Daniel Craig lifted the BOND series to a lofty realm with masculine grit and piercing blue eyes not seen since Sir Sean Connery left BOND to descend into a string of half comical, quasi unbelievable riffs on Ian Fleming’s theme.
CASINO ROYALE was an awakening to BOND fans and CRAIG’S rendition of BOND was masterful, to say the least. I found QUANTUM OF SOLACE an even greater journey into BOND’S detective skills and physical virtues despite some mixed reviews. The mixture of disdain and inner world tormoil Craig brought to Bond’s character bordered on the mystical and every frame seemed invigorated. I am certain FLEMING would have been truly proud. In fact, Bond was originally blond with a scar in the Fleming books. It may have taken 50 years, but type casting has returned.
It’s been years since SOLACE, who’s opening scene I play regularly on Blu-Ray, and for some reason the studios decided to put off the next BOND movie. To put off one the world’s greatest tent pole franchises claiming costs or whatever was the kiss of death for Bond, and many will disagree with me, especially since SKYFALL has broken all box office records for a BOND film and many are applauding it as the best BOND movie ever made.
I very much disagree and find it to be one of the most distasteful BOND films. In fact, I find it extremely difficult to watch the film in its entirety. After waiting for so long I was in the theaters on the first opening day, despite my preference to avoid crowds.
The first third of SKYFALL is as I had hoped, despite the obvious fact the studios had waited too many years and Craig (With all due respect) looks to have had a hard time of it. Of course it’s part of the story line, but I feel that the span from SOLACE to SKYFALL was far too long and there are too many quips in the film itself that call attention to Bond’s age.
Roger Deakin’s cinematography is outstanding during the first third of the film, a marvel to watch, heart stopping, as Bond walks from blur to sharp focus, framed in tight shadows. The herald of so much more iconographic moments to sear our eyes. Bond’s target is to retrieve a hard drive with undercover information from one of his fellow agents, Bronson. As a feral animal draped in Tom Ford, Craig commands the scene, searching for the hard drive while his ear is assaulted and commanded by M’s harsh words via earplug communication. Bronson, chaired and bleeding out, is tended to by the tight lipped Bond as M demands him to leave Bronson behind to almost certain death and get that hard drive.
It’s the first cue of M’s methods and how she must focus on getting the work done, even at the expense of her agents, Bond and she both know it. Bond leaves Bronson behind knowing he’s a dead man. This is the spine of the film, showing what must be done and how MI-6 and its agents follow a code of honor for Queen and Country. Even if it comes back to haunt you one day.
This outing with Bond isn’t about a global missile crisis or any of the usual wide range of worldly missions. It’s about the past, aging and knowing you will have to confront yourself in others when death comes to find you, either at the end of a knife or the veil of time.
Car chases give way thankfully to a motorcycle ride over rooftops with a lot of airtime. It had me wondering how much cycle time do agents get? Though I remembered Bond riding in SOLACE also, and let it go.
This ratchets into a fall onto a moving train and in Bond style escalates to bullets and bravery as Bond once more shows his ability to improvise as he uses a shovel tractor to run over a string of VW cars to get to his quarry and the elusive must have hard drive. The tractor shovel rips open the roof of the train car ahead and Bond runs over the tractor’s arm then leaps into the train car, with barely a pause to fix his french cuffs, shrug his shoulder and forward to his target. It’s BOND at his best and what will be one of most remembered BOND moments in history. It epitomizes the character perfectly and Craig creates the mystic wonder with a combination of bravado, sensitivity and grace while wrapping it up in the scent of deadly masculinity. Never underestimate the power of the grey suit properly tailored.
M is still calling the shots from her safe clean office via mobile or satellite to Money Penny demanding her to TAKE THE BLOODY SHOT, to shoot the bugger off the train despite the fact there is no clear shot as the two men fight atop a speeding train.
Once more, M uses her judgement to force the moment without letting Bond play it out and Money Penny mistakenly shoots Bond off the train into a river and over a waterfall, to descend to a watery grave.
The imagery is splendid and engrossing, cue credits and sympathetic hearts.
The opening credits, which had been stellar in the two previous outings with Craig, seemed to be phoned in with the old mirror image tricks and shadowed nude women, whereas CASINO ROYAL and SOLACE were immaculate in design and execution.
This was the first sign that all was not right.
