Wednesday, November 14, 2012


For 50 years, the James Bond franchise has chugged along, despite aliens, star treks, teen vampires, and Hogwarts. SKYFALL, the latest in the series, is quite different from the cool, elegant, and ironic tone set by Sean Connery in the sixties and sustained by replacement Bonds for decades. In 2006, Daniel Craig became the new Bond, giving him a tough, no holds barred personality, and...he was blonde, short, and a bit declasse, in comparison with Sean Connery's Bond.

This is even more apparent in SKYFALL, in which director Sam Mendes (Oscar winner for directing AMERICAN BEAUTY) infuses melancholy and even impending death for not only Bond but also for M (played as though her life depended upon it) and for her espionage unit M-16.  Over and over, there are allusions to obsolescense or death itself.  As Bond waits for his contact with the new Q, he sits squarely in front of William Turner's masterpiece The Fighting Temeraire Being Tugged to her Berth to be broken up. When Q (a perfectly cast Ben Whishaw) arrives, he analyzes the painting in terms of death and destruction. Bond flinches slightly but refuses to accept the metaphor as referring to him.

All of this sounds rather heavy for a Bond film, but fear not.  We still have a crackling good opening sequence where Bond chases his prey through Istanbul on a stolen motorcycle and destroys the requisite market places (think Indiana Jones), then flies over rooftops, jumps on a moving train, uses a caterpillar to pulverize a full car of VW beetles, wrestles with his nemesis as they enter a tunnel, etc., etc. But I don't want spoil it for you.

Yes, there are Bond girls in SKYFALL, but the titilating seductions of DR. NO and all the others are gone.  As for super villains, don't look for Dr. No, Lotte Lenya and Robert Shaw as
Spectre agents  in FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, Jaws in two films, or Oddjob in GOLDFINGER or Goldfinger himself. Instead we have Javier Bardem as Raoul Silva, a former M-16 agent who was betrayed by M and wants regenge on her, Bond, and Britain as well. Bardem minces around in a blonde wig and pinches Bond's wounds with sick zest.  He and his gang of thugs are thoroughly disgusting and unbelievable, but they do set up several dramatic face-offs in London and in Scotland at Bond's ancestral manse.

Most of SKYFALL is exciting, but the tone is dark and menacing, as though Mendes is imitating Christopher Nolan's moody Batman series. Connery, Roger Moore and the other urbane Bonds would not be comfortable in this ugly new world. Who could blame them?

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