Skyfall

The latest James Bond film lacks the preposterous fun we’ve come to expect from 007.

With Skyfall, the transformation of James Bond from the steely womanizer of the old Ian Fleming spy novels and the early Sean Connery movies is complete. Reinvigorated six years ago in the wake of the first two Bourne films, with dour Daniel Craig stepping into the role, Bond is now a thoroughly modern hero, his emotional vulnerabilities here rounded out with mortal concerns and even mommy issues. This may be a shrewd market calculation in a relentlessly sensitive age, but it undercuts the preposterous fun of the Bond world—which had grown too preposterous over the years, it’s true, but is nevertheless missed in its complete absence.

And since the Bond character is at this point one of many in the cinematic action pantheon, it doesn’t help that he’s now been put into the hands of Sam Mendes, who is not an action director. Mendes, deservedly esteemed for movies like American Beauty and Revolutionary Road, seems tantalized by a kind of complicatedly choreographed pandemonium with which we’re already familiar. Compelled to come up with a spectacular action sequence of the sort that opens every Bond film, he gives us a motorcycle chase through Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar (with much predictable fruit-stand damage), a pursuit across the city’s colorful rooftops, and a violent confrontation atop a speeding train. All of this is staged with painstaking care, and it’s certainly not dull; but for the most part we’ve seen it—or something very much like it—before.

Bond is pursuing an assassin who has made off with a hard drive containing the names of every British undercover operative—an item that Bond’s boss, MI6 chief M (Judi Dench once more), is desperate to retrieve. Bond fails in the attempt, and winds up nursing his wounds in a beach house not unlike the one in which we found Jason Bourne in the opening of The Bourne Supremacy. (Bond is also seen here knocking back a bottle of Heineken, the placement of which reportedly covered a large chunk of the movie’s budget, which was no doubt further lightened by contributions from the Omega watch people.) 

Back in London, M is being pushed toward retirement by a new intelligence overlord named Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), who feels that her Cold War spy shop is a useless relic in an age of international terrorism. “We can’t keep working in the shadows,” he says. “There are no more shadows.” Returning home, Bond finds himself similarly undervalued—he’s getting old and gray, and it’s felt he should really pack it in. But M, exhibiting a fondness for Bond that can only be called maternal, wants him kept aboard. MI6 headquarters has been blown up in a sudden computer-hacking assault, and only Bond can get to the bottom of it. He starts by scoring some new gear from a disconcertingly young Q (Ben Whishaw) during a secret meet-up in the National Gallery, where they pretend to contemplate a Turner masterwork. (Why they should feel the need for a clandestine rendezvous in the heart of London doesn’t bear much contemplation.) Soon Bond is off to Shanghai with a young agent named Eve (Naomie Harris, of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies). There they encounter a mysterious woman named  Sévérine (Bérénice Marlohe, playing the traditional doomed Bond girl), along with a number of testy thugs and even a pit full of boat-size Komodo dragons. Finally, Bond finds himself face to face with the villain of the piece, a curious character named Silva (Javier Bardem), who I thought was also problematic.

Silva is a former MI6 agent who feels he was betrayed into enemy captivity years before by M—clearly a mother figure to him—and is now seeking revenge. He’s a formidable computer genius ensconced on a remote island; but as played by Bardem, with a bleached mane and borderline-mincing manner, he just doesn’t seem all that evil. He’s mainly hurt by M’s treatment of him, and in classic abandoned-child fashion, he’s lashing out.

Silva gets the best of Bond at first, and ties him to a chair. This allows a baffling moment in which Silva runs a finger around on Bond’s bare chest and then slides his hands up Bond’s thighs. It’s an awkwardly homoerotic scene that serves no purpose in the plot, and you can’t help wondering if it was included in the movie solely as a racy talking point for pre-release publicity.   

