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5. Skyfall (2012), dir. Sam Mendes

I watched this on the plane on the way to New York, which was nice as I missed it in the cinema. Presumably, I saw a slightly censored version, as the cinema release was a 12A, and as far as I understand all films available on in-flight entertainment systems have to be a PG or below. But basically I've seen it.

Overall verdict - jolly good. I've enjoyed the Judi Dench 'era' of Bond, but I guess nothing can last for ever, and she certainly had a very compelling exit. Playing Bond's character off against a bitter former agent made for some good opportunities to explore the personal cost of serving as a double-0 agent, especially when triangulated against the new Eve Moneypenny's ultimate decision not to go into the field herself. Speaking of Naomie Harris, I have always completely loved her in 28 Days Later, so was very pleased to come across her here again. And it is cool to have a new, minimalist techy Q on board as well. I've only seen the actor who plays him, Ben Whishaw, in Brideshead Revisited (2008), where I was distinctly underwhelmed with his petulant teenage Sebastian, but he seemed to work much better in this role.

The action sequences and dry humour that we all basically watch these films for were well in place, as were some fantastic locations. I especially enjoyed the Scottish highland setting for Skyfall itself, having been to very similar country so recently myself, and also Raoul Silva's abandoned industrial island complex. The best line of the film was easily Kincade's response to Bond asking him whether he was ready to face off their attackers at Skyfall: "I was ready before you were born, son" (the line really being made, of course, by a well-timed re-loading of his shotgun).

On the down-side, the stuff about Bond's parents dying when he was a child, and the link between that and his Freudian relationship with M as his substitute-'mother' sometimes came across as a bit cod-psychological. The return to the old-school set-up of a male M in an oak-panelled office and Miss Moneypenny in the ante-room outside could offer fresh opportunities for re-invention and subversion, but it also risks a return to the more misogynistic scripts which originally came with it (not that this one was exactly a feminist triumph - ask Sévérine, the trafficked sex-slave who ended up as a toy, broken in a fight between two men). And Raoul Silva was blatantly an Evil Gay, which I could really have done without.

Still, it was gripping, entertaining and fairly substantial for a Bond film, and I certainly enjoyed its company on a long-haul flight. I will be looking forward to more Naomie Harris in particular in the next instalment.

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Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
swisstone
Apr. 14th, 2013 07:17 pm (UTC)
If you want to see Wishaw being really quite stunningly good, catch the BBC's Richard II.
huskyteer
Apr. 14th, 2013 08:51 pm (UTC)
I think that M, male or female, makes sense as a parent substitute for Bond (whose parents' early death is book-canonical). He/she has been shown over and over again to care for Bond and treat him as a favourite but wayward child, and it's clear that the Service is Bond's real family. Bond is even invited to share M's Christmas dinner in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, although they share the opinion that Christmas dinner is nonsense.

Incidentally, 'M' was Ian Fleming's nickname for his mother...
strange_complex
Apr. 14th, 2013 09:01 pm (UTC)
I don't have a problem with this set-up as part of Bond's story. I just mean that the way it was portrayed in this story came across sometimes as a little over-egged - hence cod-psychological. I think the sharing of Christmas dinner would probably convey it rather more subtly.
huskyteer
Apr. 15th, 2013 07:57 pm (UTC)
Ah, OK! Yes, it was verging on Oedipal by the end...
draxar
Apr. 14th, 2013 09:38 pm (UTC)
I think the main thing I disliked/felt forced for me in Skyfall was Moneypenny going for the desk job.

Her story appears to be "I'm a field agent! Bugger, I fucked up! I'm an awesome field agent, look at me being an awesome field agent! Okay, I'll take a desk job then!"

Beyond the one "Field job's aren't for everyone" comment, there's nothing that gives her a reason to take the desk job, other than shooting Bond at the start, which one hopes all the competence during the rest of the film helped her get over.
strange_complex
Apr. 15th, 2013 08:46 am (UTC)
I do know what you mean, and I'm not at all sure I like the prospect of the person in the subservient secretarial role in future films now being now only female, but black as well. As I've said about the whole oak-panelled office set-up above, that could be played cleverly and effectively, but it could also go so horribly wrong as well.

That said, I think the whole spectacle of Silva, and what can happen to a field agent in extremis is probably also meant to be a factor in her decision. We spend the whole film exploring just how personally damaging it can be, which I think gives a bit more weight to her decision than just one off-hand comment.
draxar
Apr. 15th, 2013 11:03 am (UTC)
Her deciding that she doesn't want to be a field agent isn't so much the issue for me, though I agree the stuff you've mentioned are potential issues.

The issue was that they didn't take us on that journey with her. We saw the initial doubt, after she shot Bond, but there wasn't any development of that. So, you see her knocked back by that, then get over it and be effective in the field, then suddenly decide to not be a field agent.

If they'd've had something where she acted as Bond's eye in the sky, it'd've made more sense, seemed more natural to me.
parrot_knight
Apr. 14th, 2013 11:37 pm (UTC)
I wondered whether Ralph Fiennes was being set up as a villain, and for all his bonhomie, he may well be yet.

The 'Judi Dench era' is an arresting term, of course, but it's a powerful one because it's apt. She has been a draw to the films for the last decade, and will be missed.
strange_complex
Apr. 15th, 2013 08:48 am (UTC)
I wondered whether Ralph Fiennes was being set up as a villain...

Ooh, now that I could very much enjoy, and I think you're right that there's still plenty of room for it to happen. Let's hope so!
rmc28
Apr. 16th, 2013 08:40 am (UTC)
I was actually convinced that he was the villain until the movie ended and he apparently wasn't. So I am totally happy to be proved right all along in the next film :-)
matgb
Apr. 15th, 2013 02:55 am (UTC)
Wishaw was also one of the leads in The Hour, the first series of which is awesome, the second not so much, very effective actor.
danieldwilliam
Apr. 15th, 2013 09:40 am (UTC)
Skyfall may be my favourite Bond film.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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