November 13, 2012

The Hube Skyfall inevitable review

Because, y'know, no one demanded it.

First off, Skyfall does not -- NOT! -- top Daniel Craig's debut in Casino Royale. In fact, it really isn't even close. But it certainly is [much] better than Quantum of Solace if that's any consolation.

SPOILERS BELOW THE FOLD!


The title comes from the name of Bond's childhood home, which plays a pivotal role in the film towards the end. More on that in a bit. The film opens in Turkey where Bond and a female operative (who'll be revealed later) are after a stolen hard drive that contains the names of MI6 agents the world-over. As 007 is battling the remaining bad guy atop a train, M (Judi Dench) orders the female operative to "take the shot" -- despite the fact that Bond will likely get hit and perish as well. The operative nails Bond, but the bad guy escapes -- with the valuable hard drive. Oops.

Of course we know that Bond survives the shot and subsequent fall (into a river). However, the hard drive leads to the infiltration of MI6 by cyber-genius (and former MI6 agent) Raoul Silva. Javier Bardem is absolutely masterful as the villain -- deliciously devious and incredibly slyly insane. His machinations lead to a massive explosion at MI6 headquarters, resulting in half a dozen deaths and the agency moving to low-tech digs in old WWII era (and earlier) underground bunkers and tunnels.

007, who has been taking it easy, so to speak, somewhere, sees the news about the MI6 on the tube at a bar and decides he has to go back. This is where the film takes a wrong turn, in my view. Taking a page from the not-officially sanctioned Never Say Never Again, Bond hence has to prove himself ready, physically and mentally, to rejoin the British Secret Service. He actually fails to do so, but M green lights him anyway. If you're a big fan of Craig's first two outings as Bond (as I am), this whole "Bond is getting old" schtick doesn't seem to fit as Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace demonstrated that this was a new era for Bond -- a tougher, grittier and more fit 007. Indeed, Ralph Fiennes plays Mallory, the chairman of the government's Intelligence and Security Committee, who continually hassles Bond about his age and fitness (physical and mental). C'man. But then again ... maybe ...

At any rate, the newly reactivated Bond journeys to Shanghai on a lead based on shrapnel taken from a wound from his initial scuffle with the bad guy in Turkey. After dispatching of said bad guy, he then encounters the beautiful Sévérine (played by Bérénice Lim Marlohe) who agrees to take him to Silva. It is here, at a secluded and deserted island, that Bardem really shines as Silva. This sort of role has been played before -- the vengeful secret operative out to get his former employers -- but Bardem takes it to whole other level. He attempts to convince 007 of his "righteousness," even trying to get Bond to join him. It is more than hinted at that Silva is a homosexual, and Bond even hints that he's had a gay tryst (or two) in the course of his many past missions! Whoa! Nevertheless, Bond has been carrying a radio transmitter given to him by the new Q (Ben Whishaw, at right), and the MI6 suddenly appears via several helicopters to take Silva into custody.

Back at the "new" MI6 HQ, as Silva wallows in detention, Q attempts to access Silva's computer. He unwittingly allows the computer to infiltrate MI6's systems (again) thus enabling the villain to escape. Bond pursues Silva through the London subway ("Tube") system, but he escapes (after an incredible Silva-induced subway crash scene). Silva and a few henchmen head for the hearing room where M is testifying before a panel who're miffed at her (and MI6's) intel failures (i.e. allowing that hard drive to be captured). Silva and his cohorts arrive and begin shooting up the place, but M is unharmed. Mallory (Fiennes) surprisingly(?) demonstrates bravery, preventing a few deaths and taking a bullet in the shoulder.

Shortly thereafter, Bond whisks M away from the mess and tells her that they've "been going about this all wrong." Silva has managed to stay one step ahead of the MI6 the whole time because they've "been playing his game." Bond suggests changing the rules, so to speak, and takes M out to the desolate countryside of Scotland ... to Bond's childhood home. To get "away" from technology and go "old school." There we meet the house's keeper, Kincaid, and along with Bond and M he gets the house ready for Silva's inevitable assault.

