Wednesday, 7 August 2013
The product placement in the Bond films is getting completely out of control. I could handle the lingering shots of Omega watches and the ever changing car manufacturers (although having Bond drive a standard Ford saloon in Casino Royale was a little sad - it was like he was going on a business trip to Milton Keynes), but now every last thing is dripping with commercialisation. Oh, what’s this, Bond’s in a chase sequence on a train? Let’s drop some Volkswagen Beetles in there and let’s be sure to mention them by name just in case the idiots watching the film don’t know what they are. And what fine beverage shall we give Bond when he needs to unwind? Er, some Heineken. Is this the fucking Champions League all of a sudden?
There’s a particularly egregious moment when one of the MI6 agents is trying to relax after an attack on M. He stands there in the MI6 HQ and swigs some Heineken. Really? Really?!? Somehow that’s more unbelievable to me than Bond falling into some icy water with a bad guy, killing him and then not drowning or freezing to death after seemingly being underwater for about ten minutes.
Commercialization aside, though, Skyfall is a pretty strong entry in the Bond franchise. It doesn’t quite reach the dizzying heights of Casino Royale and GoldenEye, and I probably prefer Licence to Kill as well if we’re talking about relatively modern Bond films, but it’s a pretty solid movie.
However, I did leave the film with a slight sense of disappointment, as Skyfall has a couple of amazing, breathtaking moments that are some of the best things I’ve ever seen in a Bond movie - I just wish they were able to permeate the whole film.
My favourite moment is when Bond fights an assassin in front of an open window in a tall skyscraper. These days the impulse is to get in close with the camera and have lots of fast cuts. But Mendes keeps the camera static and distant. And the scene is lit with the garish electric lights from a huge advertisement on the building opposite, meaning that the characters are cast in silhouette (it ends up looking like something you’d imagine seeing in Blade Runner). As they fight the camera ever so slowly moves in. It turns an incredibly routine fight scene into something beautiful and poetic. And kudos too to Mendes for the sense of vertigo he instills when the bad guy is finally dangling off the side of the building. My legs actually began to feel weak, so convincing was the effect.
I also really enjoyed the scene where Silva (Javier Bardem) attacks the inquiry that M is attending. Dressed as a cop, he manages to walk straight in. I actually really thought that he’d kill M in this scene but Silva wants to take too long to enjoy the moment and fluffs his opportunity. But it’s still a great scene and drips with tension.
And it’s pleasing to have a villain whose only objective is personal revenge. Silva is a former MI6 agent with a serious mummy complex and is distraught when M gives him up so that she can stop some of his shady shenanigans. His only aim is to kill M, although he doesn’t mind collateral damage.
Silva kind of reminds me of a mixture of Roger Moore and Hannibal Lector. The charm and the smoothness are pure Rog, but the creepiness, the mind games and psychosis are Lector-ish.
Silva’s introductory speech suggests that he wasn’t always a bad guy. He tells a story about some rats on an island. In order to get rid of them, he says, you put some coconut inside a drum and allow the rats to go inside and get it. One by one they get trapped, until they have no other option but to eat themselves. But then when you have two left, you let them go. However, they’ll never eat coconut again as they no longer have a taste for it - their nature has been changed. Which is what Silva is suggesting happened to him. That his work for MI6 has changed him and he’s no longer the person he used to be.
There’s also some humour to be found when Silva tries to sexually intimidate Bond. Silva caresses 007 and then begins to unbutton his shirt. Bond counters by saying that this isn’t the first time that this has happened to him and therefore remains cool during the whole exchange.
But it’s kind of amusing to me that even the bad guys now want to fuck Bond. It only used to be the ladies, but now Daniel Craig is so well-established as the buff, beefcake 007 that even the men want a piece of him. I think this is now two out of three Bond films where Craig has been tied to chair by a bloke and has either been fondled or had his genitals abused.
But with Skyfall we’re ever so slowly getting back to the old-style Bond movie. Bond actually shags three different women in this film (what a guy!) and both Q and Moneypenny make an appearance. Pretty soon Bond’s going to be slapping around bald-headed guys and fighting sharks.
Although having said this, Bond does actually go toe to toe with a komodo dragon in this film, which suggests the traditional Bond movie creep is even further upon us than I thought. Oh, and seeing as I just mentioned that Bond shags three ladies in this film, I must applaud the person who had the bright idea of having fireworks immediately follow the scene where Bond nails Moneypenny. Bravo, sir, bravo! Roger Moore would be proud!
The least successful part of the film is the final sequence. Bond takes M to Scotland to his abandoned family home Skyfall. He knows that Silva will find them but at least they’re isolated enough that there won’t be any collateral damage.
The final action sequence is a tad bland and by the numbers. Silva and his men attack Skyfall and mercenaries are blown up and killed by improvised explosives like they’re in Home Alone or The A-Team.
The film only rekindles its interest once Silva has his clutches on M. He puts his hands on her and begs her to shoot them both. It’s a very intense scene that is only rendered somewhat underwhelming because Bond turns up at the last second and throws a knife into Silva’s back, killing him. It’s somehow the most anticlimactic movie death I’ve seen in a long time.
But then Bond films often have this problem. They often start off strong but then descend into huge gun battles that lack the colour of everything that came before. Thankfully Skyfall saves itself by killing off Judi Dench as M and neatly setting up the next movie. It would have been sad if a strong Bond film like this would have ended up with simply a knife in the back.