Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Skyfall (2012)

Growing up on the Pierce Brosnan Bonds will do something to you. At the time lasers, and WWIII and invisible cars and faces encrusted with diamonds are all amazingly cool. The youre age reaches double digits and you start to realise that it's a bit too ridiculous and a bit too out there to be taken seriously. It's even more strikingly obvious that this sort of production had overstayed its welcome when you consider that Madonna sang the theme song for Die Another Day - in 2002. Thankfully, Daniel Craig and co came along and did the "in" thing for the 21st century and gave it a gritty reboot. Less gadgets, more pathos, and even without all the batshit crazy ideas, a lot more fun.

It seems Craig is set to cover most of Bond's career, from his first mission as 007 in Casino Royale to Skyfall where everyone is bleating on about how he's too old and this is a new world. There's a lot of talk about moving on from the "old times", with Q (now played by the youthful Ben Whishaw) pretty much explicitly saying that the times of exploding laser guided dart pens are long gone as he hands Bond a gun and a radio. It's no just thematic either, the Bond's villain is a ghost from MI6's past that has resurfaced to settle and old score. Javier Bardem is Silva, a calculating and charismatic antagonist that barely hides the cold maniac that hides beneath the smiley and polite veneer he puts on.

But plot's never been a strong point for the Bond franchise, even in its new timeline (I mean, does anyone both care and understand what happened in Quantum of Solace? It seems if you understood then you didn't care, and if you cared then you hadn't understood). Although the story's passable here and much an improvement on just about every Bond film plot ever, the real strengths come in characterisation and looking god damned fantastic.

The reboot series from Casino Royale onwards as much concerned with who Bond is as what Bond does. He's no longer a blank canvas who functions as a weapon to be deployed but we know a lot more about him. The whole arc with Vespa in CR and QoS gave us a man who can actually love as well as fuck, and Skyfall gives us a man with a past and story. Many would criticise this, giving the international man of mystery a background, but I much prefer a man with motivations than mystery. It's just a matter of preference really. The only issues I have with the way Bond's past was explained were (minor spoilers): 1) his name is really James Bond? Really? They let MI6 agents operate under their real names? 2) He is essentially Batman.

The Bond franchise's treatment of women has never exactly been progressive, I know, but I was fooled again by the marketing and disappointed by one aspect of the film. The film's only just come on sale on DVD/Bluray so of course there's been a marketing blitz. Everywhere you look there's a 10ft Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem or Bérénice Marlohe - wait, who? Yeah, Ms Marlohe is all over the advertising. I expected the typical Bond-girl fare where she was some version of the good girl who gets turned by the bad guy or vice versa where she's evil but sleeps with Bond and his penis makes her re-evaluate her life choices. But no, the woman who is on probably 1/4 of the advertising is in the film for about 15 minutes and is never mentioned again. I don't have any idea why they even put her on the pos-
 ...I may have figured it out. Damn.

Skyfall has more than just pretty women though, the whole film is a treat for the eyes. Nearly every scene has one shot that'll make you stop and just think "holy shit that's beautiful". Cold, sharp daytime shots contrast beautifully with the warm tones that envelop the night where Bond does much of his work. This is honestly the most beautiful film I've seen in years, and I saw Life of Pi last month. Skayfall's up for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography and in my eyes it's already won, even if the Academy does go the artsy route and pick Life of Pi over it. Without director Sam Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins, this could have been a solid, reasonably entertaining Bond film, but with them on board because an exciting and engaging work of beautiful visual art.

I'll leave it here with some of the best examples of aforementioned art:

 Every city needs to be neon blue at night.


God Damn. Wanna live in those highlands.

 Fuuuuck. Soooo good.

Encapsulating and almost dream-like. Fantastic.
I need a bar like this in my life.

1 comment:

  1. Very good review, some minor spelling errors but nothing too jarring.
    Your style is not pretentious at all. Indeed, as someone who has made sporadic forays into the world of journalism himself, I think you understand that the key to good journalistic writing is a mix of eloquence and glib informality.

    I think that the James Bond series has, for a great many years, suffered from the expectations of its fans. For so long, the character was written as a sex-addicted, shallow buffoon - killing people and all but winking at the camera.

    This was not the conflicted, bitter spy that Fleming created but instead a creature of the tacky exhibitionism that defined the 1960's.

    So, when men like Craig and Dalton attempted to steer the character in a new direction, many people decried this as sacrilege.
    The truth is that Daniel Craig is perhaps the most loyal interpretation of the original character. Sporting an uneasy smile and a set of cold eyes that could freeze Hell.

    And it gives me great pleasure to see that the public has taken to his interpretation, thus making Skyfall a booming success.
    Perhaps this means that the days of Roger Moore - sporting a cheap wig and raising an eyebrow at every display of human emotion - are finally over.

    James Bond is dead, long live James Bond!