Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Kate Reviews: Skyfall

Skyfall. How do you describe what is already being described as the highest grossing, even the best, Bond movie of all time? Of course it's in the nature of reviewers to describe things as the best (or worst) thing of all time, but I think in this case they might actually be right. Mild SPOILERS from this point on.

Bond have always have never been afraid to titilate but in Skyfall the camera lingers most over the scenery. The roofs of Istanbul, the Shanghai skyline, the Scottish highlands... Bond's various romantic entanglements take a backseat after what's happening between between the location guy and the scenery.

Speaking of which, MEET BOND'S LOVE INTEREST!!!
This is Eve. Don't call her a Bond girl.
She's smart. She's tough. She's Naomie Harris. She's sexually empowered (who can remember the last time someone seduced Bond who wasn't a) evil, b) not long for this world, c) both?) She's funny and brave and remains manificently indifferent while Bond hits on another woman in front of her hours after they have sex. Yeah, Bond's still kind of a dick at times but to be fair she did accidentally shoot him near the start so... they're even I guess?

Bond's supreme dickishness kind of coincides with the other love interest, Severine, whose basic function is to make eyes at Bond, smoke sexily, have steamy shower sex, stand dramatically on a boat and then get shot in the head. Literally, those are all of her scenes. The actress does a decent job but it's obvious she's as much of a relic as the Aston Martin that turns up at the end and like the Aston Martin you get the impression that she's there because it wouldn't be Bond without her. Also, the film loses some inclusiveness points here, as Severine is a victim of child sex trafficking and it is never acknowledged by Bond or the script that sneaking up on her in the shower and having sex with her, literally without a word of explanation, might trigger her a little. But no, Bond can get over seeing her shot in front of him, literally hours later, so I guess trauma just doesn't exist in this world. Basically Severine's character (or rather the way she's treated by the script) is a blackhole of bad: every time she's on screen it's like the film forgets it's trying to be progressive and just goes straight back to the days of disposable, interchangeable fuckbuddies (apologies for profanity but that is not how you treat a love interest). On the other hand she apparently has a Berretta strapped to her thigh so... empowerment?

Ben Wishaw
Of course neither of these women qualify as the female lead. This honour goes to Judi Dench's M. Without killing the entire ending for you, Skyfall is very much the Judi Dench M's swan song. There's this serious, adult melancholy to the film, this tension between the old school spy thriller fun and the way it does or doesn't fit into a modern world full of modern crime. There is serious doubt from quite early on about whether M will even be around at the end of the film, whether they need someone younger and more modern to replace her. Speaking of which, this is Q. Yes he's dreamy. Yes he's a good actor. Now back to M.

M actually gets to do stuff in this film, rather than just setting things up for Bond. Although he's a very individualist character, Skyfall did a good job of creating an ensemble while still maintaining Bond's emotional distance from it. His emotional distance from M however...

Bond and M have always had this sparky, belligerant screen chemistry as far back as GoldenEye, when he was Pierce Brosnan, which makes their interactions often more interesting than his interactions with the film's resident Bond Girl. Platonic chemistry, I hasten to add, although much has been made (admittedly most of it by me) about Bond's handog little "I guess I'll find a hotel then..." after he finds out that MI6 has (quite reasonably) sold his flat while he was off being presumed dead and doing shots with live scorpions in because...why? Anyway, M who is awesome tells him he's bloody well not sleeping there (actual words) and they go back to their standard slightly Oedipal brand of grudging affection, only this time they're really exploring it. And I'll take your 'ewww' and raise you a 'well it worked for Hamlet'. Also the Lannisters.

Speaking of dysfunctional Oedipal relationships (though really, is there another kind?) we need to talk about the villain, Silva, played by Javier Bardem. He's openly bisexual, not in a campy sexual-chemistry-with-the-good-guy way, but in an actual honest tries-to-seduce-Bond-and-it's-legitimately-hot way. I admit, I may have been wary going into this but it was treated really tastefully by the writers and Bond, not in the eeeew cooties way I'd half feared. It's restrained and intense with this crackling tension and it's never precisely clear who's trying to double bluff who. No one's masculinity is challenged, even when Bond hints at his own bisexuality and best of all none of it is played for laughes. Not that that stopped the people sitting behind me from giggling nervously but to be fair in most blockbusters it would have been. Also, without spoiling anything, there's a point where something happens to Silva's face and whoever did that make up/special effect, that person should get an Oscar.

One of the really great things about Skyfall is the sheer level of concentrated, uninterrupted awesome. I'm trying to keep this vague for people who haven't seen it, so I'll use an example from eariler in the film. There is a motorbike chase on the roofs of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. Then inside the Grand Bazaar. Then a fight on a train. WITH A JCB! And all that in the same chase sequence. And through all this M, being updated by Bond's driver/partner Eve, keeps acting surprised. Oh M, you think it's unrealistic that he's driven a motorbike up a steep flight of stairs, jumped between roofs and smashed through a window without damaging it or himself? ...Have you ever met Bond? Did you not read the mission report about that time he drove a tank through central Moscow? (And when I say 'through' I mean there weren't a lot of walls left afterwards.) Do you not watch your own films?!

The film's over abundance of awesome almost becomes a stalling point. 'This film is too awesome,' I found myself thinking. 'I can't process the awesome because another awesome thing is already happening. I wish it'd be mediocre for a little while so... OMG ICE LAKE DEATH CHASE!!!' Of course when the very worst thing you can say about a film is that it's too awesome that's not really going to discourage people from buying tickets.

Overall I give Skyfall ALL OF THE STARS!!! although when I've calmed down a bit it's probably a 8/10, but only because I knocked a point off for that thing with Severine.

No comments:

Post a Comment