Sunday, 4 November 2012

SKYFALL REVIEWED



You're going to love it.

Yes, I've finally seen it; Skyfall (12A Certificate) and as I write, it's oo-let-me-see Seventeen past One Sunday morning.

WARNING: PLOT DETAILS FOLLOW IF IN DOUBT DON'T READ!

First Impressions: Slick, pacey, hints of revamping of the series, young-ish cast, borrows from Bourne a 'proper' Bond.

Before you go any further yes, there are twists, yes there's some stuff happening that I'm not going to reveal here anyone who read my preview will know that I've hit a few bullseyes and missed others with the guesswork... Why spoil it? - if you are into Bond, go see this one on the big screen seriously, pay the ten quid/whatever and have some fun it won't matter that much to your girlfriend/Missus/mate you dragged along, but to Bond fans the experience is enriching. Until tonight my darlin' wife insisted her favourite was Goldfinger now it's Skyfall. Didn't do quite as much for me, but Golden Gun's status is ever more hollow...

The action launches straight into it; there's a hard-disk nicked from an MI6 laptop and guess who is sent to recover it?... without blowing the gaff entirely, there's a stuntacular opening bit, lots of motors being bent and some motorbike stuff that they only just manage to wrest back from the aforementioned Mr.Damon back to it's proper owner in my opinion. (Seriously, someone at EON must have checked the receipts from the Bourne films. Mrs.S agreed there was a whiff of this in the film generally I'm not alone here). Anyway, as the saying goes nobody does it better...

Daniel Kleinman the titles are proper Bond stuff I expected done in ways I've not seen before I am left with images of guns and daggers dropping to form tombstones, some heavy imagery suggesting death and resurrection perhaps. A bit dark, perhaps, but nicely paced to suggest the mood to come Adele's title number now sounding like a Bond tune with the cinema sound system and visuals. Personally, I think a good theme should sound amazing even on a tinny little kitchen radio which this does not.

Back to the film as the teasers have revealed, Bond is shot and falls into a river then basically buggers off to recover and drink a lot. MI6 is attacked kaboom! - and Bond does what MI6 people generally seem to do; learn about it from CNN. He returns both to the realms of the living and to a much-changed MI6 reeling from the attack and facing the unsettling prospect of the hard-disk being decoded and a list of MI6 spies appearing on youtube, no less...*

Mallory, played by Ralph Fiennes, is a former Lieutenant Colonel in the 'Hereford Regiment' (You can say MI6, but don't mention the SAS... they might be listening!) and he is a touch of a sh*t he oversees MI6 and wants M's head on a plate in fact he wants her retired and in front of a committee to boot. Is the man a fool?, doesn't he go to the flicks? - surely the only man in London both unaware of her sterling service (She has lovely cutlery...) and who dresses like that. The guy looks like he forgot his gas-mask case. Bond is declared fit for duty (Or is he?) and is off to a Gallery to look at Turner's The Fighting Temeraire a painting showing an old warship off to be scrapped and cue the rusty old comparison... While sitting there a gawky nerd sits next to him; yes it's the new Q (Ben Wishaw) (who actually seems to be less of a disaster than we had thought). 007 gets handed a diddy little radio and a Walther PPK that lights up (That should be handy when trying to hide at night) and reads palm-prints solely for the later purpose of Bond not getting shot with his own gun. The Christmas joke got some laughs. Anyway, cut to exotic and high-tech looking Shanghai to track down the hitman who legged it with the hard-disk hoping to find who hired him. Enter Berenice Lim Marlohe as Severine, a former vice-girl tragically out of her depth and we are a step nearer to the mysterious cyber-terrorist Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem).

There's a nicely-shot scene in a Macau casino and we find out why Bond's gun only works for him... (Thank the ghost of Fleming the bad-guys didn't just think of using another gun...) I mentioned 'Battleship island' in the preview, it forms a memorably haunting backdrop to the encounter that follows. Silva's interrogation of Bond raises a few eyebrows (The guy's a real Space Invader) and, for an ex-MI6 man he seems rather unaware about searching prisoners, as Bond uses his ickle radio to call in the heliflopters...

Back to London and the new, younger, but mainly more underground MI6. They've had the glaziers in and fitted a high-tech cell to hold Silva does he bite?. There's a truly ghastly bit involving faulty suicide pills and the plot takes us forward with another lurch Sam Mendes really does deserve credit, as do the editors it's really more absorbing than many of the James Bond films, more intense... Silva is after destroying M blaming her for betraying him, he really is a devious one, tricking poor old, erm young Q and, yes, he escapes. (And we find out why Bond got to keep his little radio).

You know me, you knew it was coming... the tube sequence. As anyone who has tried to get across London in a hurry can tell you, you'll be going on the famous London Underground. As anyone who can remember will tell you, it was bombed the target of terrorist attacks that left people dead and maimed. Silva blows a hole in a tunnel through which a tube train empty apart from driver falls, in an attempt to kill Bond. O.K. He's a terrorist, that's what they do. O.K. - but having seen it I really think my main objections are; Why?, why such a contrived and timing-dependant way of killing someone running after you down a tunnel? - and also, I really think this was the only scene in the film where you saw the strings; the artifice behind it all. (Looked CGI to me; possibly it was one of those marvellous models a-la the late, lamented Derek Meddings.) Just felt they could have left this one on the cutting room floor.

