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This review is from: Skyfall (Blu-ray/ DVD + Digital Copy) (Blu-ray)
"Skyfall" is a good movie with Daniel Craig doing another convincing rendition of the superspy for the 21st century. But it is overrated. It is a film enthralling to follow precisely and only because of its technical brilliance, the sheer speed with which the episodes move in this film to its climax. Bond's "fall" from the train, in that wonderful preview shown all over the world, is an example of how brilliantly conceived some of the marketing campaigns in movies have become, and how one impressive stunt can cast a "halo" on the perception of the rest of the film. There are more action stunts like this dispersed through the film from Bond's exploits high atop state of the art skyscrapers in China to great action sequences staged on the streets of London and the great mystical landscapes of Scotland, that rival the special effects and stunts of great action film franchises from The Jason Bourne series to the Mission Impossible films.
Daniel Craig has brought to James Bond the kinetic efficiency of the 21st century action hero. His movements have the snap and stiffness that fits well with the new cinematic aesthetic of the digital age. Craig has created a slimmer, more agile spy, efficient in the conduct of his business but deficient in the charm and allure that made Bond the Brand that made the movie franchise. The steely gaze of Daniel Craig, his quick lithe movements, gives his Bond an economy of expression and austere efficiency in the tradition of Eastwood's Dirty Harry and Schwarzenegger's Terminator though it strips off the soul of the classic charm that Sean Connery brought into this franchise in the early 1960s.
The Bond brand continues to be re-defined in "Skyfall". From a purely economic point-of-view this re-branded Bond may last another fifty years. But as surely as the newly branded Bond has been fitted for the times it is certain that the allure of James Bond that fed the franchise for the first forty years has suffered a premature decline at 50.
The James Bond that Sean Connery created for screen had a playful toughness taking complete delight in the seductive style, charm, and elegance of 007's exotic dream like existence. This philosophy of style is of course a product of the age of the cold war years but it also has a universal charm to it that ought to be used and adapted to our very different age in the new century. Mr Craig's predecessor, Pierce Brosnan creatively adapted Connery's toughness, the Scot's inimitable charm, and the "lighter" more self-deprecating style of Sir Roger Moore to bring his own distinctive brand of charm to the franchise.
The charm and mystery of Bond ought to remain untouched because therein lies the source of its cultural staying power. We all know about the great tribute to Bond movies that the Austin Powers comedy franchise is. Its distinctive contribution is its slapstick comedy, its hilarious satire of the unique world of Bond. The deeper distinction of this form of satire is the underlying discerning commentary on Bond's charm - the fact of the character's mystery. Satire is often disguised admiration and Austin Powers is effective because it is born of this admiration of the central fact of the Bond universe - its invincible charm.
Daniel Craig's interpretation of Bond jettisons charm and tradition. Bond has become a shell of a man, set out to do his job as an automaton. Admirers of Craig, from Sir Sean to Sir Roger, see this new beginning as a virtue. But a new Bond for the new century appears innovative and even possible only as an idea. A "new Bond" is an oxymoron since it just does not work on screen. At least this viewer continues to look back to Connery's Bond with nostalgia.
I like Daniel Craig in the Bond movies not because he is Bond, but because he is Daniel Craig. Craig is consistently compelling on the screen. He brings a raw energy and believability to his roles. But Bond is a mythic figure that does not mix well with the Craig persona. Unless of course Bond is adapted to fit the Craig persona. Real innovation in re-interpreting Bond could not begin with a clean break from the past. That sort of innovation is a destructive rather than a creative act. Reinterpreting an iconic figure like Bond requires a careful continuation of tradition, especially when so much good has come out of that tradition.
It is an interesting irony to me to see how Daniel Craig's philosophy of style is more easily traced back to one of the great nemeses of Bond films, the great Robert Shaw character, Red Grant, in From Russia with Love. It as if Red Grant's intense robotic screen presence and style triumphed metaphorically over Bond's fluid style. That fantastic fight scene in the train when he is on the brink of pounding Bond to bits ultimately ends with Grant pushed overboard. But he seems to have got the better of our hero in the long run by re-surfacing a half a century later to take over the Bond franchise in Casino Royale, Quantam of Solace, and Skyfall.
