Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Sky Fell

Yesterday I was finally able to go see Skyfall. My one word review would have to be "underwhelming." Now don't get me wrong, I enjoyed this movie greatly and I will get into more detail as to why, but I want to do a review sans spoilers for those who haven't had the opportunity to see it. The best way to describe this movie are that it's a fantastic 50th anniversary celebration of 007. LYT over at Nerdist has a great review where he takes the contrarian point of view. I echo his sentiment that this movie's biggest problem is that is simultaneously trying to complete the reboot/origin that the Craig films set out to do, while also trying to go the Lethal Weapon "Too old for this shit" route. There are many references to Bond and the MI6 itself being outdated. While sitting through the movie at the theatre I had this feeling that something wasn't right throughout. It wasn't until after I thought on it for a day and read Thompson's review that I realized this was the problem. 

All in all it was a good movie with solid action, a story that was pretty good, if not overly original, and a lack of silly gadgets. While not as excellent as Casino Royale, Skyfall is definitely a strong movie and as of right now I will give it a 7 out of 10. 

SPOILERS: Now I will go into specific reasons and examples of the film. So stop reading if you don't want to ruin it for yourself. Sorry for the length, got onto a bit of a rant. 

So the movie begins with a beautiful shot of a blurred silhouette of Bond. He walks towards the camera and into focus with a conveniently placed pin spot on his eyes. At this point I'm thinking to myself, "This is going to be awesome." This was of course before I knew that almost every other scene would have an artistic silhouette shot in it. And before I knew how many obvious references to not only previous Bond films, but also other movies. We find out that an MI6 agent has been killed and Bond and agent Eve are chasing the killer who is in possession of a list of all the MI6 agents in the field. Within minutes we get a pretty quick car chase that leads to a small shoot out, then a mororcycle chase across the rooftops of a bazaar in Istanbul (Not Constantinople). Shortly thereafter Bond is on a train chasing the mercenary, Patrice. Eve follows on road in the company jeep. The fight on the train is the first blatant reference to classic Bond as there have been many train fights since From Russia With Love. I don't remember ever having a fight on top of the train though, so in that sense this is a first for Bond movies. Bond gets in an excavator to protect himself since he's out of bullets, but he gets shot in the shoulder (Convenient plot point for later). We see the scene of Bond using the excavator to hold the cars together while Bond can jump to the next car before the excavator pulls off the back of the car. Great moment and a beautiful shot. I don't mind that they use construction equipment again (used in Casino Royale in a similar fashion). 

Here is where the chase goes on the roof. The train goes through a tunnel, as has been seen in almost any train roof fight scene. Patrice finds spare piece of chain just sitting on top of the train (what?) and starts fighting with it. Eve runs out of road and pulls out a gun to take a shot, as the list is top priority and cannot get out of their hands. Bond and Patrice are fist fighting in close combat and Eve is asking M if she should take the shot. After an intense while, after talking through far too many options, she says to shoot. Eve shoots as the two break apart. Eve hits Bond and not Patrice, so he is considered dead and the list is lost. 

M should never have trusted Eve's ability to shoot the right man on top of a moving train over Bond's ability to beat the man in a fistfight. This is acknowledged, but tossed aside quickly after Bond returns. Anyways, Bond is presumed dead but is actually just hanging out with some babes and some booze. After seeing a CNN report on an attack of the MI6 headquarters, both hacking and an explosion. Bond goes back to see M and is told he has to pass the tests again before he can go out on active duty. Bond performs badly in all the tests as he is being briefed by Bill Tanner M's aide. He cuts some shrapnel out of his shoulder that is used to identify Patrice and after an odd meeting with Gareth Mallory, M and Tanner where Mallory doubts if Bond is ready then M lies and says that he is ready and passed the tests. When M and Tanner are alone M admits that Bond hadn't passed any of the tests. This is a conflict of character. If Bond is so highly thought of by M, why did she have Eve take the shot? In the first meeting of Bond and M she implies that he's the best. 

After a meeting with Q where he gets a gun encoded to his palm print and a radio tracker, Bond hunts Patrice down with a tip from the CIA and goes to Shanghai. He follows him up a skyscraper and watches as he assassinates someone. They then fight and Bond pushes him out of the window. He then finds a gambling chip that leads him to Macau. The scenes in Shanghai and Macau are classic Bond moments. We have gambling, drinking, fighting, and near death experiences. Had the entire movie been like this it would have been much cooler! After meeting with Sévérine and having drinks and a fight, he heads to her boat that will take her to Silva. Here is where we meet Javier Bardin as one of the best Bond villains to date. He is an ex MI6 agent who has gone rogue and blames M for his misfortunes (see Goldeneye and The World Is Not Enough). He is flamboyant, and menacing and creepy in the most excellent way. He has taken over a whole island and is hacking things around the world from there. 

Bond activates the radio, Silva tells him how M lied to him about the test scores and tries to convince him of her badness. In another solid, tense scene Silva has Bond try to shoot a shot of scotch off Sévérine's head to see if his aim has improved. He misses, so Silva shoots her dead. Bond takes out the 5 guards or so then the cavalry arrives and they take Silva back to the new, underground headquarters of the MI6. After some exposition, M goes to a meeting with the PM where they discuss how badly M is doing with the list getting out and going public so their agents are getting killed. Q is hacking Silva's computer and too late realizes that he just opened up the MI6 server for Silva's computer. He escapes and disguises himself as a cop and heads to find M. 

Bond arrives in time to stop the assassination and get M out. They head out of the city and go up north to Bond's family estate, Skyfall where they meet Kincade, the gamekeeper, and start to set up to defend against them. Following the trail Bond had Q set up. A massive fight ensues and culminates with Bond throwing a knife into Silva's back and then having to watch M die from a gunshot to the side. Back in London Bond talks with Eve and they go into the office. Eve introduces herself as Eve Moneypenny and Bond goes in to talk to Gareth Mallory who is the new M. 

Now here's the problem. On the one hand, they are trying to introduce us to Moneypenny and the new M. But they get Bond's hidden Aston Martin complete with ejector seat and machine guns in the headlights from Goldfinger et. al. You can't reboot something and homage it's predecessors at the same time! it doesn't work. They confused the chronology of all the Bond films by doing so. This is the same problem with the X-Men film continuity, they tried to redo it, but then had the main character from the other films make a cameo. I think it was a mistake for them to kill M. It works okay for the story, but it feels that they just wanted to get a new, male M. I liked the quips between Bond and Q, "What do you want, an exploding pen?" Those played well. I honestly think that had they not killed M, this movie would have worked a whole lot better. It would not have felt as much like the continued reboot as it would just be introducing Q and Moneypenny as opposed to recreating the entire supporting cast. If they recast Felix Leiter (who was absent in Skyfall) in the next film, I will be very sad. Another problem is that several times they mention Bond being old, yet this is really the 2nd mission he is on, as Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace are so closely related. The final showdown at the Skyfall ranch feels very Home Alone with their setting up. It tuns out to be a great scene overall and includes an underwater fight (another repetitive event from the classic films). 

All in all it was a very fun, amusing movie and the biggest problem I had with Skyfall was my high expectation for the movie. After the new direction of the Craig films, I was super happy with the direction and the trailers made this look as if it was going in the same direction. I like that they tried to continue that path and I love that they homaged the classics, but I hate that they tried to do both, without something to make it make sense. Mostly, it was silly of me to expect it to meet my hopes for it. It is a Bond movie after all. And a fun one at that, go see it if you haven't.


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