Da-da-daa-daaa-The Bond Theme... and 007 boss-knaps M, getting her to a place of safety and as company cars all have tracking devices, why not choose something a little off-the-grid?. Off to Scotland after some lovely jokey banter involving gearknobs and some wonderfully-used evocative scenery in the land of Porridge and Haggis. Bond takes M to Skyfall lodge, his ancestral haeme ye ken and baits the trap for Silva. We really see dear old M's mettle here Dame Judi Dench at her finest as, stripped of the trappings of her office she is a frail woman fighting her fear. A remarkable, remarkable performance, one of those that raise this above a mere franchise. (Oddly enough, the late Bernard Lee also played M for some seventeen years...)
Albert Finney shows up as Kincaid, gruff auld gamekeeper who knew wee Jimmy when he was a nipper and the showdown begins. Welcome to Scotland Indeed...

Lots of bangs, flashes and kerBOOMS later**, it's back to London and... well I'm aching to tell you, but it's late, and bed calls... oh, all right. The end of the film, the very end it ends like this: with the following words;

JAMES BOND WILL RETURN

Go book your ticket.


AFTERTHOUGHTS: The Persistence of a Vision.

Sunday After-Noon. It's Pork for lunch, I'm awake and checking this before posting. I know this addled and I actually checked it bfeore you got to read it. When you first see a filum the impressions are very vivid despite all the garble-gabble I hope you can get something of that from my attempt at a review. (We are on f*ck-all really moneywise, so the cinema is a rare treat Pirates  I was the last time if memory serves). So, the morning after how does Skyfall stand up? - the flash-bangs and Dolby whizz-ardry has faded, the immediacy and the sheer majesty of a BIG PANORAMIC SCREEN stretched before you is a receding blur. All you have now is what you can actually remember experiencing. The memory of an experience is not the experience itself. That's too deep for Bond, isn't it?. Well, grow up Bond himself has. I'm making a valid point; if you want to know more about the film that requires a ticket this is about subjectivity. Daniel Craig is a  professional actor at his absolute zenith, the man really does the unthinkable I would suspect  Sam Mendes was pushing him here he gives us a character. Think; Connery's Bond look past the shadow, the suits without belts and the rest, what is there?, what, who is Bond? - tell me if you can. Try it with Brosnan Christ we're bloody lucky if the man has a flat to go home to at night let alone a private life to fill the hours between murderous Koreans and deranged Media Moguls. .. 

Craig shows us not only the family he came from at least their ghosts in a home somebody once loved in, picked the furniture for, that's film sets and prop people no, what the actor himself gives us here is a serious, believable and worrying man, a man that has had to live his life without familial guidance of the kind we are used to (I was adopted, it doesn't matter but this aspect of Skyfall will stay with me.) - and his choice of career path is guaranteed to send his personal car into a brick wall at some time. We see emotion too no more on that, but be prepared for James Bond the man to make his first true appearance.

Final thoughts; They had to set up a back-up MI6 in a hurry, but for future films, could we just stick to one computer-with-big-screens-so-everyone-can-see system?, (Liked the Microsoft Surface a few films back) I'm guessing their IT branch must spend their whole time reading manuals and learning where the 'on' switch is and how you find that tab thing that you needed...
The visual computing in Skyfall is a bit of a pill, while I think about it. Frankly, its there as a plot device as well as showing us how smart/smug the young Q is (considering he didn't work on an isolated system perhaps not that smart) -  I'd be wary if I were writing the next one; big plasma screens with visual attempts to suggest clever computing is worn-out, to put it mildly.

*The list of agents mirrors a real-life security breach a few years back; don't panic, it was in the papers...
**Possibly niggly I happen to know about machine guns my day job involved them; they need a LOT of cleaning, a fair bit of coddling and they like to go to bed with a light coat of oil not sure they'd fire after nearly half a century, although perhaps 007 kept an oil bottle and a spare parts wallet in the boot along with a few belts of 7.62 for emergencies...  (I'd love to see his M.O.T. Form...)
Rather more niggly throughout the movie, MI6 maintains contact and control of its people through ear-pieces they follow them on computer screens and assist with information such as local geography etc. The micro-management here is something else at one point Eve really needs to throw her ear-piece in the river, bad enough she's got seconds to make a vital shoot/no-shoot decision, but with M in her audial back-seat all the time it must have been unbearable. Life mirrors art; this came up with the Falklands, with SAS veterans complaining that the then state of the art satellite communications gear they got from the USA was allowing similar micro-management to get in the way of common-sense use-yer-loaf soldiering. The ear-pieces work flawlessly in the London underground as well I'm betting commuters would love their phones to work as well... lets have Bond using the latest toys, by all means please can we see him leaning more on ingenuity and his wits?. (I know, tiresome, but contrast with how well Jason Bourne moves through the landscape of his films remote-control 007 we don't need.)








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