director Sam Mendes
viewed: 11/22/2012 at CineArts @ the Empire Theater, SF, CA
It had been four years since the last James Bond film, Quantum of Solace (2008), an eternity perhaps for a true Bond fan. A blink of an eye for me.
Quantum of Solace had squandered the freshness of Daniel Craig and the re-boot of the franchise with Casino Royale (2006), so I wasn’t all that bothered this time around either. But come the holiday and feel like seeing a movie and there is not much out there that is all that fun. Bond is fun, right? Action. Girls. Spy gear.
Skyfall disappointed dyed-in-the-wool fans looking for all the bling of the traditional Bond film. It’s a much more sombre picture. He gets a couple of girls, but he gets shot, he’s not fit for duty, starts drinking, and even his powerful boss, M (Judi Dench) is under siege from both the villain of the film and the government itself. This Bond film has its fill of mommy issues and aging and dying.
But it’s actually pretty darn good. I guess I was surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did.
It opens with a classic sort of set piece that has Bond chasing a villain on motorbikes across the rooftops of Istanbul. But then he gets shot, gets declared dead. And it’s not til the film’s bad guy Raul Silva, the terrific Javier Bardem, chewing scenery with savor, shows up that Bond bobs back to the surface. Silva is a former agent who worked for M, a favorite, who was left hung out to dry (like Bond is when he gets shot in the beginning). Only Silva goes a bit crazy after he fails to die from a cyanide capsule hidden in his tooth. And gets disfigured is a pretty stunning way. He is a damaged being with heightened Freudian needs from his mama, M, who notes that orphans like Bond and Silva make the best agents.
The film’s finale is a siege on Bond’s childhood home, Skyfall, in Scotland, just him, M and Albert Finney (it’s always nice to see Albert Finney) against Silva and a gang of thugs. True, this feels like a different kind of film than a Bond film. But I have to say, it’s pretty good. The only weird part, while the film and Silva try to draw parallels between their relationships with M “Mum” Dench, Bond is the eternally emotionless cipher…until…well, here is a spoiler that you’ve probably already heard: M dies. Bond cries.
So, maybe it’s not your mum’s Bond. But it’s entertaining stuff.