Monday, February 4, 2013

Why Skyfall was a good Bond film

If I hadn't known it wasn't based on a book, I might have thought it was.  (This is a high compliment because I like the books.)  It was definitely a Bond film, but it wasn't stupid and brainless, and it didn't ignore the world it was setting itself in.
  • The villain was believably crazy (not your generic, run-of-the-mill, mustache-twirling psycho).  He acted just that little bit off-kilter, and it was spine-chilling sometimes.  You understood what made him go insane, you saw the effects that this kind of lifestyle of service and self-sacrifice could lead to.  You also saw how he might go too far but still hold that against his superiors later.  He was scary, but he mostly made sense.
  • The hero was properly dimensioned.  Suave when necessary but grumpy and surly as the situation called for as well.  There's a lot of ambiguity that I liked.  That scene with Moneypenny and the razor?  Bond exerting his charm? Yes.  Bond not sure he could shave without cutting himself?  Maybe.  Two birds, one stone.  The film was pretty psychological, too, asking the questions but not feeling a need to answer them neatly.  Why do you keep doing this?  What drives you?  Why should you be allowed to continue?  And this Bond is good at making you convincingly feel that he is in real danger, not just playing around being more awesome than the other guys.
  • M really worked.  You could sense her old-school dedication to the job, and you could see where it resonated with Bond.  "I'll stop when the job's done," she said.  Damn straight.  Their relationship was complicated and simple, based on what was said and explained and what was not justified, what was simply understood.  They may have played a bit too hard on the orphans/mother thing, but that theme was consistent, so I don't hold it against them too much.
  • The secondary characters were solid.  That secretary guy talking Bond to death while he's taking the tests, Moneypenny, the unfortunate girl Bond tried (and failed, yet again) to save, the guy investigating MI6, Q, and others.
  • The modern stuff was integral to the film.  How do you make these movies believable in the modern world?  Some past Bond films just sort of ignored it as they reveled in gadgets and cool stunts and explosions.  This movie made the new technology integral to the plot (Q was kind of a hoot) and openly confronted how the world works now in relation to governments, spying, accountability, and international/world politics.  It didn't try to wrap everything up neatly, but it did give a chance for different views to be presented and a compelling case made for why/how Ian Fleming's characters could still really work in this setting.
I really liked it, even though it was pretty long and tense and sad.  I don't think I saw the last one with this actor, but I liked his first one, which actually stuck really close to the book it was based on (like startlingly close) until the end.  I like what they're doing with these characters

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