Great escape: The James Bond franchise ages well in Skyfall
Let’s face it: A James Bond movie is good for what it is, and Bond is good at what he does. Namely, he kills a lot of people, saves countries (his own and a few others), beds women, drinks vodka martinis. He allows us to escape for a couple hours. No more, no less.
It doesn’t matter whether Sean Connery, Roger Moore, George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan or Daniel Craig plays Bond. The stories are all roughly the same —Bond must save the world (or, in Quantum of Solace, avenge Eva Green). Depending on your penchant for nostalgia, the older films are better than the newer films. Even the bombs (your subjective list goes here) deliver the goods—stunts, beddin’ and killin’—and are therefore good for what they are.
Changes to the formula have been made. Producers chipped away at Bond’s sexism, starting around 1987 with The Living Daylights (Dalton’s first appearance as Bond, though Bond being less sexist means he sleeps with one woman instead of three). He’s abandoned smoking. He’s become more adept at physical stunts; it’s hard to imagine Moore doing anything more strenuous than ordering room service.
The slight change since Craig took over has been to portray Bond as leaner, tougher, and blonder than Brosnan. And Craig, in his third go-round as 007, seems older, wiser and creakier, partly because he’s probably all those things himself, but also because the screenplay demands it.
Seriously, how many age references and jokes are there in this movie? Don’t the producers realize that this series depends on the agelessness of its hero?
Of course they do. They’re just being lazy (as I am by asking a question simply so I can answer it). One day, a younger actor will replace Craig. Then he’ll age, the screenwriters will craft lazy jokes about it and the producers will replace that actor.
Digressions aside, Skyfall has its merits. Craig, as ever, is well-suited to play Bond. He’s been hitting the weights, eating lean protein, and it shows in the many shots of him shirtless.
First-time Bond helmsman Sam Mendes brings some restraint to the action scenes, not in the action itself, which is totally absurd but gripping stuff, but by shooting longer takes and letting the stunts do the work. Veteran film editor Stuart Baird’s work is solid without being flashy, and Roger Deakins’ camera work is uniformly excellent.
Perhaps the best part of Skyfall is watching Javier Bardem sink his teeth into everything around him, and (apologies), man, does he chew the scenery. (And with false teeth! There are about 1 million references, some subtle, some thud-like, to the earlier films.) Bardem is a lot of fun.
Skyfall does have some humdrum spots. To paraphrase Bugs Bunny, the denouement —in which Bond and others face off with Bardem—runs slower than blackstrap molasses in January. But even the slow moments are part of Bond’s shtick, part of the thing that makes a Bond film good for what it is.
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