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Skyfall

15 Dec

Skyfall – directed by Sam Mendes. Action/Adventure/Spy. James Bond XXIII must protect the home office, M16, which is under attack by one of its own. 143 minutes Color 2012.
★★★★
Yes, the 23rd James Bond Movie, and over what forgotten cliff did the others drop? Here Bond is again in the person of the sour-faced Daniel Craig, whom I have a very difficult time looking at, or paying attention to, since my ineradicable loyalty is to Sean Connery’s Bond, with his insouciance, humor, easy virility, mischievousness, and lookable looks, none of which qualities does Craig possesses to any degree. He doesn’t even have a hairy chest.

In fact he seems to have no variety of expression whatsoever, nor any particular physical presence that would make him outstanding, save a fine figure, which he has to strip down to reveal to my bored gaze – and action/adventure films are not played in the nude.

This leaves us not with an actor but a role. That is to say, a cutout figure who can gesture through the complexities of the material – material which then has an extra burden placed upon it, since, without a human hero, it can only exist in and of itself and not in relation to the leading actor playing a part in it. A film with this load to carry can turn heavy pretty fast, and it must move with a grace and wit all its own.

This it succeeds in doing, at least at the start, when we are treated to a spectacular opening motorcycle chase. But the problem then arises as to how to best that sequence in the finale. This the film fails to do, for its closing is heavy and witless and long.

But as the film goes along it is saved by various added ingredients that offer brisk entertainment until they exhaust themselves, and the film has to bring on a different freak to delude us into being entertained. Lacking a smart story or vivid leading actor, we are given [a] exotic settings, [b] new characters late in the day [c] the stalling effect of slow, skilled seductions. The film therefore takes us to various settings in Southeast Asia, Macau and Singapore. It brings on Javier Barden late in the day and Albert Finney even later. And it treats us to delicious females in the persons of the talented Naomie Harris, who will continue in the series, and Bérénice Mariohoe a ravishing Cambodian beauty as the Madame Unmentionable Sin who leads Bond to his nemesis. What a dish, what a debut!

These are saving graces, as is the principal savior, Roger Deakins who filmed it so beautifully you are given the relishing impression of never in your life having seen a picture so glorious to look at.

The main problem is the story because it presents as the focal character to be saved from danger an actor so completely unsympathetic, miscast, and technically unqualified that we wish, rather than ending with it, the film had begun with her death – and that is the dreadful Judi Dench. All she can bring to the part is dour righteousness. It’s her default position as an actor, and it stinks. She is mercifully slain and replaced, as M, head of the British Secret Service, by Ralph Fiennes, who may bring some imagination to this role and some wit to XXIV of the series. I didn’t believe in that dagger for a minute, did you?

 
 
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