Faith Can Move Mountains... But Dynamite Works Better

Monday, November 12, 2012

Shaken, Not Stirred

Before I get started today, an item of note. Some of you might already follow Hilary at Feeling Beachie. She and her husband are among those directly affected by Hurricane Sandy. Their home took some serious damage in the storm, and they're having issues- as are many other people- with the Long Island Power Authority. They're spending their time trying to get answers out of a company that seems incapable of getting the job done restoring power- this at a time when other hydro utilities in the area are getting the job done. Check out this petition to hold LIPA accountable under investigation for this fiasco, and sign it and share it if you can. And for those of you who tweet, please do so, particularly by tweeting to Governor Cuomo, the White House, FEMA, and the various media outlets in the area. It's not hard to find them. Just search for hashtags such as #LIPA or #LongIslandPowerAuthority. There are a lot of people out there who are rightfully disgusted by the appalling lack of service coming out of this company.

Now then, to today...

"I can do more damage on my laptop in my pyjamas... than you can do in a year in the field." ~ Q, Skyfall

007 has returned to the big screen this weekend, and to say that the end product, Skyfall, is a triumph... is an understatement. Daniel Craig dons the suit to play the MI6 agent for the third time, after the smashing debut of Casino Royale and the misstep of Quantum of Solace. Director Sam Mendes, who usually helms films that emphasize character, takes the reins this time out, and that may well be a wise decision. The end product is character intensive, giving us a much more in depth James Bond than a different director might have gone with.

The film starts out with Bond and a fellow agent, Eve (Naomie Harris) trying to recover a hard drive stolen from a fellow agent by a mercenary. The chase ends with Bond shot and presumed dead. M (the outstanding Judi Dench) is pressured to retire in the aftermath of that failure by Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), a fellow government official. And MI6 itself comes under attack, resulting in the deaths of several agents. Bond re-emerges, gets assigned to follow the trail, leading first to the mercenary, then to an alliance with a woman, Severine (the lovely Berenice Marlohe), who strikes a bargain with him to find the man responsible.

Fate intervenes, and Bond confronts the villain pulling the strings behind everything. Raoul Silva, a former MI6 agent and cyberhacker, has a personal grudge against his former employer. Silva plots to expose NATO agents and take his revenge on M, and Bond must step up to protect her.

The choice of Mendes to direct works quite well, as it turns out. He has previously worked in character studies like American Beauty (a film that for many reasons I will always despise), Revolutionary Road, and the underrated Road to Perdition. He turns out to be quite adept at directing the set pieces of the film, the chases, gun fights, and various action sequences we expect from a Bond film. Each of these passes with the audience entirely capable of keeping track of what's going on (try getting Michael Bay to do that). And he delves into what makes these characters tick, both hero and villain, drawing performances from the cast that have depth and layers to them. Mendes has assembled a good crew and production team as well. The screenplay pairs John Logan, who has a good record in his resume, with Bond veterans Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, and the writers bring out the best. Cinematography, set design, and all of the usual items that go into production have a crisp, fitting sensibility to them. And Thomas Newman, one of my favourite film composers, makes a splendid debut in the world of Bond, composing the score for this one.

The cast is ideal. Bardem as Silva is a splendidly malevolent Bond antagonist. Bardem has played the villain before- his turn in the Coen Brothers film No Country For Old Men is a particularly chilling monster. Silva is a cyberanarchist with a profound grudge (profound being an understatement)- and there's an unhinged quality to the character. Ben Whishaw turns up as an impossibly young Q, and he has some of the same eyerolling exasperation at 007 that we were so used to in the late Desmond Llewelyn. Having had missed the Q character for a couple of films now, it's refreshing to see a Q back in the world of 007. Berenice Marlohe has an exotic quality as Severine. Naomie Harris as Eve is a match for Bond, someone entirely capable of taking care of herself. I like the spark she brings to the role. The always exceptional Ralph Fiennes starts off as difficult as Mallory, though the audience warms up to him, and as an actor, he carries an air of authority naturally. And Albert Finney, the great character actor, gives a fine performance as an ally with his own ties to Bond's family past.

Judi Dench herself practically is the co-star of the movie, a different turn from earlier films in which she has appeared relatively briefly as M. She has occasionally scolded Bond, and at other times has been supportive of him. There's a strange sort of mother and son bond the two share; Dench brings great poignancy and sympathy to the performance. She's one of the best actors around, and that really comes across on screen.

