The world’s most famous spy returns for his fiftieth anniversary like it’s 1962. Skyfall is utter tosh from start to finish, distractingly carried off with consummate style.
The latest in a long line of over-hyped, non-espionage action flicks, this one indulges in casual violence and dodgy sexual politics while pretending it’s more than a genre movie. The Skyfall circus is a compilation of smug, self-referential bank account masturbation.
With theatre and film heavyweight Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition, Revolutionary Road) as director, we expected something more character-driven, with a bit more emotional depth. Instead we got a Bond that fulfilled it’s 50-year anniversary like a Cubby Broccoli original, a block-buster package of action-movie cliches that would make Vin Diesel blush.
Okay, so we’re not expecting another Tinker Tailor, but maybe a movie that actually has something to do with espionage? It doesn’t.
Skyfall; Bond ’50 – This Time it’s Personal, should have been an answer to the Bourne franchise (before Jeremy Renner drove it off the rails). Instead we get Bourne Again (sorry) with our hero declared dead and then resurrected for one last mission.
Within the first 20 seconds, the iconic Walther is pointing out of the screen (terrible handgun, not made any more, a ‘ladies’ gun with no stopping power; I know MI6 is strapped for cash, but couldn’t Aftab the Arms Dealer in Istanbul have done Bond a deal on a Glock or a Beretta 9mm?).
We then got a dumb chase sequence; no passersby got hit by the cars, the boys didn’t go through the roof tiles on the bikes, or hit any pedestrians in the market, and Bond attacking the train with the JCB, after getting shot, wasn’t even the most 007 over-the-top stunt of the movie.
There are some interesting action set pieces. I do tip my hat to the athletic touchdown in the wrecked train carriage (see the trailer), adjusting the jacket and cufflinks; nice touch. Bond’s pursuit of an assassin through a Shanghai skyscraper office building, lit by neon and giant ad boards, was the single most stylish sequence seen this year. Shame it reminded me of Enter the Dragon’s hall of mirrors and Blade Runner‘s chase through the glass shopping mall.
Almost every sequence reminds you of another movie. Chase through the subway? French Connection. Interrogation of Silva in a glass cell? Silence of the Lambs. Complete with jumpsuit.
Even the action fails after a time. The CGI komodo dragons were terrible, as was the villain’s secret base and the model shots of an entirely superfluous subway train wreck. The climax was a home invasion movie, a cheap cops-and-robbers knock-off (copyright Steven Segal, every bloody film he’s in). It could have been Straw dogs. Or a Western; maybe Stage Coach or one of those 50’s horse operas with the Red Indians circling the fort.
And I’m sorry, but a muddy, frozen Scottish loch in winter, at night, does not have the perfect underwater clarity by moonlight of the studio tank at Pinewood. Just saying.
But Skyfall bears about as much resemblance to reality as I do to Daniel Craig. Bond digs out fragments of a spent bullet from his shoulder with just a pen knife and no anaesthetic. No secondary infection or stitches either. These aren’t just ordinary bullets, these are depleted Uranium bullets. Poisoning? Nah, that’s Bond – he’s ‘AAARD!!!
But these are not Skyfall‘s worst sins. Between the action clichés, we roll back the decades to a time when men were men, women knew their place and poofs were untrustworthy sexual deviants to be hunted down and stabbed.
007 goes homophobic
Javier Bardem as Silva should have been a classic Bond villain, but turned in a performance so camp it was laughable. What happended to the scary psycho from No Country for Old Men? The too-clever and too-foreign-for-his-own-good Silva gives Bond the slimiest of sexual come-ons and shoots his girlfriend in the head because she prefer’s real man Bond. Silva turns out to be a mother-obsessed bisexual with abandonment issues. If only Anthony Perkins hadn’t played that in 1960.
As for Bond, he reverts to ‘sexist misongynist dinosaur’, which was funny when Judy Dench’s ‘M’ first labelled him in Goldeneye (1995), but not now.
Having ‘died’ we find Bond shacked up (literally) with some random Turkish model with no name, whom he leaves to in order to go back to killing people. Bond walks into a woman’s shower uninvited for some more casual sex. She said “meet me on the boat,” not “shag me on the boat” – but she used to be a prostitute so it seems that’s okay.
Bonds temporary sidekick Eve turns out to be a bad field agent, probably because she’s a girl; realises she’s not up to it, presumably because she’s a girl, and accepts a demotion to… secretary. Working for Judi Dench’s replacement (because Dench is a. old and b. female), who is… a man. Welcome to 2012, or 1962. Whichever you prefer. Eve is, however, played by a black actress, so we can tick a box for ethnic diversity.
In summary, then; women: fail. Foreigners: fail. Gays: arch-villains.
Constantly telling us that craggy Craig’s Bond is too old and past it to be a spy is actually like pulling back the curtain in Oz. So when you look past the glitz, Skyfall turns out not to be a spy movie. Or an action movie. It’s a revenge tale about emotionally stunted child-men abandoned by their surrogate mothers. But that doesn’t matter. See the recruiting posters:
“Join MI6 – travel the world, play with guns, blow stuff up, meet exotic foreigners and either shoot them or shag them.” RC
Director: Sam Mendes
Writers: Ian Fleming, Robert Wade, John Logan, Neal Purvis
Genre: Action & Adventure
Running time: 2hr. 25min.
Cast: Daniel Craig, Judy Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Javier Bardem, Naomie Harris, Ben Wishaw
Related: Review Skyfall