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!|
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.|
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?|
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!)