Paul Dundon’s Weblog

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A little cheese and a little whine

Film Log: Skyfall

Details here.

At some point, someone decided that Bond films should be About something. I’ve always believed this to be an error; the early Bond films are just Christmas crackers stuffed with leftover items from Boys’ Own annuals for Boys old enough to drink, smoke and at least think about having sex. Contrary to what Daniel Craig once said, they really were about the toys. Skyfall, on the other hand, is About staying relevant as one gets older and the changing nature of intelligence and national defence, themes which have been handled rather better in Red and Page Eight 

The problem with films which are About something is that they tend to take themselves seriously and end up being a bit po-faced. This is certainly the case with Skyfall, which is almost entirely humourless, despite a couple of old-fashioned Bond throwaways in the script. This might be a deliberate attempt at sombreness, given the themes at work; certainly it fits well with the slow pace of a lot of the film, the emotionally restrained feel to the acting (which borders on woodenness) and the bleak spaciousness of the photography in the last act. Similarly, the complete absence of chemistry between Craig and Harris (Moneypenny) may be a consequence of unfortunate casting or an effort to leave room for the film’s real love story, that between Bond and M. In the end, this love story is more-or-less convincing, and there is some real pathos in the final scenes, but it’s a long time coming.

The question that springs to mind is why the writers, if this is the film they wanted, open it with a lengthy (and slightly dull) set-piece action sequence. This is the second problem with a Bond film which tries to be About something – it has to fit its themes in around the sine qua non of the series. While Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy has room to examine the subtle political machinations of the Circus with little more than a series of conversations, Skyfall has to explore loyalty, aging and sacrifice through the lens of car chases, exploding helicopters and a cartoonish supervillain. The result is a rather unsatisfactory compromise.

Visually, the film makes a lot of effort to be beautiful, sometimes self-consciously so, and makes good use of its locations and indeed of Craig’s torso. The latter also features briefly in a rather curious and disconnected flirtation between Bond and the villain, which I guess was a last-ditch attempt to do something interesting in a script which is otherwise too constrained by its own ambitions to every really get off the ground.

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Filed under: Film + TV

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My Bookshelf

The Golden Bough
The Value of Nothing
The Fire
A Wolf at the Table
Devil Bones

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