Saturday, November 10, 2012

"Skyfall" (2012) -- Initial Thoughts

When I got in the car to go see "Skyfall" this morning, Adele's theme song for it was playing on the car radio.  An auspicious sign, eh?  I'd really never heard it all the way through, and I quite liked it.  I haven't really jumped on the Adele bandwagon, but if anything would tempt me to, it would be this song.  (Watch the official video here.)  It harkens back to the great Bond movie themes, the ones you can belt to the rafters like "Nobody Does it Better," yet also reminds me a lot of the songs for GoldenEye and Casino Royale.   Quite the heady mix, and it got me very much ready for a sweet, adrenaline-laced ride.  I hoped I wouldn't be disappointed like I was last time around.

And I wasn't.


Skyfall is not as sleek and insouciant as Casino Royale.  However, it is also not as clunky and glitchy as Quantum of Solace.  It is cheekier than both of the previous Daniel Craig outings, but also more heartfelt.  Stop reading right here if you don't want spoilage, because I am going to spoil a whole lot of stuff, and if you haven't seen this yet and really want to, you are gonna be mad at yourself if you read the rest of this post.  Trust me, just close the browser tab and come back once you've visited the theater.

Okay, you've been duly warned.

Linger here and gaze at your own peril.  You could drown in those eyes.

Let's begin with the opening sequence, shall we?  This one is jam-packed, with a car chase, a motorcycle chase, and a good, old-fashioned fist-fight on top of a train.  Which goes on to involve an excavator -- I kept thinking how I can't wait for Dano to be old enough to watch movies like this, because he would love the whole excavator part (if it wasn't for all the shooting going on during it, I'd show him that part just cuz it'd probably make him laugh in glee).  But this opening sequence deviates in one very important way from all other 007 movies (at least, the ones I've seen), making it very clear that this movie is going some different places.  James Bond does not win.

In fact, he doesn't even come close to winning, though through no fault of his own.  He gets shot by his own teammate, thus raising the question of just who we -- and he -- can trust.

But, obviously, he can't have actually died only ten minutes or so into the movie.  When he returns, he's haggard, he's haunted, and above all, he's not entirely sure he's up to this job anymore.  In other words, he's quite delicious.

Look who needs a hug!
M tries her best to bolster his (and her) confidence, a new Q arms him (and delivers my favorite line of the movie:  "Were you expecting an exploding pen?  Because we don't really go in for those anymore."  I laughed and laughed), and dear James gets sent off to Shanghai after the guy who killed off another agent at the beginning of the movie and stole, well, basically the equivalent of the NOC list from Mission:  Impossible (1996), but hey, new MacGuffins are hard to find these days.

I knew, from reading reviews of this movie, and interviews with various people involved, that they were bringing back some of the quips and bon mots that had mostly been missing from the last two movies.  I was expecting to laugh, and I did, quite a few times.  I was not expecting, however, that I would cry.  I don't think I have ever cried during a James Bond movie.  But I cried at the end of Skyfall.  Because M dies, cradled by Bond in a sort of reverse Pieta that was hauntingly filmed and achingly well acted.

Which brings me to the subject of Sam Mendes, who directed this.  I've seen two of his previous movies, American Beauty (1999) and Road to Perdition (2002).  I didn't care much for the former, but the latter is one of my favorite neo-noir movies, and it made me hope a great deal that Skyfall was not going to have the crummy camera-work and wonky pacing of Quantum of Solace.  Again, I did not hope in vain.

Remind me again why you drove me to the middle of nowhere, Bond.
I have to think that the dead guy in the bathroom at the beginning of this is a nod to the way Daniel Craig's character died in Road to Perdition, and it made me grin.  Also, the last part of the movie, where James Bond and M go on the run, just them and a car, reminded me a great deal of the father and son on the lam in Road, only with the "son" driving and protecting and planning.  Even the ending, with them confronting their pursuers in a house miles from anywhere, had echoes of Road.

Okay, anyway, Skyfall has lots of great nods and winks to the classic 007 movies, from the Aston Martin with the ejector seat and machine guns, to a bunch of Komodo Dragons circling around under a walkway, very like those sharks from Thunderball (1965).  It also as the creepiest 007 movie bad guy since... um... since Christopher Lee in The Man with the Golden Gun (1974).  (And that's saying a lot, since we all know Christopher Lee = Ultra Creepy.  When he wants to be.)  Javier Bardem's Silva is creeeeeeeepy, and I don't mean just cuz he hits on Bond in the creepiest way he can manage, or because he can take out his top teeth.  He exudes creeeeeeepiness and is scary in the that-guy's-brain-is-a-bag-full-of-cats way you can't figure what he'll do next.

