January 10, 2013

Movie review: Skyfall

Directed by Sam Mendes, cast including Albert Finney, Ben Whishaw, Berenice Marlohe, Daniel Craig, Helen McCrory, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Naomie Harris, Ola Rapace, Ralph Fiennes, Rory Kinnear, 143 minutes

Review by Glen Truax

Yes, I watched Skyfall. No, I didn’t pay for it.

The Bond film series that appears to be bulletproof, a franchise that has been running strong for decades (despite the glitch caused by Timothy Dalton in the eighties), continues to draw in boatloads of money at the box office. Every trope remains in place: gambling, oceans of alcohol consumption, beautiful women who show up only to get killed 20 minutes later – the template set by Connery back in the halcyon days of the sixties.

This doesn’t mean that Skyfall is terrible. It’s slick, it’s easy to forget that the film is over two hours long. There’s very little in the way of padding; in every other Bond film, there are at least 30 minutes of flab, and that doesn’t seem to be the case here. There are few moments of wasted screen time.

It’s still a little hard to take Skyfall at face value however. It’s difficult to forget the ludicrous opening ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympics, in which Daniel Craig personally parachutes his way into the thick of things. (It’s also hard to believe that the director of 28 Days Later and Trainspotting directed the opening sequence, but that’s another matter.). Also, viewers know in their hearts that life will eventually return to a state of grace, with James and Company alive and well to do battle with “evil” in the next episode, so emotional stakes are rather low.

What’s more important is the subtext in every James Bond film, where villainy is always cast in a very zeitgeist-y way. Whatever happens to be grabbing headlines during the course of shooting the film can be expected to rear its ugly head in the finished product. In Skyfall, the bogeyman is the grim spectre of WikiLeaks, which the film takes pains to explain is entirely evil (along with Julian Assange and the Anonymous internet collective). These entities exist to blow the cover of good, hard-working spooks all over the world, seemingly without any purpose other than petty warfare with power structures.  This is completely unambiguous – ratting on agents is evil, pure and simple, with Javier Bardem stepping up to the plate as the face of pesky civilians who actually want transparency.

There are certainly worse ways to while away an afternoon. Anti-WikiLeaks undertone aside, the film delivers relentless action, with little CGI or noticeable electronic gimmickry getting in the way of a good punch up. It’s pure entertainment, not enlightenment, and the cast is uniformly strong. The viewer may want to wait until it comes to cable however – dropping 15 dollars minimum on a suspect action flick seems a little steep.

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