While this bit may be a bit overstated here the point of this illustration is that there is a certain coldness to Mr. Craig as Bond that reminds me of the more expressionless character of Grant's type in that early film. It is this emotional vacuousness of Craig as Bond that seems to me the tragedy of the new Bond for the new century. After every Bond movie, featuring Craig, I feel that we have lost that cultural institution for good, its allure, the special mood, of the traditional Bond film. Even the wonderful pounding John Barry Bond score has been modified or diluted to an unrecognizable form and left behind along with the great elegance of the previous Bond in the dust of the last century. This British Terminator as the new stand-in for Bond seems terribly inadequate.
Aspects of "Skyfall" that hold up beautifully to the tradition of Bond films is Adele's song "Skyfall" and Ralph Fiennes's superb turn as Gareth Mallory, a key aide to "M". The song is intoxicating and will almost certainly be the high point of the "style" of the film and will continue to be the "selling point" for the film in the long run. The eccentric bad guy, Silva, played by another competent actor Javier Bardem, makes for a story that is not as enthralling as it has been made out to be. Dame Judy Dench has hardly performed badly in front of a camera or on stage. As "M" she continues to be interesting as ever. But the human dimension that Mr. Mendes, the director, attempts to inject into the script, by making "M" the target of Silva's wrath, only succeeds in deflating the mystery of "M".
Not all the action in the world can prop up a Bond film without a Bond who exudes the magic of the character conceived by Ian Fleming. One usually got that style in a couple of gestures from Sir Sean at his prime, in a few minutes of light-hearted wisecracks and banter in the inimitable elegance of Sir Roger, and in the dramatic intensity and laid back ease of Dalton and Brosnan. But in three films with Daniel Craig we see the new action star of the 21st century in place of the mythic character. Craig is an eminently watchable actor, a superlative action star, but his style is not in keeping with the spirit of this great mythic character. This franchise is alive and well; its financial success, supreme as it is, is no sign however that the Bond we know and admire is alive and well.
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Showing 1-10 of 11 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 22, 2013 10:00:01 PM PST
Excellent! I agree with you on all counts. The true James Bond, as we knew him is dead and replaced with Daniel Craig. We tolerate it because of our memories of the character we hope will reappear in Daniel Craig , but, we come to realize that this is wishful hoping for the time being. By the way, I don't believe Robert Shaw was thrown off the train, but strangled with his own device and left behind in the train car. Thanks for the review.
Posted on Jan 24, 2013 6:58:59 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 24, 2013 7:03:16 AM PST
Thanks for your outstanding analysis - which I could not agree more with. The comparison between Craig's new Bond with Robert Shaw's villanous character in From Russia With Love struck me like a silver bullet thru the heart. And true it is. Sean Connery (and John Barry) will always define the character of the original Bond. James Bond. He's been mortally wounded now. Ian Fleming is weeping. If I want to see a Bourne stye film, I'll see a Bourne film. If I want to see a Bond film, I'll pull out a DVD from a 60's era 007. With all due respect to Adelle, I'll go for Shirley Bassey any day of the week. Will I see the next Bond installment? But of course - and with my head lowered even more than ever as I leave the theater, and a dry martini waiting for me at home.
Posted on Jan 24, 2013 1:39:48 PM PST
Off the Topic, I don't agree with all your conclusions and opinions, but the depth and skill of your analysis and review is superb! An excellent read.
I spoke with Pierce Brosnan a bit about Bond while we were working on another picture in the 90s. He wanted Bond to take a turn more like Craig's, but powers that be wouldn't go there. My only regret for him is that Bond couldn't happen earlier. He was an exemplary professional at work.
I don't mind that the Bond of this era seems to have come from a tumultuous background. Flemming's Bond had some service in WWII, but was primarily a product of the cold war. Any contemporary operative such as Bond in this day will also come from the military, but in a far different era considering the nature of conflicts over the past 1.5 decades. PTSD could clearly play a role in such a person. Sir Sean's Bond had a bit of this edge, but shear charisma and playful mischievousness outweighed and overcame it (to our delight). Sure, some charisma in Craig's Bond would be a welcomed trait, but maybe we will see that down the road in future Craig installments.
