Skyfall (2012) Review: 50 Years and Still Kicking (Ass)
I was always hesitant to accept Daniel Craig as the new James Bond. I found his cold brute demeanor less appealing than the classic suave cat sheik of the old Hollywood Bond. With maturity I realized that he is indeed suave, it’s just fairly subtle, I now love the new Bond with his moody look and raw action. After watching Skyfall, the prior two films now seem to be meant to only condition us to this one. Skyfall breaks every rule the classic Bond films set up. Bond never gets shot, there’s always an abundance of woman Bond is involved with, the attacks never happen too close to home, and we never hear more than a whisper about his past. Skyfall breaks those rules as if they were twigs in the hands of a giant. It’s partially why the film is so effective, our expectation is taken for a roller coaster ride. Defying expectation is one of the main elements of entertainment, comedy, drama, and thriller. When 007 is mistaken (the only way he could be) dead, he uses the opportunity to take a much deserved vacation, and for the first time let the bad guy get away… for now. When a news broadcast shows him an attack on MI-6 that he feels personally responsible for, he is compelled to tighten the loose end he left dangling four years earlier.
When I say this Bond film breaks the rules of the game, I mean it. James shows a fear and a hesitation that humanizes him the same as Casino Royale had him make mistakes a fresh double 0 would make. Here an injury handicaps him, and he’s got the shakes. Even in Casino Royale, the loosest Bond to date, the torture scene has Bond laughing and possibly frolicking, in the face of testicle torture.
The first thing fan boys might notice is the absence of a bond girl. There are women and you see James putting the moves on a lady but there’s no explicit highlight of his womanizing. It’s because this is a story about the complicated love of a mother and a son. M is the only constant woman in Bond’s life. Despite their near constant disagreements, these two characters love each other. M scolds Bond over his womanizing, and quick trigger finger. Though when the shit hits the fan she can trust him to keep her dry. M is Skyfall‘s Bond Girl, no she isn’t a youthful knockout because she’s more. While Vesper may have made James a little cranky about women, M can save him from that. He’s not afraid to show his emotions toward her. It’s no coincidence the climax is held at James childhood ranch, which brings us to another rule the film breaks.
Never do we ever know where James has come from, though we know he’s an orphan. Skyfall is trying to tell you that there’s a problem with 007 and it’s been cooking in the oven for a few years now. All this repression and a meeting with death has broken down any walls holding it in, Bond can no longer be 007 until he can figure himself out first. Nothing fixes repression like a trip home, and where the climax of the last two films was pretty spectacular, this one will have you in jaw dropped disbelief.
The overall production design and scale of this film is no less than top notch, audiences expect nothing less from a Bond flick and every film after the last becomes a battle to not top the last film but create a different sense of action. Here there is always this wonderful sense of claustrophobia and the world closing in on 007. The audience feels the weight of decision that James feels. We feel an awful lot for a Bond film, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a spy film where I’ve been this emotionally attached. I won’t make any jumps on judgment but it’s possibly the most involving Bond film ever. Some of the action beats literally have you holding your breath. This can be credited to the three main roles in the film. Chemistry between M and Bond has never been so complex, there is this unspoken respect between the two that hurdles over even an obstacle like death. In Bond’s initial confrontation with M their accusations toward each others judgment is more on the playful side.
Javier Bardem plays the tech savvy villain Silva, this is also the first time we get a homosexual villain, he is a polar opposite of Bond in every sense. While the cold life of an MI-6 agent bent Bond into someone whom can fit through any crevice, Silva is someone who was bent so much, that he just snapped in half. His life has one purpose, it’s to harbor hate. Silva doesn’t even seem to be the one in control, it’s hate that drives him and controls his actions. He won’t be satisfied till he’s decimated every trace of his enemies. His character is a metaphor for the new world, Bond being the old. Their clash is like analog vs. digital, fitting as it’s nearly also an extended metaphor for the 007 series itself. These recent Bond flicks have proven that with new toys they can still keep the spirit of the original Bond alive. The argument that digital is better than celluloid, or vice versa is an example. In Skyfall 007 can chase a target over the rooftops of Italy on a dirt bike and still drive that smooth 64′ Aston Martin DB5. The imbalance comes from a character like Silva, who believes the only way to exist is by killing the old world off entirely. A conversation I had with my friend before the film started helps aid this metaphor. She worked at a drive in theater that was shut down for its reluctance to switch to digital projection. How will we remember who we are if we banish all that we came from? Bond made this mistake and sees what the ignorance does to a man, like Silva. This film is his chance for redemption, to never forget where we come from, all of us.
What do you think? Leave a comment.