In any case, Bond soon escapes and, with M in tow, makes his way to Scotland, ancestral home of the Bond family, where they’re greeted by the ancestral caretaker, a pointless character named Kincade (Bourne veteran Albert Finney). I never particularly wanted to know anything about Bond’s family sorrows (Fleming himself was only glancingly concerned with the man’s origins), and while some may find that this interlude lends Bond a touching new dimension, mopery doesn’t really become him.

The movie has some passages that are beautifully photographed (by the reliably excellent Roger Deakins), chief among them a trip to a casino across a lagoon filled with glimmering lanterns and a wild fight backgrounded by the neon riot of a Shanghai night. And while Craig, in his tight little Tom Ford suits, seems more grimly over-wound than ever, Bardem is at least an amusing, if not especially malevolent, presence. It must also be said that Adele’s richly scored theme song is one of the greats.

But at the end—which arrives nearly two and a half hours after the beginning, and features a startlingly lunky bit of sequel foreshadowing—you may find yourself missing the genial fizz and the outsize characters of the best of the old 007 films. Skyfall is a big action movie that does its job in an efficient way. But as was the case with the two previous installments in the long-running series, the earnest new Bond world it presents is really not enough.

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  • Bee Tagger||

    Suderman locked Loder in the theater so that he could get his review up first. The constant pro that Loder is, I bet he filed this before showering or calling the police.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    I'll just make my statement about Lincoln here. Anyone wanna bet it's sentimentalist, Spielbergian love letter to the Cult of the Presidency? Sorta like Disney's Hall of President The Movie!

  • Caleb Turberville||

    And, by the way, the latest incarnation of Disney's Hall of Presidents features Obama with narration by Morgan Freeman...and I'm NOT kidding.

  • Loki||

    That makes sense. Anytime something complicated needs to be explained Morgan Freeman always shows up to explain it so that he can earn another freckle.

  • Lord Humungus||

    For anyone who likes a good vintage spy series, check out Donald Hamilton's Matt Helm books. The early ones are gritty - the main character doesn't use space age tricks, just guns and cynicism.
    http://www.matthelmbooks.com/

    The writer was really into hunting and boats, so his accurate descriptions of shooting and gun handling are also educational.

  • LemonMender||

    And skip Ted Bell’s Alex Hawke books, which manage to make Bond books and movies seem like cinema verité and make Rush Limbaugh look like a nuanced leftist. For Bell, what we really need is a border fence and a bigger military presence to hunt down bad guys.

  • squarooticus||

    I guess I'm a heathen because Craig and Dalton are my favorite Bonds: I never really got the Connery playboy thing, and while I enjoyed the Moore blue-blood slapstick when I was a kid, I have no desire to ever watch those films again.

    (George Lazenby was fine, too, but I've only seen that movie once. And I didn't think Pierce Brosnan was believable as Bond; his style more fits a movie like the remake of the Thomas Crowne Affair, which was a fantastic movie.)

  • Pro Libertate||

    I like Connery best, but I'm also in that minority that liked Dalton.

  • JW||

    Dalton's problem is that is action sequences were always punctuated with a look on his face that telegraphed gastro-intestinal issues.

  • ||

    In hindsight, Dalton was actually a very solid bond, IMO. It's too bad he didn't get to do more movies due to the legal dispute over the rights. Pierce Brosnan started out strong in Goldeneye, which was every bit the 007 classic, but really fizzled thereafter. Die Another Day was among the worst flicks in the franchise, IMO.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    I know Brosnan is a naturalized American citizen, but can't Dalton claim citizenship jus sanguinis through his mother?

  • Big 'Orra||

    Lazenby and Dalton have grown on me over the years.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    *barf*

  • tagtann||

    WEll now that jsut makes a ll kinds of sense dude.
    www.Anon-Done.tk

  • Tim||

    Is anything good enough for your high brow tastes?

  • Tommy_Grand||

    “Ingenuity” means the quality of being clever, original, and inventive. If Skyfall’s Istanbul chase scene is “staged with painstaking ingenuity,” how can it be true that “for the most part we’ve seen it—or something very much like it—before?”

