WDEL Blog: Eclectic Hobbies with Allan Loudell

Movie Review: Latest James Bond installment, "Skyfall"

We finally got around to seeing "Skyfall" (at the Newark theater, always cheaper!) in high anticipation given the mostly positive initial reviews.

More than most, this Bond flick offered strong character development. Near the end, we learn more about the circumstances of Bond's childhood than in any other Bond flick than I can recall.

Characteristic of Daniel Craig's Bond, this movie is grittier and more realistic. (My bias: Although I grew up to Roger Moore as Bond - some of the more campy films - I've always been drawn to more realistic plots. For that reason, from the Roger Moore era for example, I most appreciated the plot of the 1983 Bond movie, "Octopussy", where General Orlov plots to detonate a nuclear bomb on a U.S. military base in then-West Germany, to trigger an anti-U.S. backlash, and hence a precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces from western Europe.)

If that Bond flick near the end of the Cold War reflected the temperament of the times (The Soviet leadership pursuing detente, with some petty corruption and profiteering beneath the Soviet facade), "Skyfall" reflects our times (Britain without her Empire; the specter of terrorism, indeed London's subway bombings; interminable Parliamentary hearings on the role of a modern intelligence service and its missteps). Further accentuating this new world: The majestic scenes from Shanghai. Indeed, China seems to have advanced explosively even from the scenes in the 1997 Bond flick (with Pierce Brosnan as Bond), "Tomorrow Never Dies".

Other things which struck me about "Skyfall" (without completely revealing the plot, in case you haven't seen it!):

So many have commented already on the opening sequence of this latest Bond movie. For the first time ever, Bond appears to die in the opening; that morphs into the striking visuals of the movie's formal beginning, of course, incorporating women and guns. Bond reappears, but we never get an explanation as to how he managed to survive -- or resurrect. (Of course, the Jason Bourne character resurrects in that movie franchise, and we never get a full explanation either!) But whatever the circumstances, this new Bond is a slightly physically diminished Bond.

Also, for the first time ever in the Bond franchise, two women - M and the woman we will later discover to be Eve Moneypenny - have life-and-death powers over Bond. (Indeed, they blow it!)

Bond's antagonist is a cruel cyber-terrorist, Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), who in circumstances and motivations reminded me most of Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean), traitorous agent 006 in "Golden Eye" (Another Pierce Brosnan). Unlike Silva, though, Alec was a one-time best friend of James Bond. Could the Silva character have been inspired by Julian Assange?

Like Assange, Silva is out to out Western (British) interests, and expose agents.

The "Bond girl" who dies in the middle of the movie, Severine (Berenice Lim Marlohe) visually and stylistically seemed to replay Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen) from "GoldenEye". So I was not shocked to read - after seeing the movie - that Bernice Lim Marlohe had drawn inspiration from Janssen's portrayal of a Bond villainess.

The most fascinating part of this movie - what really elevates this movie from most of the half-century Bond franchise - is the expanded, multidimensional role played by M (Judi Dench). Indeed, when one learns what M did to Silva, one briefly can sympathize with the villain, almost unheard of in a Bond flick. (M tells Bond how she handed over Silva to the Beijing authorities during the Hong Kong transition, after he was found to have done offensive hacking without authorization. She received six British agents in return. Silva was tortured. He tried to end his life with a cyanide capsule, only to live in suffering: A destroyed dental plate and tortured face hidden with prosthetics.) In a way, Silva became expendable in a bureaucratic labyrinth just as Bond did in that opening scene.

M's entire career and legacy are on trial in this movie. You've probably read or heard - even if you haven't seen the movie - that this was Judi Dench's last Bond. So the complex M--Bond relationship is played to the hilt, ending with a touching farewell to M.

The only part of this Bond movie which forced my mind to wander: The climactic scenes in that old Bond "Skyfall" estate. As Bond, M, and Kincade (Albert Finney) fortify that estate for the final battle - using whatever was available - I was reminded of the scenes in the "Home Alone" franchise, if ever so briefly.

Regardless, I highly recommend "Skyfall". But don't go for the gadgets or humor of some previous Bonds. (Perhaps Bond's commandeering of a construction digger on that train in the opening sequence constitutes the one reference to the Bond franchise's earlier, more cartoonish times. That part reminded me of the battle in the caviar factory from "The World is Not Enough", where a giant rotating blade suspended from a helicopter scissors through the factory -- and Bond's BMW Z8!)

Posted at 2:25pm on November 23, 2012 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Sun, Nov 25, 2012 6:24pm

Respectfully, I'd have to disagree with Mr. Loudell.

We first have to acknowledge that the Bond franchise has traditionally been an action movie, replete with car chases, gunfights and fistfights. While Skyfall starts with a nice action scene, but gets bogged down in cliche and not-so-witty repartee for the next two hours.

There is a 20 to 25 minute dialogue (which seems much longer) between Daniel Craig and Javier Bardem, which is unheard of in modern movies, especially a James Bond flick. Even more annoying is that the dialogues are not nearly as clever as the screenwriter thinks it is. (Ever go to a party and meet a loudmouth who thought he was funny, but nobody else did?)

To me, Skyfall was truly disappointing. This was like going into a Lonestar Steak House....only to find a vegetarian menu.

Allan Loudell
Mon, Nov 26, 2012 6:02am

You have a point. I was struck by some of the "down times" too (which of course, is what movie critics love; they abhor chase scenes and gunfights!). I didn't time it, but 20--25 minutes seems to be a bit of an exaggeration; perhaps it SEEMED like 20--25 minutes to you!

Allan Loudell

Mon, Nov 26, 2012 1:29pm
I'm a relative young-un at 36 years old, so the Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan movies are what I grew up on (we'll just ignore that pair of horrible Timothy Dalton flicks). Haven't really gone back to watch the classics, I admit. But I can without doubt or equivocation say Skyfall is the best Bond I've seen. Loved the whole thing, start to finish. Even the dialog scene between Craig and Bardem. The nods to the past with the old car (and M with the eject button), the setting up the future with the passing of the "M" torch. To me, it was everything that the 50th Anniversary Bond and first in 5-ish years needed to be. Love it, and am honestly trying to figure out how to get back to a theater to see it again.

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