Craig has established himself firmly as a James Bond for the present day. He has a physical intensity in the role; Bond is a hard man doing a job that allows other people to sleep comfortably at night, and Craig has that way of bringing that across just right. There are times- particularly after he emerges from being presumed dead- that he seems worn and tired- but it's entirely appropriate to the moment. Craig brings depth and pathos to his performance, and the film looks into the character's background, something that in the past has only been hinted at. He is a relentless, ferocious man at times, rough when he has to be, and tremendously loyal to those who matter to him, and Craig conveys all of those qualities.

James Bond has been on the silver screen for fifty years. Skyfall is a smashing way of marking the anniversary. This might well be Bond at his best.


  1. Sounds good William. I look forward to seeing it.

  2. So sorry to hear about Hilary's issues, and sadly, I've heard several similar reports. I hope the petition gets some traction and gets the power back on soon. Getting cold up there ...

    We saw Skyfall over the weekend and really loved it. Never seen an action movie quite like it. And I'm definitely going to anoint Craig as 'my' Bond. He's awesome! :-)

  3. Now I want to see it. Pierce Brosnan will always be "my" Bond, but this sounds great (you always do such wonderful reviews)!

    Love the Q quote!

    I'm relieved to know I'm not the only one who saw a maternal attitude toward Bond in M. I always thought it would one day be revealed that she was his mother.

    But then, that would be like Mallory and Archer....

  4. Great review! I'm looking forward to seeing this.

  5. Great review. I also love the Q quote!

  6. Thank you for providing the LIPA petition link, incredible what is still going on in so many parts of NY!

    As for Bond, loved Skyfall for the reasons you articulated so well. Esp. the increased screen time for Judi Dench and Bardem's villain. Craig, Whishaw, Harris, Marlohe and Finney were terrific. I wish Marlohe had more screen time, she was on the verge of cracking from fear.

  7. I need to catch up on the Bond movies. I've gotten so far behind.

  8. Great review, William. Although I'm not a huge Bond fan, I do like Mendes' work, so I'm intrigued.

  9. I've seen most of the Bond movies and enjoy them. I found you through Book Blogs and I am your newest follower! I hope that you can stop by for a visit sometime! :) Have a wonderful Tuesday!

    Leigh Ann
    MaMa's Book Corner

  10. Makes me want to see it in the theater! We usually wait for Netflix.

    I feel for the people out of power. And the utility workers. I think several crews from down here went up.

    And surely 47 is a conservative number for fifty years!

  11. I can't wait to see Skyfall. And reading this makes me want to see it on a big screen!


  12. @Eve: it's a great one!

    @EJ: I hope it gets sorted out fast on the coast.

    And Craig really shines in the role.

    @Norma: And the Archer family is screwed up as it is!

    The Bond/M connection really does have that quality.

    @Jen: go see it as quick as you can!

    @MR: thanks!

    @LondonLulu: she is quite the Bond girl!

    @Kelly: this is a good one to run with!

    @Talli: word has it Mendes might have actually had a hand in getting Craig the role by casting him some years back in Road to Perdition.

    @Leigh Ann: thanks!

    @Cheryl: you must see this in the theatre!

    @Nas: it's well worth it to go!

  13. I'm really excited to see Bardem as the villain, and of course Daniel Craig in a suit.

  14. Skyfall sounds excellent! I'm seeing it this weekend and can't wait!

  15. I love James Bond. Sean Connery was the hottest of them all.

  16. I loved the character development of Bond, he's finally growing up. Skyfall just edged Craig into my favorite Bond. :-)

  17. Looking forward to seeing it even more now William, I loooove Judi Dench in every roll she plays, she is the consummate actor!

  18. William, I can't thank you enough for everything you did to help me.... I really appreicate it more than I can express... I am so lucky to have you as a friend... We got lucky, we were restored Wed (although our heating system is shot). So many people still are in the dark (waiting for inspections or unable to pass). It is so sad...

  19. You make me want to see this one. I think that the Bond movies may have matured to some level I might be able to sit and watch. Before they were only too comical/stupid for me.

  20. Krisztina: they're both worth it!

    Maria: you'll enjoy it!

    Shelly: poor George Lazenby never gets any fans...

    Stacey: it`s easier for me to say who`s not a good Bond: First name Roger, last name Moore...

    Grace: she`s a personal favourite of mine.

    Hilary: you`ve really been put through the ringer. It`ll take awhile before things are getting back to something resembling normal.

    Lorelei: some of them could really get thrown off by going too much to the comedic side of things. Roger Moore`s entire run... Brosnan`s Die Another Day was like that too...


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