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Posted on 11/16/12 11:57 AM
Agent Down; a review of Skyfall
November 16th, 2012
James Bond is dead.
Ian Fleming has been dead since 1964 and all of his Bond books have been made into pictures. Skyfall is not one of them. It's an entertaining movie, but it's not a James Bond.
The opening sequence of Skyfall was dangerous, old school stunt work, with computer generated imagery, tasefully limited to providing continuity. Of course they had to resort to cuts with dirt bikes replacing the street bikes for some of the action as was commonly done before this current age of CGI. It's a forgivable defect that actually enhanced the nostalgia of a vintage Bond movie, for me.
In Skyfall, James Bond looses everything he ever owned, including the old Austin Martin brought out from storage. That was a nice touch. The villain, Raoul Silva has already embraced the minimalist lifestyle, despite his power and wealth, as demonstrated with his girl friend who Bond seems to have had his way with.
Bond and Silva are the same personality types. They had the same traumatic, orphaned childhoods, held the same professional positions, and had each been forsaken by the same M. Twin brothers from different mothers, yet with differing responses to the same set of circumstances and different attitudes about the same reality. Fine and dandy, but this is post Ian Fleming exposition; not from his books. I don't appreciate this reinvention of James Bond. James Bond is not the Dark Knight and he's not homosexual; hyper-sexual behavior, notwithstanding. Skyfall writers, Purvis, Wade, and logan may have foreshadowed the agenda for sequels in that regard, however. Film making by committee. Propaganda in support of the War on Terror as justification for the erosion of civil liberties, with the aim of promoting homosexuals as benevolent dicktasters.
This high concept movie makes economical reference in lieu of satisfying character development, which leaves the film bordering on melodrama. The audience is expected to feel sympathetically for the hero and villain alike, but instead, one is left rather indifferent towards them both. Perhaps it was hoped, that after fifty years, James Bond would need no introduction, but with the inclusion of revisionist personal history, some flashbacks to childhood, as well as to his predecessor's childhood, relationship with M, and the Silva's final mission would have provided much more effective character development and empathy. Nevertheless, Skyfall is a very, smart movie, for making these bullet points at all.
In action movies, there is generally not much interesting dialogue. Here, there are the traditional long sequences of suspense and/or action, with no dialogue. James Bond usually has lots of snappy retorts. This film has a few good ones, but Bond's not himself. I could accept the fine actor in the role, if the lines had been written more in character.
Skyfall is a lengthy movie, yet the time passed quickly for me. I enjoyed the film, aside from the desecration of the legend, and appreciated the relatively, low tech and make shift weaponry, contrasting with the virtual reality weapon in the style of Wikileaks. Contrary to M's monologue, however, Bond flicks have always featured individual super villains. Raoul Silva is the rule, not the exception. Osama Bin Laden was not a super villain. He was a strawman for Russia. Julian Assange may be a terrorist or he may be a journalist, but under American law, he is innocent until proven guilty, and so far at least, he hasn't been charged with murder.
Skyfall attempts to make James Bond more contemporary, and in this high tech era, the possibility for the emergence of Bond super villains is becoming more a likelihood. Perhaps that's the reason for chaining the World economy to limited production of refined oil? If everybody had access to unlimited free energy, then there could very well be a vast number of Bond type super villains to have to deal with, as well as World super powers and their proxy rouge nations?
There is real potential for the villain to be sympathetic here, but it's played down. He doesn't do nearly as much damage as he could do and he makes no demands. In fact his threat could have been completely neutralized, but MI6 would have to decide for itself on it's own, to abort all of it's missions and recall all of it's agents. There is an apparent fatal flaw at the end of act one, which turns out to be the real genius of the film, made poignant in the chapel scene during the grande finale, when M fails to apply the same logic to her own situation that she used in issuing the directive to Bond's backup. The skilled writers subtly and gradually make the point, of what a truly outstanding marksman, Eve really is.
Ian Fleming's James Bond is an escape from reality, where the audience is empowered in empathy for the lead character who can dodge a bullet, fall down stairs and land on his feet, without either so much as creasing his tuxedo, or spilling a single drop of his shaken martini; offering no complaint, but for too much vermouth.
James Bond is dead, but Ian Fleming's body of work, lives on.