Thursday, November 15, 2012
Good, Really Good
I'm a big fan of the films about James Bond, the mysterious, misogynistic MI6 operative created by Sir Ian Fleming and so captivatingly portrayed on film by several hunky actors over the last 50 years. And of course, deciding who is the best portrayer of Bond is a favoured topic for debate and disagreement in many circles. I'm saying it here: Daniel Craig is my favourite Bond. In fact, he's also the favourite Bond of my friend, John. It all happened quite quickly. We were at the movies before Casino Royale came out, we saw the trailer, and John turned to me quite seriously and said, "Ok, I've just seen the trailer of his first Bond film... and he's the best Bond ever."
So, after enjoying the Bond design exhibit at TIFF, and getting caught up by watching Casino Royale the same evening (I didn't bother with Quantum of Solace, preferring to pretend it never happened), I was pretty jazzed to see the latest Bond offering on opening night... Skyfall.
[Side story: The Tuesday before the Friday opening night in Toronto, I was online purchasing tickets, finding that as fast as I found screenings that weren't sold out... they sold out. We finally got tickets at my favourite cinema, the Beaches, and it happens to be the location that I've attended the two previous Bond openings. On the night, I lined up an hour early, as I waited for my friend, and a good thing too, as there were many people already in front of me. The theatre was sold out, packed solid with fans of all ages. And the audience deserves a mention in this review: they were excellent! The film had something to do with that, I guess, but they were silent and concentrated. Thanks, audience!]
From the thrilling opening sequence, through the credits, and into the story, this was an excellent action film, with many breathtaking moments. Director Sam Mendes would be expected to do something special with the Bond franchise and he did, bringing to the fore the relationships between the major players, in ways that enhanced their vulnerabilities. Sometimes, it was too much (see Spoiler section below). Now, Casino Royale still remains my firm favourite, but Skyfall comes close behind. There were irresistible throwbacks to the past (the Adele-sung opening credits with silhouettes under water; the Aston Martin!) and looks to the future (the adorable Ben Whishaw - who was also John Keats in Bright Star - as the new Q, and another surprise new/old character, but I won't ruin it for you).
Daniel Craig is six years older than he was in Casino Royale and the film plays up the notion of aging and retirement for both him and M (Judi Dench, still so fabulous). Craig's eyes are more icily blue than ever, his face more chiseled, but his body looks great. He was the harder Bond, who can still be slightly playful, but I love how the new Bond franchise has him more guarded than ever. Javier Bardem as the creepy, tragic villain only needed more screen time, as we couldn't get enough of him. Bérénice Marlohe as Sévérine, the ubiquitous Bond girl, was a surprise. At first glimpse, with her Vesper Lynd-worthy heavy eye makeup, I assumed she was just a pretty but silly character. But she carried off her controlled, sexy skittishness and fear really well. I'd love to see her in something else. The rest of the cast is made up of really excellent British actors, like Ralph Fiennes, Rory Kinnear, and Helen McCrory. The soundtrack is all you might hope for, rife with those tight horn sections that are always sexy and powerful.
The return to Bond's childhood home seemed to come a little out of nowhere, and, maybe I am jaded, but I like my Bond mysterious. I don't want to know his parents' names, but I do like that Albert Finney was the loyal retainer, and I also want to know where that road is in the Scottish highlands, unless it was digitally created?
There was some wry humour and plenty of action. There were also tears... but you'll have to see why for yourself.