Cut to Bond, scuffed up on an island somewhere, so dreadfully bored he’s drinking with scorpions to squeeze out a thrill from the day. It’s evident Bond’s 007 lifestyle is a habit and without it he would resort to all kinds of games to distract himself.
This is where this Bond film begins its terrible descent into Home Alone meets the Adams Family. The hard drive has been stolen by one of M’s old agents gone rogue, Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), who suddenly has amazing computer hacking skills that would have been rather not possible for a field agent.
Silva blows up MI-6, and tricks M into watching it. When they move quarters to an old Churchill building, supposedly it’s all Silva’s plan. This is all building up to what an incredibly dangerous man Silva is, his planning is impossible for MI-6 to interpret.
When Bond travels to Shanghai he intercepts his train friend in the middle of executing a man looking at a painting, of unknown nature, or why? The ensuing fight scene is the last of the stylistic Bond we will see in the film, aside from a welcome appearance of a transformer called Austin Martin. Most of the battle is in silhouette against a neon blue, classic though a bit derivative.
Now the real pain starts. A found chip leads Bond to, of all places, a gambling club. Severine (Bérénice Marlohe) asks Bond if he knows fear. Of course it’s a fruitless question posed only to explain Silva is the most terrifying man alive and that he has never experienced anything like this man. Poppycock, I say. And so does Bond’s eyes. But maybe that’s the wrong choice of words, as we will see.
If Bond can survive the men that will kill him after she leaves the table, then she will take him on a boat to meet this most fearsome man. There is something lacking at this point in the movie, the direction seems weaker, the camera not as sure. Bond seems not as focused and boredom is setting in.
After another silhouette shower love scene with less fists, the boat sails to a deserted island. All the people have run away from the fearsome man. They walk through the broken roads and to a dilapidated room with debris and computers. Bond is tied to a chair as an elevator slowly descends. The horror is coming, the fearsome man. This must be about half way through the film and I am thinking, this better be good.
The elevator doors open and a rather uninteresting man appears with a tilted smirk, eastern Italian features, blond hair and a habit of letting his wrists go limp and wave through the air as though pointing to Cezanne paintings where there is nothing but lead paint chips. I don’t find this humorous or fearsome in any way, if anything it’s almost pathetic, like an Austin Powers movie.
Suddenly the fear of this man takes on a new mask, a homosexual one as Silva caresses Bond’s chest looking for wounds, making coy sounds with his lips. Then to Bond’s thighs, Silva’s hands linger, making advances to Bond intended to shock or imply an association. Bond’s crooked sneer and he implies he could be gay, or at least dabbled.
Silva fakes shock and draws back. It’s a comical moment and reminded me of Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of The Joker, way over the top.
Bond gay? Uhm, am I in the right theatre? I don’t think this is the right Ian Fleming character. I don’t think this is the right script or the right villain. Oh don’t get me wrong, a gay villain is fine, some of my best friends are gay villains. Yet when a Bond film has a caressing scene of innuendo between two guys that should be killing each other, there better be a damn good reason and I don’t see one here. Aside from the comical nature of the scene, I was bored deeply.
So Silva is pissed about M lying to him and his cyanide not working well enough, and now it’s harder to get dates with a bad face, then he missed the prom and so he took a computer hacking class from the back of a comic book and now he controls the world but merely wants to tell M is for mommy, that he is really upset and wants to die and kill her too and have his tantrum and get some recognition. I think I saw this plotline once in THE L WORD.
To bring us back to our senses, the Austin Martin returns from the past and drives M and Bond to his family home for the final shootout via “Home Alone” style. At this point I am bored senseless and begging for the movie to end, as I am now struggling to end this bad review.
I know that M will die and as she does she will tell Bond that she at least made one good choice and it was having faith in him. I could go on about the past revisited and death renewing us that stay alive and how the whole script was written around Dench leaving the series because of health issues.
It’s best I stop and say, first third great, the rest terribly bad with moments of flashing interests. It was like schoolboy Q vs old guard Bond, while Q makes all the mistakes and gets people killed. Bond cutting out a uranium fragments from his chest with a dirty knife, almost ejecting M from the Martin, Connery style. There’s lots of little quips to keep you alive but after the first act, it’s warmed over chips.
Oh wait, oh no, he didn’t make that train burst through the walls timed perfectly to just miss Bond. Puhlease. And no this isn’t the end cause SKYFALL made too much money. So Craig will get a truck load of cash for the next installment where Bond visits a, oh I can’t say it.