Silva and a gang eventually arrive and blow Bond's house to shreds in their attempt to kill M (and Bond), but Kincaid has escaped with M through a hidden tunnel while Bond remains in the [shredded] house to continue to do battle. After 007 sets off two huge propane tanks that destroys the rest of the house, the wreckage that goes flying destroys Silva's helicopter, preventing his departure. Only Silva and two bad guys remain now, and they give chase to M and Kincaid. Bond sets off in pursuit, but he's stopped by Silva and co. A last ditch effort by Bond kills the henchmen, but Silva corners M and Kincaid in a nearby chapel. Alas, 007 arrives in the proverbial nick, lancing a knife into Silva's back. But -- M was injured in the attack on the house, and soon after dies in Bond's arms! Thus ends the Judi Dench era as M, begun in 1995 in Pierce Brosnan's Bond debut in Goldeneye.

In the epilogue, it is revealed that the "female operative" (Naomie Harris, at left) who had assisted Bond in the prologue and again in Shanghai is none other than [the new] Eve Moneypenny. She's given up field work and will now work directly with M and the double-Os in the main office. Did I just mention M? Indeed, who takes Judi Dench's place? It's none other than Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), who now welcomes James Bond into his office with a new vigor, perspective, and ... respect. He informs 007 that "there's a lot of work to do" and asks "are you ready?" To which Bond enthusiastically responds, "Yes sir, M -- with pleasure."

Skyfall is a terrific entry to the James Bond mythos. However, as noted at the top, it still doesn't eclipse Casino Royale for sheer awesomeness despite all its critical acclaim and hype. In my view, this is due to Casino's better combination of action sequences to "down time," not to mention its much more diverse locales. In Casino we began in eastern Europe, then to Madagascar, to the Bahamas, Miami, and then to Montenegro. The vast majority of Skyfall occurs in dreary London and Scotland. Skyfall shines, though, with its [re]introduction of classic characters Moneypenny and Q, its homage to what has gone before (the classic Bond theme and music, and the Aston Martin from Goldfinger), and its consistency with keeping Craig's Bond realistic and gritty. I mean, who'da thought that with Q coming back all we'd see him provide 007 with was a palm gun and cheesy radio distress transmitter? Speaking of which, Whishaw's Q is delightfully arrogant and childlike, a perfect specimen for the current generation of cocky technophiles.

Skyfall can easily be placed in the top ten of all-time Bond films, and Bardem's Silva is a top five villain.

Hube's rating: Four out of five stars.

Posted by Hube at November 13, 2012 05:24 PM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

Great review, Hube. Admittedly I haven't followed the Bond series much since Craig took over, but I might be persuaded to see this one now that I've read your review and I've watched the trailers and think it looks pretty good.

What'd you think of the theme song by Adele?

Posted by: Carl at November 13, 2012 06:01 PM

I didn't think much of it, Carl. Too restrained, much like Alicia Keys' Quantum of Solace theme. I prefer an upbeat jamming tune ... need I say like "You Know My Name" from Casino Royale? ;-)

Posted by: Hube at November 13, 2012 06:05 PM

Yeah, I've listened to it.. didn't think much of it, either. "You Know My Name' was an awesome theme. I also like "Thunderball" by Tom Jones, "Goldfinger," and Duran Duran's "A View to a Kill."

Posted by: Carl at November 13, 2012 06:22 PM

"A View to a Kill" is a great tune. Only Bond theme to hit #1 on the charts. "Licence to Kill" is underrated, IMO.

Posted by: Hube at November 13, 2012 07:31 PM

Skyfall wasnt as good as Casino Royale, but definitely better than Quantum of Solace. I liked that the story was stripped down and wasnt convoluted like QofS was. I still cant figure what was going on in that movie. My negatives from Skyfall - 1) The explosions were too over the top and un-Bondlike. At times it seemed like I was watching Transformers. 2) I liked the tip-o-the-hat to the previous ones, but it got a little campy with the seat eject joke and the machine guns from the car. I would have preferred it if the Aston was just Bond's personal car without all the gadgets. 3) The being shot and fallin 200 ft and landing on his back and being ok was WAY OVER THE TOP. I understand poetic license, but come on.

I really did enjoy it and even had philosophical discussions over martinis (naturally) after the movie.

Posted by: Arthur at November 14, 2012 11:38 AM

Excellent review. Can't wait to see this new entry into Bond Series.

Posted by: Dana Garrett at December 1, 2012 10:37 AM

Many thanks, Dana!

Posted by: Hube at December 1, 2012 10:46 AM