Monday, November 12, 2012


Perhaps the best way for Bond films to remain interesting is for their continual reinvention. Skyfall, the latest entry in the franchise, is certainly interesting, and often quite good. It contains most of the trappings of a typical Bond film: classy, gorgeous women; ritzy social milieu (a casino, in this case); a misanthropic, playboy antagonist with a grandiose lair; location shooting; tuxedos; a suspenseful introductory action sequence; espionage; assassinations; chases; mayhem, and so on.

However, it dispenses with most of these conventions within about an hour or so of the film, and then becomes something else entirely. There are many ways in which the film diverges from convention. Early in the film, we see Bond in his off-hours. Apparently he seeks an adrenaline rush in both business and leisure, judging by his new drink of choice: whiskey consumed under threat of scorpion bite. Bond has lost a step, and fails both physical and psychological evaluations. A potential femme fatale figure is introduced, but then removed almost just as quickly – Bond cannot save her. Bond discovers the villain’s lair, but doesn’t destroy it, and then calls for backup. Bond’s only high-tech gadget: a gun locked to his palm print. Later, Bond does not play on offense, but defense, and the action takes place not in an exotic location, but London, and then later Scotland. We learn a smattering of Bond’s history and upbringing, such as his parents’ names and his growing up an orphan. The film’s climax does not involve Bond foiling grandiose, world-changing plans, but stopping an (admittedly elaborate) revenge murder, and is equal parts Bond film, Home Alone, and MacGyver. Finally, Bond simultaneously both succeeds and fails at foiling these plans.

All of these deviation from convention make this the most human Bond has ever seemed (perhaps outside of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), and in my opinion, he's better for it.

Other thoughts:

- My god, Roger Deakins is a wizard. Skyfall is resplendent, every image lovingly kissed by his amazing cinematography. Two scenes are particularly breathtaking. The first has Bond sneaking up on an assassin in a Shanghai high-rise at night. Gigantic, neon advertisements dance past the windows and reflect off the glass, silhouetting Bond’s target, and surrounding Bond in a kaleidoscope of liquid-smooth pastels. The second is at the Bond estate in Scotland. The setting begins grayed in fog, but then night falls, explosions ensue, and the rest of the climax is illuminated by the warm yellow-orange glow of a raging fire. White tendrils of breath stream from Bond and company, who are lit as if the fog itself were ablaze.

- Javier Bardem is excellent. His calm, knowing, yet gentle air of superiority is continually refreshing. The only shame is that there isn't more of him.