When my old friend (an occupational hazard of being friends for more than a quarter century) John is let off the leash by wife Bev he often drags me along to whatever man’s movie of the moment has caught his eye — and pays for me so I don’t have to break my vow of never paying to see a modern movie until they get some style; a little will do. He must have got the idea I was itching to watch any movie as I told him to be on the lookout for a re-release of Shane (1953), the unbeatable Western color classic I’d half-heard previewed on the radio. He doesn’t value the oldies as much as I do: They’re full of acting and dramatics, plotting, scene-setting and atmospherics rather than THE GREAT GOD TECHNOLOGY and cartoon theatrics, cartoon violence, cartoon sex.
I anticipated an Imax or 3-D version — but we haven’t been able to find it. Earlier this year it was the very, very lowkey remake of John LeCarre’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy about early Sixties Cold War espionage within MI6. This time it was Skyfall, about early millennium Cold War espionage within MI6. The poor Brit spy schools haven’t learnt much in the past 50 years…
To avoid ‘spoiling’ the whole thing for you action fans, and to save myself the trouble, I’ll just mention a few lowlights and points worth noting.
* Near the beginning of the movie Bond goes through some of the usual leaping from tall buildings, chase scenes in a car, chase scenes on foot, fighting on top of a train. Every time I see him make incredible leaps into nowhere and other physically impossible moves I think of the old Warner Brothers cartoons. Not that Bond should necessarily be remade as a cartoon character — though it would be more believable and a lot funnier that way — but what about that half-and-half filming process they did for Tin-Tin ? At least it wouldn’t insult the people in the audience with a three-digit IQ by asking them to believe that actual humans are capable of all this.
* Daniel Craig’s permanently pursed lips — like the moulded plastic of a marionette hero from Thunderbirds — are starting to get annoying. I always half expect him to come out with something totally inappropriate in the context of making love to a woman: “Kissy, kissy!”
* Daniel Craig shouldn’t have such close-cropped hair. There were several sustained shots of him front-on in silhouette and it made me think of The Return of Batfink or Wingnut People Conquer the Universe rather than James Bond. I’m not being picky here because I have a very similar problem myself, only lower down.
* I’ve never understood the hullabaloo about Dame Judy Dench and (Lord?) Albert Finney. Here they’re both in their seventies and it’s nice to see the old dears still trotted out and mentally competent, but I’d swear their faces had seized up worse than Charles Bronson’s in Death Wish IV or V that I reviewed a few weeks ago.
* Potential spoiler alert here: Just when we’d reached a point in the plot where I thought we were coming to the end of the movie — no real disappointment that it didn’t end here because there was plenty of good action still to come. Bond has chased arch-villain Javier Bardem (probably the best performer in the flick) down into the London Underground aware that he’s going to take out Dame Judith. As Bardem is climbing a metal ladder to escape his pursuer, Bond pulls his handgun and fires two shots that ricochet off the rungs and miss his nemesis. Bardem stops dead, but instead of Bond finishing him off with a third shot he stops to watch and listen as Bardem grapples with his bomb detonating apparatus, takes a few precious moments to grasp it, and places his thumb over the whoopsie button. Then he takes his time and tells Bond, rapt as an attentive schoolkid, a cute story about this being his new toy — after Bond had shown off his new issue handgun and radio in a previous scene. It’s the kind of exchange where you had to be there. But because this Bond is something of an automaton (hasn’t every hero been since The Terminator?), apparently with the brain reaction of a slow one, half of London is about to be destroyed and Dame Judith is forced to take premature retirement.
* Bond’s incompetence is attempted to be ‘explained’ beforehand through much tiresome exposition by his months off boozing in mourning and he is supposedly out of shape — Didn’t look like it to me, and this plot device didn’t work.