Monday, November 12, 2012

Skyfall (2012)



by DionysusPsyche

WARNING: SPOILERS EVERYWHERE.

At the beginning of Skyfall, the audience is met with a quandry: is the sacrifice of one life worth more than several to hundreds at the hand of an enemy? Is one extremely intelligent, fast, trained, charismatic agent expendable even without knowing how good the questionable shot to take out the other agent is? Time is a factor, having the enemy in one's hands is a factor, and risk is all wrapped up in it.

This is a similar question to the one we've asked in another blockbuster movie of not-so-distant past which I am reticient to name (yes, I'm willing to spoil Skyfall, but not necessarily a movie my jaw dropped at several times—sorry Double O Seven!). In the unnamed movie, the hero is met with the answer: that the situation can be avoided altogether. There need be no question as to whether this person kills one man or hundreds, there is another way. It may not be a great way, but it's still a possibility.

But this is an action film whose name is a legend. Whose films date back to before your birth (age dependent), whose books date back to possibly before the birth of your parents (and if they're super young, your grandparents). It's James [bleep]ing Bond, so naturally, I said, no, his fictional, impossibly awesome life is not less than for whom we're aiming. Now, we KNOW going in that Bond is not actually going to die within the first ten minutes. Do you know how angered people would be? No one would sign up to write or work that movie. There would be some Occupy Bond signs, although people WOULD be in suits, and the rallies would only take place after the 9-5 workday.

However, from a logistical standpoint, I did not agree. I felt that Eve (Naomie Harris) wasn't calculated enough. That M was not given proper information. It crossed my mind that Eve might be working for the other side (yeah guys, I didn't see the end, get it, moving on). I am not an employee of national security. I am not prepared and taught the math of risk, the number of agents at the company's disposal, nor the degree to which our enemy is wanted—facts of which I am glad. There was a coldness to M, a precision which the shot itself did not contain, where she saw no loss, only gain (this not included in her obituary for Bond which was lackluster at best...no wonder he hated it). At this juncture, I am required to remind you that as a subjective member of the audience who is watching a James Bond film, I am predisposed to root for James Bond. Although his death did lead into the intro, which made his death sweeter and less horrific.

The opening to the each film in the series is so incredible that I'm often left wanting the opening credits instead of enjoying the film itself. Of course, Adele did the song, because the women of the time always sing the song of Bond. Sheryl Crowe did, Carly Simon did. Regardless of appeal, they are popular, accesssible, and are representative of the time in which the singular work was created.

I didn't buy M's speech about how we don't need to fear companies, and the establishment. This is something individuals in power say when they don't want to accept responsibility for their failed given action(s). The movie industry and the culture go through phases, and right now, the phase is the chaotic evil. It would be interesting to watch all the movies that came out a year after the school shootings and see if there is a similar pattern, or if screenwriters just flip a coin every few years. A part of this stems from sarcasm, but I'm also completely serious. It would also be interesting to compare Bond films to historical culture, which I am hoping someone does (hint, hint, nudge, nudge).

I found the villain from Skyfall to be similar to the Joker from The Dark Knight inasmuch as he promises to kill people if his demands are not met and is viewed as highly unstable. Unlike the Joker, we know this man's past. Information tells us that he's been tortured beyond comprehension, that he's been handed over to the enemy for an exchange of goods and services, and that he's even stooped to the point of biting into a government provided cyanide tablet (capsule? there's a difference) to bring it all to an end. I DO think certain individuals are evil and unpredictable, but I don't think that's cause for letting your good agents go. Even Ralph Fiennes (Gareth Mallory, and M's superior) agrees with me on that level. Or maybe he just doesn't want to be held accountable. I think that the first half promotes the idea that the establishment can't be trusted. M makes multiple mistakes: letting Bond back in the field, surrendering Silva (Javier Bardem), letting Eve take the shot that should have killed Bond, letting Eve stay in the field.

The villain, to some degree, is relatable. He's been captured and suffered at the hands of the Other. Turned over by his own people to die or live a subhuman, abysmal life. M even admits he was one of her best agents. Here is a question: was her best agent corrupted before siding against them, or was he assumed guilty and corrupted through near death, searing pain? M leads us to believe it was the former, but was it? Bond comes across as her personal sidekick and lapdog, a poor title for the kicking ass and taking names agent.

One of my consistent displeasures throughout the last three films is Bond's lack of gadgets. When I was little, he was all about technology. In this film, technology, which is representative of the time (thank you!), is an adherence to completing the task at hand. We are told by elders, businesses, and parents to turn off our cell phones, get off the internet, and accomplish things. So while Bond's lack of gadgetry and willingness to get back to nature seem consistent with a lesson for the times, it still feels anti-Bond.

Despite my displeasure with M, she's been compared to Bond's parents. When Bond takes M to Skyfall, while he is still an international man of mystery. We're aware that Bond could take M off the grid anywhere; he could take her to the middle of nowhere, but he doesn't. He takes her to his origins, maybe because he has connections or because he's thinking on his toes. He finds his car, he goes to his house, and he watches it all burn. Why? To save the woman he sees as a mother and a friend regardless of her shortcomings.

Here's my question: if Bond thinks of M so maternally, given her choices good OR bad, why does he take her to the place of his birth? He says, “I've always hated this place.” Is he lying? Is he being serious? If his parents actually died here, why does he take M here? To reveal a part of himself? Or to watch her perish? Since she dies in his arms, I sincerely hope the latter is not true.

Now we get to my biggest beef of the movie: when Bond returns to Skyfall, it is as if a page of an architectural or interior design magazine is laid out before us. We first see the car, then the stag. As a pessimist, I expect to see a shack, yet Bond surprises us yet again with a fully functional mansion that he turns into a shelter.

This is almost shameful to say, but it needs to be said. If I am the Dark Knight of sentences, I will say it and be willingly shunned by my fans. Why doesn't Bond go more Home Alone on Silva's ass and the hides of his cronies than surrender this Uncrate meets Restoration Hardware of advertising? I fall in love with this place starting with the stag at the entrance. The antler chandeliers, the floor to ceiling wood abience, the smell of old wood and antique furniture in the air, the amazing cellar/hidden basement that Bond hides in as a child for two days. But no, Bond listens to The Bloodhound Gang on his ipod and thinks, “we don't need no water,” let her burn. Somewhat also reminiscient of The Dark Knight, where Albert tells Bruce they burned the forest.

It's rare for me to go to a film in theatres where I am this ridiculously frustrated. Were it not for the destruction that ensued at the hands of Silva, I would completely be on his side. Regardless of “sides” or grudges, who lets older than God mansions burn to the ground? At which point, Bond, despite all the rest of the plot had my okay. I wanted him to end Silva and his henchmen, because damnit, he destroyed the historical and financial value of the estate. Who does that?? Only monsters, obviously. Only Bond would live in a fantastic place, and only in an action film would that place be ultimately destroyed. That speaks not of England but of America, unwilling to reconstruct unless it's for a dizzying price.

The end is pleasurable to Bond fans everywhere, as the story leaves off at the beginning. We learn that Bond is the first of an industry of Bonds, and he will go on until another Bond takes his place. Which finally proves why Daniel Craig looks nothing like any of the other Bonds. Finally, the fans and I have resolution.

Conclusion:
Overall, not my favorite Bond film. Of the newer trilogy, I prefer Casino Royale. Diehard 007 fans may disagree with me. Which is okay. I hope those must-see fans enjoy it. Yet don't let the series override the individual movies. That's my only caution.

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