Finally, I found one scene in Skyfall, the encounter/conversation Bond has with the mysterious Severine in the grand Macau casino, unique and revealing. You think this is going to be the routine Bond/girl encounter, but it is not because of the great script, acting, and directing. We get a peek into reality of what all "Bond girls" really face. It's a disturbing scene because it plays against our expectations of such encounters in a Bond movie and because of the sense of fear and desperation that seethes from this woman. It changed how I reacted to the movie and characters, and this feeling lingers to emotionally charge the following shower sexual encounter in a way we have never experienced in a Bond movie. I'll happily endure this level of work for Craig's tenure.
Posted on Jan 24, 2013 8:51:47 PM PST
Comparing Craig's Bond to the Red Grant character is a brilliant connection. A saddening one, but brilliant nonetheless.
One thing I've always loved about watching bond films was the way each individual movie provided almost a window of it's respective time period. Connery was Bond during a romantic, individualist, selfless, clear cut good-guy-bad-guy era in the United States. What kind of era are we in now? A romanceless ("gender neutral"), collectivist, selfish, bad-guys-are-just-good-guys-with-a-differ
Over the last 50 years the United States has been transforming - from a free, happy more libertarian period to a more freedom limiting, emotionless, government centered period.
We look back at Connery's Bond with nostalgia because his character was easy to love as he represented what we love about ourselves and who we were. We look at Craig's Bond with disdain and disgust because he, like every Bond before, represents who we are at the time. We are a people with less hope, less dreams, we are less as individuals. Craig's Bond represents our current times and we hate him for it. I wonder if we shouldn't just skip the middleman and acknowledge we hate who we are, who we've become as a nation, as a people.
It's saddening and makes for less enjoyable a movie but with stagnant economy, stagnant growth, diminished pay, diminished hope in our future our lives are less enjoyable.
Perhaps the next Bond character will outright be portrayed as the bad guy in the film.
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 25, 2013 4:03:05 PM PST
Matt M. says:
I must disagree with the idea that any of the villains in the Daniel Craig Bond films are portrayed as good guys with a different perspective, especially when it comes to Skyfall. While Silva (Javier Bardem) is given a tragic backstory,--i.e., character development--he is unequivocally an evil sociopath.
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 25, 2013 6:49:22 PM PST
Sorry, was referring only to the perspective within our current era, not in regard to bond film baddies. I agree with you wholeheartedly and apologize for the confusion.
Examples would be...Like questioning why a terrorist would want to commit terrorism. Personally I don't care because if you're willing to die to cause as much destruction and mayhem as possible - you're already well beyond rational conversation anyway.
We didn't question our own motives during the Cold War, pondering whether we could get the CCCP to feel better about us. And neither did they.
I'm not sure if this makes us more rational as a people or more pansy as I can see it both ways.
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 25, 2013 7:10:47 PM PST
Matt M. says:
"Like questioning why a terrorist would want to commit terrorism. Personally I don't care because if you're willing to die to cause as much destruction and mayhem as possible - you're already well beyond rational conversation anyway. "
Actually, I think there's a very good reason for this. It's not so much about trying to turn current terrorists from their ideology as it is trying to figure out how to stop people from becoming terrorists. The best analogy I can think of is, rather than medical science just concentrating on figuring out how to get rid of cancer once someone contracts it, they also try to understand what causes it in the first place to figure out how to reduce the chances of someone getting it in the first place.
Posted on Feb 8, 2013 7:14:33 PM PST
Endeavor to perservere says:
Professor Bond, Professor James Bond I presume?
In reply to an earlier post on Feb 15, 2013 8:20:58 AM PST
Bill H. says:
Wow, did you ever hit that on the head! Your summation of our current state of affairs is dead on in my opinion. I haven't seen the film yet but I've seen enough of Craig's work to know how this film will play out on the screen. I actually like Craig's Bond but I hate that the magic that has left Bond and us. We truly are a nation diminished. The magic it seems has been replaced with a stark reality that I fear will never be found again. What a sad epitaph for such a great nation.
In reply to an earlier post on Feb 15, 2013 12:29:58 PM PST
I haven't taken the time to see any of the new James Bond films. But in all honesty, it's because when I first saw Daniel Craig as the new Bond, there was a sterness I immediately perceived from his portrayal that I personally thought would not be a good direction, considering Sean Connery and Pierce Brosnan had that charm and suaveness that has to be molded into the toughness of Bond. Though I have heard good reviews from Skyfall, and Adele's performance of the theme song I find exquisite, I still find myself hesitant to watch the new film.