Skyfall A Very Good James Bond

15 02 2013

I finally got to see Skyfall, and I was impressed. Is it the best Bond movie yet? Hard to say. I’m still pondering that. But it is very, very good, and if you are fan of James Bond movies, you must see it. I also found it intriguing on how it fits within the new, rebooted universe. Spoilers ahead. If you don’t want to see them, don’t keep reading.

Rebuilding Bond

Aside from the usual rollercoaster of action that is a Bond film, what was interesting was how they have “rebuilt” the Bond universe. When Casino Royale came out, it was Bond, but at the same time it wasn’t. He didn’t care how his martini was made. The Aston Martin was just another way to get around. Bond himself is rough around the edges, coarse and a little uncivilized. But he was also creative and reasonably observant, as well as physically tough.

Quantum of Solace added more elements of the traditional Bond film. We got a bit more of the expected Bond music, albeit in very limited ways. We got to see an expanded view of his knowledge and experience. We also get to see our first glimpse at a master-criminal-type organization, with Quantum. We are still missing some elements. The Aston Martin appears again, both the modern and the vintage. Bond’s inventiveness and cheeky behaviour around the Bad Guys starts to become more apparent. It’s the middle of an arc, and it has a trajectory.

With Skyfall, the arc is more-or-less complete. The vintage music is back. The Aston Martin is an important part of the plot. We get back Q and Moneypenny. What I’m hoping for next is a series of stories with Bond vs. Quantum, the lone agent foiling the large criminal organization. Sure, it’s a but out of touch with the real-world “nebulous” bad guys that we get in the news. It’s old fashioned, but this is escapism. Why not have a bigger organization, hiding in the shadows, pulling the strings and making things happen?

But What About The Movie?

The movie, by itself, is very good. The pacing is excellent, moving along at a deliberate clip most of the time, speeding up from time to time as events unfold. We get to catch our breath, but those moments happen when it make sense. The movie never seems to drag, and the pace never gets frenetic or beyond the audience’s comprehension.

An interesting contrast, apparent in the most recent 2 Bond movies, is where the gadgets are at the start, vs. at the end. Up until the final scenes, the gadgets have actually been confined largely to MI6 headquarters, with massive square footage assigned to computer screens giving all manner of real-time detail. The agents are basically the remote hands of those in real control back in London. By the end, the technology (built or improvised) is in the hands of the master-super-spy himself: machine guns on the DB5, improvised explosives and booby traps in the house. Traditionally, the Cool Stuff has been in the hands of James Bond. Even in the previous movies, there was more technology in more of a support role vs. used by Bond directly.

A funny scene was when Bond meets the new Q, and gets his equipment. I had to laugh, given my own military background, because Q gives Bond the most lethal combination of devices for an individual: a gun and a radio. Again, Bond tradition was partly about the gadgets, portable little deus ex machinas that just happened to be the right tool at the right time. But in a touch of “bringing it down to earth”, the most dangerous person in a practical sense has 2 things: a gun and a radio. And the radio is really the more lethal of the two. It was a small scene, and some may have seen it as a bit of a throw-away filler, but for me, it really touched home. And it led to a later line that I found hilarious: The latest thing from Q branch; called a radio. A clever line in my mind.

Skyfall is a worthy addition to the Bond universe. It tells a compelling story, features excellent acting and directing, and is an exciting and gripping thriller. Following after 2 other great Bond movies, we get to come back to the heart of the Bond universe. M is back at Universal Exports, Moneypenny guarding the door, and Q is providing the tools of the trade. I am looking forward to the next instalment in the franchise.

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