And now I’m a believer
For some people Skyfall is the most anticipated movie of the year. I wasn’t one of those to be honest. I’m not exactly a Bond hater, but let’s put it this way: I thought it was time to consider sending him to retirement.
All those “g-words” that worked so well in the 70s had become irrevocably dated, not up to par with the standard I expect from a film. The girls, the gadgets, the gags, the gambling and the glamorous settings – I was done with it. Done with clichés. Done with misogyny. Shaken or stirred – I didn’t care anymore. Enough was enough.
Considering this skepticism you may wonder why I bothered to see the film at all. And what can I say? I guess it’s a case of “for old love’s sake” and nostalgia. There’s something about the Bond theme that puts even me – an unbeliever – in a mood of anticipation. Besides the first reports I had heard from people who had seen it were quite favorable. And when I gave it a closer thought I realized that while action isn’t my favorite genre, I still enjoy having a rollercoaster run once in a while. And that was at least something that I expected the Bond franchise to deliver.
So I ignored the fact that it was one of the first sunny days we’ve had for months, which is a great sin in Sweden, where the sun is worshiped more than any other deity. Instead I joined the abysmal audience for a midday screening in the largest theatre in my city, because I knew from experience that in the case of Bond movies, the size is essential. The bigger screen, the better it gets.
It turned out that I wasn’t the only one who had been mulling over the need to put Bond at rest. As a matter of fact it was the red thread that went through the entire film. James Bond’s physical and mental capability to work as an agent was questioned – but also MI6’s working methods and reason to exist. Who needs spies anymore?
Two and a half hours later I came out from the film as a convert. I hope it’s not a spoiler to say that the movie ends with a message to the audience that Bond will be back. Before watching Skyfall, this message would have made me sigh a little. “Why?” “Really?” “Can’t you come up with something new?” Now I received the information, if not with surprise, at least with an approving nod. More Bond? Yes, please, as long as it is in this version!
Gone are the days of when the main occupation of Bond was to drink and mess around with innumerous women in minimal swimming suits, only interrupted when he needed to perform yet another chasing scene in a vehicle that had been adjusted for underwater purposes.
Now they haven’t ridden themselves with the girls completely. There’s at least one typical “Bond chick” around, whose main purpose is to provide eye-candy to the male audience. But compared to how it used to be, we’ve come a long way.
Rather than focusing on Bond being smarter, richer, fitter and getting more girls than anyone else, it focuses on existential and psychological questions – such as aging issues and the exact nature of the relationship between M and the agents. We also get glimpses of the early life of Bond, which could be used as a set-up for the next few Bond movies to come.
I’m not sure what fans of old-school Bond will think of it. If the playboy lifestyle was what attracted you most to the franchise, you might get disappointed. If you ask me, all I say is: “good riddance”.
However I think that those who disapprove of the change of environment and tone still won’t have anything bad to say about the action. From the initial pre-credit chasing scene to the final blow-up, it holds the level you can expect from a movie with this kind of budget: exciting, sometimes jaw-dropping and with enough of variation for it to never get boring.
Finally I have to say something about the cast, because it’s just so good.
I love Javier Bardem’s villain – evil, dark, crazy and intelligent as you can expect from a bad guy of this caliber, but with a back story that brings you some insight to from where he’s coming. Judi Dench has been around for long, but this time she gets a great deal more screentime than we’re used to, and is as much the main character of the film as Bond. I was also pleasantly surprised to see Ralph Fiennes – one of my favorite actors – and completely charmed by the new, young version of Q (or “cute”, as I promptly re-named him), in the form of Ben Whishaw.
After watching Skyfall I sent this tweet: “I was reluctantly impressed and entertained. Pre-movie I advocated his retirement. Not anymore”.
I will look forward to the next Bond movie, even though I could do with a little less of publicity around it than we’ve seen for Skyfall. The media coverage is just a little bit too much, and the risk is that you get an overdose of Bond before you’ve even watched it.
And that would be a shame on such a good film.
Skyfall (Sam Mendes, UK, 2012) My rating: 4,5/5