First things first – Daniel Kleinman’s Skyfall title sequence is brilliant. The British music video director has cranked out all but one of the Bond title sequences since Bill Clinton was President and Remington Steel ran around pompously saying last name,pause, first name, last name. The titles pick up right where the cold open of the movie leaves off with Bond falling into the drink after having been shot by a spy/future lay in Istanbul. Note the arrogance of Bond, as a foreigner from England, running through the streets of Istanbul killing people, messing up traffic and destroying private property. We get a healthy dose of Bond’s ideology right now – the posh, smirking face of first world fascism straight away.
I will lay out my cards on the table – I haven’t seen a “Bond movie” since the days of Timothy Dalton. I grew up enjoying a few of the Connery ones probably due to the fact that one of the characters was called Pussy Galore. Ha ha. All of the ones with Roger Moore were about as cool to me as the original Batman television show, well, aside from the one that had pussy in the title. Hearing so much critical praise for Skyfall I have to admit that I was finally curious to see one after all of these years. I have long wondered what these tired, long-running movie and television series both here and in the UK (to a far lesser extent, especially tv) say about us as a culture. Do we collectively lack the requisite desire and curiosity to seek out new stories? Do we retreat into the comfortable and banal adventures of characters and stories we already know backwards and forwards as cultural reassurance? After watching Skyfall I can’t say that I am any closer to finding a suitable answer but I do know this – if this movie is being hailed as a great film, then we are all in trouble. Deep, deep trouble.
Plot line is basically this – Bond is getting old, MI6 is getting old and England is getting old. New things are slowly invading the once mighty Britain and it’s great spy warrior James Bond just doesn’t seem up to snuff. A villain played by Javier Bardem captures a list of spies and threatens to kill/expose them all to make the MI6 look bad and especially M (Judi Dench) who is the hard lady who runs the spy outfit. The film has a few set pieces, some hot women, a lot of death and violence. It is virtually suspense-free as Bond is hardly ever in enough jeopardy to make you wonder how he’s gonna get out of it, since, you know, he ALWAYS gets away. Why has there been 23 of these films?
Daniel Craig’s blank stare acting supposedly give a whiff of deep introspection to Bond. Funny how in every other role Craig brings this same method acting to, movies like the Dragon Tat film or Invasion or any of the others, it is not greeted with the same encomiums as James Bond gets. His delivery of sub-80’s-era cheesy action movie one-liners is so beyond tired and sad at this stage that maybe its some elaborate post-modern riff that fails to register for me. The lines are not funny or witty in the slightest, they are as lame as anything from Cobra or Commando, except for the British accent. Dench’s M has some of the best one-liners and quips in the movie while Bardem gets in a few good ones too. I didn’t really notice much of the other nondescript actors, that Fiennes guy included.
I will get positive again – the movie had some great locations – Shanghai and Istanbul looked very good in the film and so to do the scenes in Scotland. Old Coen Bros cinematographer Roger Deakins did a great job. The sniper murder in the high-rise and the floating casino were very cool images. Wasted, as with much of this film but still very cool nonetheless. (That is several positive comments btw.)
The music in Skyfall is so LOUD and OVER-THE-TOP that I actually plugged me ears several times.The constant use of the treacly and sentimental Bond theme was flat out annoying. When my ears were plugged I started to notice that the movie’s action sequences were actually very ordinary and downright conventional. Without the high-decibel theme music cue, the action the scenes fell flat. Big time. Yet another cliche that the Bond film exploits its audience with. At least they were clean visually unlike this Michael Bay-esque action scenes with the action so fast & incoherent you have no clue what is going on.
Javier Bardem’s villain Raoul Silva looks an awful lot like Guy Pearce from Memento. It was very distracting at times. Well, it turns out he is connected to M and the MI6. He’s a very smart villain, like amazingly smart. He uses all of this fancy technology to spread terrorism and mayhem all over going so far as to crash a subway train into the parliament building where M is being grilled by MPs as to why there should even be an MI6 anymore. Oh thank you for the proof Mr. Villain, see you doddering govt officials! We need spies to keep us safe! You know, since it was the spies who fucked up and lost the list of spies who are now being killed….oh forget it. We need to be protected! So Silva is now very close to M and he can kill her, exact his revenge and it’s all over, right? Wrong, once the supersmart genius villain gets into the room with M – he has NO PLAN. Nothing. He just stands there with that look of ‘DRATS!’ on his face as M and Bond get away. Sigh. Coincidence has one again saved the supersmart spy James Bond. How long until Silva will get all Scooby-Doo Villian on us I think to myself at this point? About thirty more minutes until he will tell us HUGE CHUNKS OF BACKSTORY. Then the whole story will all fit together. Oh man, this movie is terrible….long and long and terrible.
Now the movie shifts to Bond and M escaping in an old car that was obviously used in earlier Bond movies as I heard people gasp and drool when the saw Bond pull it out of storage. Whatever. He whisks M up to his old family home – Hey, it’s named Skyfall, just like the title of the…oh, right, okay. Brilliant, its the past as present theme again, just brilliant stuff. Oh and look, the house is all boarded up yet Albert Finney is just hanging out in there for some reason, waiting with some exposition to reveal. Sigh. Man this is getting tedious, just get on with the big, self-conscious climax of the villain showing up, peril everywhere and then Bond saves the day. There is a twist to this ending though and you know what that twist is? The filmmakers rip off the ending to Home Alone! Once you go see this masterpiece please come back and prove to me that assertion is false. Home Fucking Alone people. This hyped movie continues it’s sad, tired path to it’s 1,983 minutes of running time (I think it was officially 143 minutes but it sure felt longer) and guess what? It was all a pretense for more Bond movies. A reboot of the series, if you will.
Why this interminably loooooooong running series felt the need to litter this terrible movie with all of the clever winks and nods to new characters grabbing the reins from whatever actors did these roles before, I will never understand. Seems like I remember Prometheus getting taken to the woodshed for all of its nods towards a prequel sequel. I am certain Bond will get a pass for this transgression and all of the other pathetic cliches it regurgitated. Cloud Atlas gets raked over the coals for showing that small, insignificant people have the power to change the world – OH HOW CLOYING AND SILLY! IT’S LIKE RICHARD BACH, BWAAHAHAHA PEOPLE ARE SO STUPID but let’s all bow down to the fascist power of Bond and the technological killing power of the Crown of England. Everyone, bow down on bended knee to the SUPERMAN who gets saved by the same newbie spy gal who shot him a few reels back, but never mind that, BOND is so smart! So dashing! So crafty when there’s a young dude back at MI6 using computers to tell him what to do and where to go.
You know who were the only characters I cared about in this movie? Bardem’s henchmen. Yep, that’s right, all of those nameless, faceless Red Shirts were the only characters in the whole film I wanted to know more about. I wondered where he recruited them, Craigslist? Is there some sort of secret villain website one can setup a profile on to select what supersmart villain you want to work for. Do they judge their villains on benefits or how awesome their diabolical plans are? I’ve always loved the role of the henchmen, hopefully someday they will all get their due.
Pull quote – “Crap – pause – Piece of Crap.”
Alternate quote – “Home Alone ending people. Home. Alone.”
This review appears at MILE HIGH CINEMA