Skyfall: gripes & greats

Skyfall isn’t quite up there with Casino Royale but still pretty premier league – and face it, any way from Quantum of Solace is up.

But it came damn close to losing me in the first ten minutes, pre-credit sequences. It’s no great spoiler to say that at one stage Bond suffers what in most human beings would be a non-fatal but still severely debilitating wound. Its effect on him is to make him look mildly more dyspeptic and he then carries on as normal.

I have no problem with the thought of an immortal Bond who shrugs off these minor inconveniences, or even who never gets hit at all (I can’t see Moore doing this scene, for instance). But I do prefer the 21st century’s new, vulnerable Bond as being generally more dramatically satisfying – so let him be vulnerable!  Bond isn’t Bourne – one of Quantum‘s many flaws was that it was edited as if he was – and in several later scenes we get clear evidence that Bond isn’t as  young and sprightly as he used to be. If being wounded serves absolutely no purpose, don’t wound him.

(And, Hollywood, a long fall into water can kill you just as quickly as a long fall onto ground. Just saying.)

Other than that I will allow Bond his non-reliance on oxygen in the atmosphere, his invulnerability to shockwaves, and other little quirks that presumably he picked up in training for the 00 section. Later in the film we learn that Bond is keeping as private property an item that used to belong to Q branch, and it still has all the Q branch bells and whistles in full functioning order. It’s hard to imagine a private citizen, even 007, being able to do that (regular servicing would be a right bugger) … but I’ll allow that too it because it’s fun.

Fun, and with much to love for Bond geeks. Never before has the simple sight of a hatstand (in the last couple of minutes) suddenly made me feel all excited and tingly with anticipation for what might be about to transpire – and it doesn’t disappoint.

I like the way that this Bond is no longer an agent in isolation, but backed up by a supporting organisation, all played by actors with the chops to come across as a group of competent professionals. Which, face it, is how we all hope MI6 really is. And bearing in mind what transpires between Bond and one of the new faces early on in the movie, before they’re properly introduced, I can only say it’s a shame that Lois Maxwell wasn’t around to see it.

The One with the Silly Title

Quantum of Solace isn’t the worst Bond but it’s far from being the best. It’s far from being as good as Casino Royale. That one rightly won praise for re-inventing Bond. This one is … more of the same, really. The first one gave us mean, moody hurtin’ Bond. This comes perilously close to giving us Bond the Big Baby. Oh get over it, you want to cry out.
Let’s not be too negative; let’s talk strengths. Daniel Craig is still flippin’ good. Judi Dench is even better. Bond is just so beautifully irritating to the baddies. The bad guy isn’t a world-dominating ogre, just a well-acted bad guy; and like most bad guys, it wouldn’t actually make that much difference to the greater good of the greater whole if he won. But you’re glad he loses.
We get tantalising hints of the new Big Bad, Quantum, which might just might just possibly might be a SPECTRE for the twenty first century. And it will be interesting to see how well this films in Bolivia – or maybe they’ll dub the name of another country. Not many people want to be told their homeland is a corrupt coup-prone rat infested banana republic. Even if it’s true.
The fact that Bond doesn’t go to bed with Bond girl gives their relationship a sense of plausibility. Sadly said Bond girl has to be one of the densest of the lot, and frankly that’s pretty dense. Having ascertained that her boyfriend has sent an assassin after her, she twice confronts him in a situation that he completely controls and where he could quite easily have her killed without anyone batting an eyelid, and then acts surprised when – um – he tries to kill her. Pattern recognition not her strongest point.
And then there’s the fighting. Oh dear, the fighting.
Remember the fight between Sean Connery and Robert Shaw in From Russia With Love? It was gripping, brutal and to the death. 007 was up against someone who was at least his equal and you could believe (and you cared) that he might not make it (apart from the obvious given that he would make it – but it was fun to see how). Every blow, every shot counted. The camera often stayed stationary for seconds at a time. You could tell what was happening.
Three, four, five times QoS gives us an action scene so fast, furious and blurry you can’t (a) tell or (b) give a toss what’s happening. It’s a case of wake me up when Bond’s won and we’ll get on with the movie. At least one of the chases I could swear I’ve already seen, in the last Jason Bourne movie. Run across rooftops, check. Jump through windows, check. Perhaps the producer got confused.
Please will the producers and directors of thriller movies start trusting the intelligence of the audience again and give us scenes we can follow and care about. Thank you.
Here’s how fight scenes should be done.