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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Movie Review: Skyfall (2012) Bond Never Dies

How do you know that James Bond will never die? If the movies keep making huge money, Bond never dies. You know that going into any James Bond movie. It is a given and we are all okay with that. I am. I get it. That is the formula. But what isn't formula is weak villains and sub-standard Bond Girls. 

"As long as audiences want to come see the movies, we'll make em."

-Barbara Brocolli

In Skyfall, the newest installment of the James Bond series, they have rectified one part of the formula and regressed on the other.
In spite of anything I will say in the rest of this blog, I am giving Skyfall 6 out of 5 stars. It was that enjoyable a movie. A great Bond movie was something I thought was in the past. I thought the series had run its course about 10 or 15 years ago when Brosnan had almost run it into the ground.

Now, I liked Brosnan in the installments he was in. More because they were pretty good movies.  Not though, because I thought he made a good James Bond. He didn't. He just seemed to be doing a bad Roger Moore imitation. Basically, Remington Steele plays James Bond with a bit of Chuck Norris in him. And it showed. He wasn't the one. The producers of the franchise realized that.
Bond should have an edge. Brosnan has never had an edge. He was always as smooth as silk. Hence, why he was a perfect Remington Steele.

But Daniel Craig has resurrected it. Sean Connery was great,  but for me, Craig plays Bond to perfection. Craig has major edge to go with his smooth. He has the gruff exterior of Connery, some of the charm of Moore, but not over the top in the way Moore played it, and Brosnan overplayed it. He strikes just the perfect balance. He is a mans man. Men want to be him, women want to have him, the fans want to root for him, in spite of him not being that likeable at times. In many ways, Craig is the perfect Steve McQueen, with the looks that McQueen didn't have. He has the toughness that you never believed from Moore and Brosnan, but did believe from Connery,  and the smoothness you always believed from Moore but maybe had a hard time grasping from Connery. Connery has always been described as a rough diamond. Craig is the polished diamond.

 "The 44-year-old Craig owns Bond now. He's a 007 who's no super-hero, with his graying stubble and slight tremor when firing a gun. Those details help humanize the ultra-suave character. Craig is still believable as a guy who can leap on a moving train and tussle with a bad guy. And, terminally cool, he looks ever-dashing in an exquisitely tailored suit."

 -Claudia Puig, USA TODAY

 I didn't really want to go see this movie. My mind was made up long ago that Bond was a tired old series. When I get stubborn and pigheaded like that, I am very hard to budge. But my wife really wanted to see it, and I do like Daniel Craig, so I was going to give it a shot. The trailer looked really good, and I saw an interview on 60 Minutes about the series and Craig and Connery. That sold me.

 For the first 30 or 40 minutes of the film, nothing shocking. It was standard James Bond fare and formula. Car chases, amazing hard to believe and outrageous stunts, glitzy graphics and gadgets, the standard fare. The obligatory sex scene with a woman. Nothing much I haven't seen many times before. You always get that part, because the majority of the movie goers want to see that. I get that.  I accept that. But, there has to be more. There used to be more. In this case, there was and I was glad to see it. 

"Giving value for money has been a credo of the Brocolli family"

-Daniel Craig 

The great villain. That was always a trademark of the Bond films. Goldfinger, Dr. No, Jaws,  etc. As much as Sean Connery and to some extent Roger Moore were the face and vibe of the franchise, the villains and the Bond Girls were the glue that cemented the rest of it. Both of those elements have been severely lacking in recent years.

Dr. No. Possibly the greatest villain and one of the most seductive Bond Girls. Without those two elements, a Bond movie is just a bunch of car chases and fancy stunts. You can watch Dukes of Hazzard reruns or The Fall Guy and get a lot of that.

Back in the day, one of the biggest deals was who was going to be "The Bond Girl". One of the best was Ursala Andress. In addition to being very sexy, she could act and had allure. She wasn't strictly eye candy, although eye candy she certainly was. If I have one major complaint with this film, it is the quality of the Bond Girls. That is something they need to rectify. That is part of the formula and you simply can't skimp on that or change that part of the formula. It is essential.

 However, the writing in this movie was exceptional. The first scene with the villain, which I will get to in a minute, was fabulous because of the quality of the writing, which was superb throughout.  I can't remember a better written Bond movie. And I think I have seen them all.

Mike Myers, understood that the real interest was in the clash, the contrast between hero and villain, and that they had to be equally enticing to the viewer. Both flawed,  both competent, both a contrast but at their heart somewhat the same, yet one always on the side of good while the other on the side of evil. 
Austin Powers works because both of those elements are there.
That element is now back in Skyfall. It has been sorely lacking for quite a while.

Daniel Craig is very good in this movie. We have come to expect that from him. The writing is fantastic as I mentioned. The stunts and the photography is very good. Most of the supporting cast were good enough to carry this movie. But, Javier Bardem made this movie. No, he stole this movie. If he doesn't win best supporting actor at the Oscars, they should just shut it down.
 As Silva, he completely commands the screen and gives Craig something legit to foil against.
 I didn't know a thing about Bardem, but when I got home I had to look him up right away. He is that good. He was the difference maker. I will likely go see anything he is in and go back through his previous work to see what else he has done. It was like finding candy in the drawer.
I highly recommend this movie. It is well written, well acted, well shot and of a very high quality. Two hours of very good entertainment. What more could you want?



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