Sunday, November 11, 2012

Film Review: Skyfall

"Skyfall"  *** (out of ****)

The name is Bond...James Bond.

For the last 50 years we have heard that line uttered in 23 movies starring Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and now for the third time Daniel Craig as agent 007 in this latest Bond adventure "Skyfall" (2012).

Where to begin? First I should mention I've never been convinced this new guy, Craig, was right for the part. He didn't "look" like a "Bond" to me. Pierce Brosnan did but not this kid Craig. Oh, I know the critics did back flips over him back in 2006 when he first played the role in "Casino Royale" but soon the tide started to shift when "The Quantum of Solace" (2008, which I have reviewed) was released. Bond was reduced to a standardized action hero, which quite frankly, suited Craig moreso than the charming, suave lady (and man) killer known as James Bond. The critics were a lot tougher on that film and started to rethink Craig as Bond. And now comes "Skyfall" and once again film critics are doing what they do best; over-hype a movie as they all write exactly the same things praising this film.

Chicago Sun-Times "film critic" Roger Ebert wrote "Skyfall" is "one of the best Bonds ever." Joe Morgenstern, film critic for the Wall Street Journal declared "Skyfall has an "elegance" to its action sequences which sets it apart from previous Bond movies. The less knowledgeable "film critic" of the Chicago Tribune, Michael Phillips, summed it up saying "Skyfall" had "the swank and polish and movie smarts to deliver what Bond has always delivered."

But, I just don't see it that way. Something about "Skyfall" didn't feel right to me and even though I'm recommending it, I am recommending it for the same reason I did so with "The Quantum of Solace". As a Bond film it falls flat. As an action picture it is watchable and has some entertaining moments.

One of the elements of Craig's Bond movies which has bother me is this constant desire to try to get inside Bond's head and discover what turned him into the man he is today. In "Casino Royale" it was suggested after another agent, Vesper, dies this turned Bond's heart cold. Never again would he allow himself to have feelings for a woman. Better to merely use them for sex. Who cares!

In an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal (published in the Nov. 9th, 2012 edition) written by Andrew Roberts, he ask the same question. Why are we making Bond modern and PC? And in "Skyfall" the producers and writers do it again. Going back to Bond's childhood as an explanation for who he is today. I am not interested in a psychological, detailed, analyst of why James Bond is the way he is.

Over the years there have been groups that have tried to modernize Bond. One film showed him cry. Others wanted Bond to be a more "sensitive" male and understand that women are more than sex objects. Originally that was the joke in having "M" (played by Judi Dench) be a women ever since Brosnan took over as Bond. In the older Bond films, going back to Connery and Moore, M was always played by a man. Some traditionalist, like myself, at first objected to a woman playing the part. But, as what most things in life, eventually you accept the change, if for any reason, you simply become use to seeing her in the role.

"Skyfall" though could best be described as a prequel to "Dr. No" (1962) the first James Bond adventure, starring the man many consider the best Bond, Sean Connery. Whatever the next Bond film will be it will follow the more traditional set-up we have come to recognize. There will be a "Q" character, Moneypenny will be M's secretary and SPOILER ALERT!

M will be played by a man. END SPOILER ALERT

In Skyfall someone has stolen a hard drive which contained all the names of secret operatives and now those agents will be exposed over the internet. That is only one element though of the film. The other has a more "real world" aspect to it. What is the best way to fight terrorism? With field agents, which is seen as primitive in "Skyfall" or with technology? In other words, does the world need James Bond? We can kill people with missiles hundred of miles away simply by hitting a button. Do we need a guy to travel around the country and flirt with pretty women and kill the bad guy anymore with that kind of capability at our fingertips?

"Skyfall" seems to have moments when it is flirting with nostalgia. At one point in the film Bond drives an Aston Martin. The same one he drove in "Goldfinger" (1964). This actually caused the audience I saw the film with to go into applause (seriously!). I guess there were a few of us old-timers in the audience. And of course since the film is a "prequel" we know where it is all going to go. We know what lies ahead. So when a character introduces themself as Q or Moneypenny we know the relationship they will eventually form with Bond. Making the audience think of the older films.

After watching "Skyfall" I'm still not sure Craig is a good Bond. And I really don't like the direction they have taken this character in, trying so hard to uncover him. It seems Connery had all the good stories; "Dr. No", "From Russia with Love" (1963) and "Goldfinger". Though I would argue Moore was in some good ones himself (he is actually my favorite Bond) such as "The Spy Who Loved Me" (1977), "For Your Eyes Only" (1981) and "The Man with the Golden Gun" (1974). The last Bond film I saw which I really enjoyed was "The World Is Not Enough" (1999) with Pierce Brosnan.

If I had to say something really nice about "Skyfall" it would be this. It features one of the best Bond songs to come along in a decade. It is performed by an artist called Adele, who also happened to write the song. The credits and the song are a throwback to better times for Bond. When we weren't trying to examine him.