Movie review: “Skyfall”


Partner and I saw the latest James Bond movie, “Skyfall,” yesterday. I wasn’t expecting much, frankly. The Financial Times review a week or two ago described Daniel Craig as “looking more than ever like a garden gnome who, having overdone it a little in the 1990s, spent the following decade in the gym by way of compensation.”

I’m pleased to tell you that it’s actually a pretty good movie.

Every actor who’s been lucky enough to play James Bond has done something different with the role. Sean Connery, the original, set the pace: serious but wryly funny, very physical, very sexy, heartlessly deadly when necessary. Roger Moore was Bond-the-playboy, and very much Austin Powers’s granddaddy. The others – Lazenby, Brosnan, Dalton – came and went without much impact.

Daniel Craig, in this (his third) Bond movie, gives us Bond-as-Batman: haunted by the death of his parents, noble, humorless, murderous.

Also, he has dreamy blue eyes, and a body like a Greek god.

I’m sorry: what were we talking about?

I can’t tell you much about the movie without spoiling it for you. I will say that Judi Dench is back as M, cold and bitchy as ever, and strangely compelling. We have Naomie Harris as Bond’s, um, assistant, and Ben Whishaw as a cocky young Q. We have Ralph Fiennes as a Ministry bureaucrat who turns out to be something more.

Also, we have Javier Bardem as the villain.

You know how you think of some James Bond movies in shorthand? “Diamonds Are Forever” is “the one in Las Vegas.” “Goldfinger” is “the one where they try to get Fort Knox.” Well, this one will be “the one where Javier Bardem played that blond madman.” (Seriously, what is it about Javier Bardem’s hair? He’s a very handsome man, but just give him a strange haircut and/or a dye job, and he’s the Antichrist.)

Javier doesn’t appear in the movie until about halfway through, and he’s very nasty and very memorable. He rolls his eyes and giggles unbearably. He’s sexually ambiguous in a very stickily insane way. You spend the last half of the movie wishing that James Bond would just show up and kill him as brutally as possible.

And do you get your wish?

I won’t tell you.

The first James Bond picture, “Dr. No,” came out fifty years ago, in 1962. We know the James Bond clichés by heart by now, and many of them are here: the Aston-Martin, the shaken martini. Craig even says the obligatory line: “Bond. James Bond.” It makes you feel at home; it makes you realize that, whatever else happens, James is gonna come through, guns blazing, in the final reel. But this movie also acknowledges that time is passing: Bond is getting old, and M is getting old.

But maybe there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as Bond can kill everybody he needs to kill.

I can’t neglect mentioning the remarkable cinematography, nor Sam Mendes’s direction. Whole scenes are amazing: a dreamlike night scene in Shanghai, full of windows and reflected light; a nightmare struggle in Macao with Komodo dragons looking on.

I enjoyed this movie a lot more than I thought I would, as you can probably tell. It was too long, and too noisy, and too violent, naturally. But it was funny and compelling too, and very well-acted.

Go see it, kids.


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About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to futureworld@cox.net.

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