13 November 2012

Skyfall (Sam Mendes, 2012, UK)

A few years ago I had only seen a few of the Pierce Brosnan James Bond films and Dr. No. At the time I had a job where not much happened, but I could basically watch TV all morning, and Spike had a Month of Bond thing where they played almost all of the Bond movies in chronological order. Honestly, I'm not that huge a fan of the series. I liked some aspects of some of the installments and I liked some films better than others. I probably liked Sean Connery the least and possibly Pierce Brosnan the best, but I'm not sure. Anyway, I say all this to put in context my assertion that I think that Skyfall is probably the best James Bond movie I've ever seen. It has a lot of the weaknesses that characterize the previous films, and it leans heavily on the template that pretty much every James Bond movie is structured by. As usual there are two love interests here, but the interesting one (aka, the bad one for whom things don't work out too well) is probably among the most mesmerizing Bond girls in history. Honestly, I'm having trouble writing about this movie because in order to discuss how it fits in with the tropes of the series there are all kinds of spoilers that come into the equation. I guess what's interesting is that this movie fulfills most of the expectations you'd have for a Bond film, but it does so in ways that are sometimes inventive or even challenging to the canonical representations, particularly the role of Moneypenny, who appears very late in the film.

My boyfriend, like some of the reviewers I've read, complained that many of the action sequences seem weirdly slow or non-thrilling. I agreed, but I felt like it fit into the larger agenda of the film, all character development and ruminations on what it means for him and M to still be at this. Much of the acting is pretty good, particularly by Bérénice Marlohe (the bad girl, pictured above) and Judi Dench (as usual, M). Daniel Craig, Ben Whishaw (Q for Quartermaster), and Naomie Harris (Eve) are pretty strong as well, though Whishaw and Harris have weaker moments to offset their stronger moments. Javier Bardem is generally strong in his performance, though it sometimes (as is probably appropriate for a James Bond film) borders on cartoonish. The one off note for me was Ralph Fiennes. In fact, his first scene is a conversation with Judi Dench, which really becomes an object lesson in why she's considered such a great actress. Compared to him, she's so present in her role, so in command of what she's doing. There are a few criticisms you could make, particularly about the tightness of some of the action sequences, but except for one thing, which takes up less than thirty seconds of screen time but still manages to almost sink the entire film, I wasn't particularly bothered. But then, there's that thing that happens. I'd heard people talking about how absurd it is what the characters do in a pivotal moment of the film, acting stupider than anyone ever would for no particular reason at all, and as the movie progressed I had started to wonder if I was somehow missing what those actions were. Let me tell you, if you go see the movie, you will know it when you see it. It's like something from Scooby-Doo or one of those stupid spoof comedies like Scary Movie. I really couldn't believe it. The shock of it has dissipated and I'm not bothered by it as much as when I was watching the movie, but last night in the theater, I felt like my mind was blown by the inexplicably stupid direction the film seemed to be taking. Oh well.
For what it's worth, I also quite liked the Adele song and think it fit in with the movie better than they sometimes do, and the opening montage was also generally well executed.

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