Only a crazy person would wear that shirt, amiright?
Actually, speaking of Loki, they put Silva in a glass prison cell that had me instantly thinking of the cage on the helicarrier where Nick Fury stashed Loki.  And also of Magneto's plastic prison in X-Men and X-2.  Hmm.

Anyway, by the end of the movie, we have a new Q, a new M, and a new Moneypenny.  But the same Bond.  Whew, cuz I like the way Daniel Craig fills Bond's tuxedo (literally and figuratively), and I'm not in any hurry to see him replaced.

Oh, and also, is Albert Finney ever anything less than delightful?  I can't believe how many UK acting heavyweights are in this movie!  Finney, Dame Judi Dench, and Ralph Feinnes... I kept expecting to see Ian McKellen pop up somewhere.  Guess I have to wait for next month for my Gandalf fix, though.

One last note -- kudos to the filmmakers for staying classy and not letting this devolve into soft porn.  All (all!) the love scenes faded to black at appropriate moments.

In sum, is this my new favorite 007 movie?  No.  I still love GoldenEye and Casino Royale best.  But I look forward to seeing this again.  (From Redbox or something, Cowboy -- stop panicking!)


  1. Thanks for the comments. Tom wants to see this next weekend. I <3 Javier Bardem anyway. Looking forward to it, but not as much as The Artist (which I just got from the library -- again) or the Hobbit!

    1. Got to see the preview for The Hobbit before this! And for Iron Man 3, and five or six other things...

  2. May or may not see this one upon it's release. It'd be my first Bond if I did. ;D Super glad you liked it.

    1. Really? Your first Bond? Oh my! Watch "Casino Royale" (2006) while you wait for this, it's amazing too. (And also tasteful!)

  3. I am absolutely in love with Skyfall! I could literally finish the movie and start it again, I love it that much.

    Annnnnd, it's also what unleashed the closet Craig fangirl in me. I didn't even know she was there until I saw Skyfall. Then out she popped and now I have the worst admiration for the man. He's just . . . delicious. His eyes, his features, everything about him is so perfectly proportioned. *cough* All right, moving on.

    What did you think about that scene when Bond's captured by Silva? I thought it was exquisitely done without showing too much. It was just scary enough, mostly because it rattled Bond's calm. And Craig plays a deadly calm Bond.

    I especially loved the analogy that Silva came up with about the rats on the island. I used that example in my last college class on leadership! It was awesome!

    So cool that you're a Bond fan. I think I'm turning into one. Should I watch the movies in order or are there are any you would recommend first?

    1. I just rewatched it with a friend a couple months ago, and man, it is just sooooooooooooo good.

      I've liked Craig as Bond since Casino Royale, and I was kind of surprised to like him so much because Pierce Brosnan is my favorite Bond, so I was quite prepared not to like his replacement.

      That scene where Silva hits on Bond? Oh man, exquisite! They're both playing with each others' heads, trying to figure each other out -- it's brilliant.

      I've been a Bond fan for a long time. I don't know if I'd recommend going at them in order, though, as you might get bogged down in some of the less-great ones. My favorites are GoldenEye, Casino Royale, Skyfall, Thunderball, and The Spy Who Loved Me.

      If you want more knowledge about the classic Bond movies, my friend Deb has been doing reviews of them in order on her blog. She hasn't posted a new one for a while, but here's a link to all the ones she's done so far.

      I guess I would maybe recommend trying Thunderball and The Spy Who Loved Me to get a taste of Sean Connery and Roger Moore, and GoldenEye is the best Brosnan for sure. I can't say much about Timothy Dalton's because I've only seen one so far. My dad didn't like Dalton as Bond, so we never watched those when I was at home.

      (Random note about GoldenEye and half of why it's my favorite: Sean Bean is in it!!!)

  4. "From Russia With Love" is the best Bond, IMHO, because it's a true, clear spy movie, with a minimum of gadgets, the villain isn't a megalomaniac with a headquarters in a volcano and it could have (and may have) happened.

    Javier Barden should be careful or he'll get cast as lunatic killers -- his character here is scary, but nothing compared to his character in "No Country for Old Men", which is a truly great movie.

    I also really loved Timothy Dalton's Bond -- I think he's most like the books, really. I fought against Daniel Craig, whom I admire as an actor, but after this, he's grown on me.

    1. I forgot -- did anyone else think the new Q looked like an almost grown-up Harry Potter? :)

    2. FRWL doesn't touch me for some reason. It feels like a pretty puzzle, but I can never actually remember what it's about after I've seen it.

      And I'm really looking forward to seeing Ben Whishaw (Q) in "The Hollow Crown." If I don't get it for my birthday, I'm going to have to break down and buy it. Not sure I'd quite go for him as a Harry Potter, though -- face is too pointy.


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