures of London, and a moment in another tunnel that leads to a moment of safety through the past. The skeleton of a deserted island off Japan, serves as the villain’s sanctuary. Where, everything is bare-bones and crumbling to bits. All that goes even deeper with the villain, himself; physically perfect on the outside, but his insides have been burnt asunder – through a mishap that is only hinted at visually, one time – but it’s chilling. Especially in how it perfectly echoes – and gives physical appearance – to the misshapen psyche of Bond.

Yes, this is all oblique and obtuse. But that’s part of it. This movie in the most subtle of ways is a throwback to Bond movies of yesteryear, but it’s also a comment on how the past repeats itself and sometimes will come back to bite you in the ass. It’s a very effective and evocative movie, and of course, these things will be most-likely, glossed over for the visual attractions (and often stunning), action set-pieces; like a subway train crashing through its tunnels; bull-dozers eating through trains; and the women (beautifully presented in the forms of Naomie Harris and Bérénice Marlohe). In-fact the biggest physical and audible reaction, I recall from the audience was a moment of homoeroticism, that left people in my audience (disappointingly) gasping, “sick” and “ew”. Which again, calls to mind that while it may appear on the outside America has matured – with the recent election, a narrow race between highly-divergent presidential candidates, and the passing of many same-sex and legalized marijuana ballots – people are still bigoted and close-minded, about these things.

I’m not going to ramble on more, other than to say go see SKYFALL. It’s a fantastic movie. Revel in its Bond-ness. There are moments that hard-core fans are going to geek out about, when they happen – especially during the final act. There are moments that had promise, but fall flat because of the lack of follow through of that idea (namely in a stunt-casting decision, that didn’t quite get the person they probably wanted), or in the mostly anti-climactic final “battle”. But, overall, and it might take a day – as it did for me – the digging deeper moments are going to hit you. We get to see the innards of James Bond, which might make you question what has made you who you are.

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