Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


"Skyfall:" Bond's family estate in Scotland
SKYFALL (2012). Director: Sam Mendes.

MI-5 is on high alert: a computer drive with a list of undercover agents in terrorist groups has been stolen, but while attempting to get it back James Bond (Daniel Craig) is accidentally shot by a fellow agent. Bond takes his time reporting back for duty, only to discover that the info on the drive is being used to kill many other agents; even headquarters comes under attack. The mastermind behind this is a highly disgruntled former agent, Silva (Javier Bardem), who is out to take down the whole network and especially M (Judi Dench) whom he chiefly [pun intended] blames for his troubles. Skyfall is somewhere between the excellent Casino Royale and disappointing Quantum of Solace in quality. There is not nearly enough plot for a movie that is almost two and a half hours long, and Bond has been turned into a very callous and unemotional creature. At one point he does nothing to stop an assassination [we never even learn who the victim was], and seems unperturbed by the death of a woman who helped him [admittedly he takes down the bad guys immediately thereafter]; even Roger Moore would have shown more emotion during such scenes. Most incredibly, Bond simply shows up in the shower of a woman that he knows has been manhandled by men since the age of 12 [Ian Fleming's Bond may have been a lover boy but he showed women more respect.] In fact the film has a general streak of misogyny through it, and M seems especially inept; at one point the villain breaks out of confinement with such ease that it's almost laughable.

Skyfall is the name of Bond's estate in Scotland, where he takes M for a final stand against Silva and his allies. As Silva, Javier Bardem is pretty awful; he seems to be channeling his inner Joker. A scene when he questions Bond and tries to make him uncomfortable by sort of coming on to him is meant to be homoerotically hip, but instead it seems dated, a throwback to the nasty gay villain. [For the record Silva's sexual orientation is never really established.] Silva tells Bond, "there's a first time for everything," to which Bond replies "what makes you think this is my first time?" which some have interpreted as Bond being bisexual when such is not the case. In any case, the scene doesn't really work.

The film has some striking cinematography by Roger Deakens [another reason why the movie has been vastly over-praised], some exciting action sequences involving high-speed trains and the like, and has recaptured some of the romantic atmosphere and elegance of earlier Bond films. Thomas Newman's music is generally helpful. Craig and Dench are competent, and newcomers Naomie Harris [the agent, Eve, who becomes the new Miss Moneypenny], Berenice Marlohe [as the seductive Severine] make a favorable impression. Ralph Fiennes is in the running for M's job, and a nearly unrecognizable Albert Finney plays the Bond family gameskeeper and figures in the finale. Director Mendes at least keeps things moving.

Verdict: Despite its many good points, this is far from being a great 007 outing. **1/2.

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