Skyfall (2012), directed by Sam Mendes
I’m shocked by how popular this movie seems to be. It made a butt-load (official measurement) of money opening weekend and has drawn lineups and sold out shows, around here anyway. It’s a big one.
I’m not sure why I’m surprised. I guess because it has been four years since Quantum of Solace, which most everyone seemed to despise (I liked it, but haven’t seen it since, so who knows?).
I think too that I’m always shocked in general that modern, North American audiences respond to Bond. Not pointing any fingers here, but some North AMERICAN populations aren’t particularly fond of characters and locations that are not within their own borders. On top of that Bond is a suave, level-headed, droll spy, not a flashy action star or a comic book hero (how English do I sound right now?).
They are very British movies, really.
I have been a Bond super-fan since childhood. I used to watch the old Sean Connery and Roger Moore films with my father. Then I would go to school and try to convince all the other children (maybe 9 or ten years old) how cool Bond is. They were hard to convince. Movies from 1964 didn’t hit the spot with kids growing up in the ’90s.
It’s actually embarrassing, but I wanted to have the nickname “James Bond” or “007.” I wrote “aka James Bond” at the bottom of a school assignment. I brought in a cassette of all the James Bond themes for my class to listen too, which got shut off about the third track in (apparently Tom Jones wasn’t as popular as Nirvana or Metallica or whatever the normal kids were listening to).
Aside from some form of confession I’m not sure what the point of this, except to illustrate how big a part of my life Bond movies have been. And I guess because the stuff I’m into isn’t often the stuff the wide general public is into, that’s another reason the popularity of Skyfall surprises me.
Despite all that Skyfall manages something I would have never predicted: it is unlike any other James Bond movie ever made. And I’ve seen them all.
I knew it would be different with Sam Mendes behind the wheel, because he is a well-renowned director with his own style who would undoubtably add his own vision to the series. And he does through some rather theatrical set-pieces (Mendes comes from a theatre background) and a deeper sense of character than previous entries.
But his involvement is also likely a factor in the general overall introspective aspect of the film. I say this is unlike any other Bond film and the reason, among others, is it focuses on Bond, on MI6, on M in a direct way. Much of the film takes place in England. Much of it deals with Bond aging, with his past, with his commitment to his service and country. Much of it has to do with the betrayal by that same country of another agent.
It’s the internal memo of Bond films.
And while we’ve seen some of this before (the bitter ex-agent in GoldenEye, the “deep” Bond in Casino Royale, the questioning of Bond’s commitment in Licence to Kill) I can’t say we’ve ever seen a Bond movie so introspective as a whole.
Did I like the movie, you may be wondering? What with this being a review and all.
I did, very much so, although I would like to see it again to really appreciate it for what it is. I was too busy having my expectations cast aside to focus on what else it was accomplishing. Because it really threw away some of what I consider makes Bond Bond (I guess Quantum did too, but it had been so long since I had seen it I forgot).
Part of me missed the world-domination bent villains, the clearly drawn lines of good and evil, the simplicity of ‘us versus the Ruskies’ Bond. I missed the femme fatale with an X-rated name (here we get “Eve” and “Severine”…snore). I wanted some cool gadgets.
But I also appreciated that the film was very consciously rejecting those things, and did so in an intelligent, self-aware and entertaining way. Q is great, even though he really only gives Bond a gun and a radio. Bond at least seems interested in women again and I do recognize the misogyny of the old films and a slight move away from that (but come on…). It was great to see the old DB5, and then what happens to it was both heartbreaking but kind of fun.
And expectations aside, it’s a great movie in general. It’s filmed marvelously well (I especially liked the silhouette fight in the hotel), the story is riveting, the action is outstanding and very rarely over-the-top insane (except for the rooftop dirt bike chase), it has a classic Bond villain (even if they made his questionable sexuality an evil character trait, which is so lazy, stupid and homophobic) and it’s generally a very well crafted, exciting, entertaining movie. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Nothing is sacred in new Bond. And while that can sometimes be frustrating as a longtime fan, it also keeps the series fresh, current, interesting and, evidently, popular.
I look forward to Mr. Bond’s return.
Skyfall is in theatres now.