  • Tim||

    Unless he's chasing a donkey through Godzilla's colon, we've seen it.

  • Brett L||

    That's the point, though, ain't it. Although the scene and stunts are bigger, badder, newer, MOAR! its still the Bond opener, and short of having live actors chase each other through the theater firing blanks, its going to feel a little tired no matter how neato and whizbang it is.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    SIMPSON'S DID IT!

  • KL||

    True! Clear fail, now adjusted. Thanks...

  • Tommy_Grand||

    Massive respect. Love your work.

  • Bill||

    The first Daniel Craig Bond movie had a really innovative chase scene and this movie has a few pretty good ones with a few twists on old ideas.

    In the Italian job and the first Borne movie, I don't think I had ever seen tiny cars go up and down stairs, only motorcycles so that was new for me.

    Skyfall does slow as Loder says but does have a cool idea for the final 20-30 minutes. I give it a 7.5/10

  • ||

    while some may find that this interlude lends Bond a touching new dimension, mopery doesn’t really become him.

    Bond exposed himself to a blind person?

  • Mint Berry Crunch||

    Wow, it's been an interesting half a day for my favorite 1980s movies.

    A well played RotN quote here, and last night "How about a nice greasy pork sandwich served in a dirty ashtray" was mentioned on Jeopardy of all places.

  • Sam Grove||

    The mind wanders in funny ways. After reading your comment, I eventually got to Tweety Pie offering a seasick Sylvester some "nice salt pork".

  • ||

    First thing that crossed my mind as well. Let's all indulge in the nostalgia:

    http://youtu.be/liCpN_VzpSA

  • Agammamon||

    ". . .but it undercuts the preposterous fun of the Bond world—which had grown too preposterous over the years, it’s true, but is nevertheless missed in its complete absence."

    No, no its not. It was fun watching Moore be ridiculous when I was thirteen, it wasn't fun anymore by the time I was in my late thirties and Brosnan was still doing it.

  • Agammamon||

    I mean, that's the whole reason *Craig* is Bond now - people stopped coming to see the same tired old crap.

    Nobody sat down and said "hey, the Bond franchise is still raking in billions but let's change shit up for shits and giggles".

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    Yeah, that was Coke that was raking in bils but changed it for shits and giggles.

    New Coke - What a Good Idea!

  • squarooticus||

    New Slurm turned out to be an ironically great marketing gimmick.

  • Big 'Orra||

    With Skyfall, the transformation of James Bond from the steely womanizer of the old Ian Fleming spy novels and the early Sean Connery movies is complete.

    Do we blame Oprah, or is it still Bush?

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    You don't know whom to blame?

    I blame Bush...

  • Big 'Orra||

    That Bush, the EVIL genius that keeps on giving!

  • JW||

    I blame bush too, but nothing a little waxing couldn't take care of...

  • Bill||

    Bond is gay now. Don't believe me, see the movie.

  • anon||

    You're all heathens. Connery is the best Bond ever, period. End of discussion.

    That said, Craig is growing on me.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    I do like Craig.

    But, yeah - Connery as Bond is kinda like The Shat as Kirk. That's it - perfection.

  • JW||

    It goes, from best to worst:

    Connery
    Craig
    Lazenby
    Dalton/Brosnan (tie)
    Moore

  • Teve Torbes||

    Dalton and Brosnan were so different it's hard to place them in a tie. Dalton definitely better in my book.

  • hotsy totsy||

    Agreed, JW.

  • Big 'Orra||

    Connery as Bond is kinda like The Shat as Kirk. That's it - perfection.

    YUP.

  • ThatSkepticGuy||

    "Bourne Bourne Istanbul Bourne Bourne meets the villain, played by Javier bardem who Bournety Bourney Bourne-Bourne-"

  • Boehm Houle||

    I'm guessing Bond will also be a vampire killer in the next one, sans Abe, with perhaps an ambiguous sexuality and maybe a rom-com element. (vomiting sound...)

