Saturday, April 27, 2013

Skyfallen

Okay, okay; so that's not the most creative title you've ever seen, or indeed, that I've ever come up with. On the other hand, it is right about the same level as the quips in the latest Bond film. In fact, the entire movie ends up seeming like nothing so much as a parody of itself.

Granted, the Bond franchise has rarely taken itself very seriously, and I wouldn't normally damn one of the films for unseriousness unless it was grievously so. (Everyone is now remembering Moonraker.) But the recent films starring Daniel Craig have made a deliberate effort to distance themselves from the their more silly forebears and reach for a somewhat grittier and more realistic ("somewhat", I said!) feel.

In the previous instalments with our blond, blue-eyed hero, this seriousness is achieved by making him more vulnerable. He's more touched by the deaths of his lovers, colleagues, and associates than in any of the other Bond films. (That I have seen. I've seen most, but not quite all, of them. I'm not a devoted fan.) This kinder, gentler Bond... no, this conflicted, tormented Bond is carried over into Skyfall also, but its just not as convincing, nor are the reactions he gets from those around him.

As examples of the reactions and interactions, allow me to cite two instances from relatively early in the film. (This will include spoilers, of course. You have been warned.) In the opening action sequence, Bond is hurt and presumed killed as a result of an order by M and an action taken by his fellow agent. He returns subsequently and confronts both M and the agent. M argues that it was the correct judgment call despite the unsatisfactory and unfortunate result. Bond retorts that she should have trusted him to succeed and she tells him that he would have made the same decision. And then Bond says... nothing. Maybe this is intended to be an indication of Bond's self-doubt, but it is never followed up. He does nothing else that shows any further glimmer of insecurity. The scene merely ends awkwardly and feels incomplete

When he confronts the agent directly responsible for his injury, he is the Bond of old. Insouciant, sexist, insulting, confident, and, apparently, irresistible. He insults and belittles her performance in the field, leaves with a stilted sexual innuendo, and she still apparently can't wait to see him again.

And the quips! I don't remember them being this bad in the previous two movies, but they may have been. Some (close shave) seem last-minute and phoned in. Some are needlessly self-referential (exploding pen). Some (welcome to Scotland) are more suited to a Die Hard movie. They all are alike in making the movie feel even more disjointed by clashing with the serious tone that otherwise dominates.

There are other aspects too that I could criticise, such as the Aston Martin, Silva's inconsistent personality, the fact that he really wasn't that scary; (we're constantly told that he frightens people, but there really isn't any menace there) but I think this suffices to explain. In sum, the movie is simply schizophrenic; it can't decide if it's a Bond comedy or a Bourne clone.