Blakeson - Writer

Cardiff-based film, theatre and gig reviews, cultural ramblings, whingeing, short films, etc.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


I’ve never been a fan of the James Bond films. I remember greatly enjoying the novels in my teens, impressed by Ian Fleming’s style and erudition (although they did make me paranoid about Russia, which, I suppose, was the aim). The films, however, seem to go out of their way to keep one from caring about the hero (“On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” being a notable exception), and some of the Roger Moore efforts were crimes against cinema (less to do with the star than the fact that the British film industry was in creative crisis at the time). Even the admirable Daniel Craig’s assumption of the role couldn’t make me warm to “Casino Royale” - I preferred the 1960s one, which is, legendarily, a compete mess.

So, why did I go and see “Skyfall”? Mainly because of director Sam Mendes, who was responsible for two of my favourite films of the past couple of decades in “American Beauty” and “The Road To Perdition” (both of which seem to have lost their critical lustre of late). If anyone can humanise such a cynical franchise (and given that the Broccoli family are hardly going to give the gig to Mike Leigh or Ken Loach), surely he can.
And he does an excellent job. While Mendes hardly succeeds in turning “Skyfall” into a profound human drama, he at least manages to make the spectacular action sequences appear coherent, and as though they are taking place in the real world. Craig is as incapable as ever of looking as though his character is out of his depth, leaving it to Dame Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes and Rory Kinnear to deal with nuances – while Naomie Harris’ Eve surely deserves a film of her own. The casting of Javier Bardem as the villain is a particular masterstroke. He arrives nearly half-way through, introduced via a clever monologue; as a camp, damaged character motivated by hatred and the desire for vengeance rather than the lust for power or wealth (very post-9/11), he is a magnetic presence.

The themes are well-worn – death and resurrection, low- vs high-tech warfare, ageing, disappearing certainties. There’s some unforgivably glib dialogue, and while cinematographer Roger Deakins does sterling work as usual, there is perhaps a little too much architectural photography for my taste. It’s certainly a highly effective action thriller, though, constantly engaging and tightly plotted, with all the elements well marshalled. Certainly, speaking as a non-devotee, the best Bond film ever.


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