  • Sonderegger||

    ut at the end—which arrives nearly two and a half hours after the beginning, and features a startlingly lunky bit of sequel foreshadowing—you may find yourself missing the genial fizz http://goo.gl/fteqB and the outsize characters of the best of the old 007 films. Skyfall is a big action movie that does its job in an efficient way. But as was the case with the two previous installmen

  • pradaguccioutlet@gmail.co||

    since the Bond character is at this point one of many in the cinematic action pantheon, it doesn’t help that he’s now been put into the hands of Sam Mendes, who is not an action director. Mendes, deservedly esteemed for movies like American Beauty and Revolutionary Road, seems tantalized by a kind of complicatedly choreographed pandemonium with which we’re already familiar. Compelled to come up with a spectacular action cheap nfl jerseys sequence of the sort that opens every Bond film, he gives us a motorcycle chase through Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar (with much predictable fruit-stand damage), a pursuit across the city’s colorful rooftops, and a violent confrontation atop a speeding train. All of this is staged with painstaking care, and it’s certainly not dull; but for the most part we’ve seen it—or something very much like it—before.

    Bond is pursuing an assassin who has made off with a hard drive containing the names of every British undercover operative—an item that Bond’s boss, MI6 chief M (Judi Dench once more), is desperate to retrieve. Bond cheap MLB jerseys fails in the attempt, and winds up nursing his wounds in a beach house not unlike the one in which we found Jason Bourne in the opening of The Bourne Supremacy.

  • pradaguccioutlet@gmail.co||

    The cheap nfl jerseys movie has some passages that are beautifully photographed (by the reliably excellent Roger Deakins), chief among them a trip to a casino across a lagoon filled with glimmering lanterns and a wild fight backgrounded by the neon riot of a Shanghai night. And while Craig, in his tight little Tom Ford suits, seems more grimly over-wound than ever, Bardem is at least an amusing, if not especially malevolent, presence. It must also cheap nfl jerseys be said that Adele’s richly scored theme song is one of the greats.

    But at the end—which arrives nearly two and a half hours after the beginning, and features a startlingly lunky bit of sequel foreshadowing—you may find yourself missing the genial fizz and the outsize characters of the best of the old 007 films. Skyfall is a big action movie that does its job in an efficient way. But cheap nhl jerseys as was the case with the two previous installments in the long-running series, the earnest new Bond world it presents is really not enough.

  • زوجناكم||

    thanx

  • Nick Griffin||

    Kurt, excellent on point review. I agree. Where is the naked sex bomb painted gold, the cutting edge gadgets and state of the art car-submarine? There is no arch villain bent on blackmailing the Worlds' governments or a heroin distributor cloaking his operations with voodoo rituals and a fortuneteller virgin. What happened to the suave ladies man who relentlessly bedded females, friend and foe, instead of the new Bond who tacitly admits he may be bisexual? And finally, the new Bond, unlike the old, failed to accomplish both of his missions--the secret files got away and M was assassinated. This isn't the 007 my son's Dad grew up with, that's for sure.

  • Fluhdoten1||

    I don't get why gay directors keep driving storylines towards their personal life choices.

    Bond is a proven commodity. You don't improve upon a time-tested standard with controversial and radical taints.

    Making Bond gay will destroy his market appeal. He is the smooth alpha-male. There is a reason pro athletes hide it when they are gay.

    Making his origins nuanced is fine, but adding homoerotic scenes which rewrite the character are gratuitous and shameless acts of IP vandalism.

  • mtrueman||

    The only Fleming novel I read was the first, Casino Royale. Bond here was not a womanizer; a smoker and a drinker yes, but no womanizer. He falls head over heels in love with a woman and is willing to do anything for her, even betray the Crown, if I recall correctly. Maybe the womanizing came later. It wasn't there at the beginning.

  • Jasa SEO||

    I like James Bond 007

  • TommyTone||

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