Opening in Chicago, 11/09

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Kind of a busy weekend for me, so I’m taking the lazy way out yet again this weekend. By way of discussion, we saw Skyfall tonight, and I was fairly disappointed. It’s a pretty routine action movie, although I do appreciate that the Bond series still relies on human stuntwork over CGI as often as it does, which is more than the routine action movies. And it’s beautifully shot by Roger Deakins, so I’d say that the craftsmanship is pretty solid across the board.

But the script is pretty weak, and Judi Dench’s M is especially insufferable this time around. I don’t think the efforts to give Bond more of a backstory have much impact either, and the last big action sequence in Scotland was pretty ridiculous. I’m also souring on Craig as Bond; I wish he had an emotion other than “dour” that he could bring to the character.

Other than that, I’ll want to see Lincoln, which is only opening at one location, so it’ll probably be next week for me. I have to say, though, that Daniel Day-Lewis is really the only appeal for me on that one, because Spielberg hasn’t made a movie I’ve liked since … well, I guess I have to give Munich credit, because I literally dreamed about that movie, very uncomfortably, for a few days, even if I’m not quite sure it’s accurate to say that I “liked” it. Before, that, though, it was Catch Me If You Can, which was 10 years ago already.

The week’s other notable release is Leos Carax’s Holy Motors, which screened at Cannes in May and I guess won an award or something. The trailer is ultra-surreal, and I have no idea what to expect from the experience. Probably doesn’t help that I’ve never seen a Carax film before; his best-known is probably The Lovers on the Bridge.

The Bay (trailer) – Barry Levinson(!) directs a found-footage horror movie

Holy Motors (trailer)

Lincoln (trailer)

Nobody Walks (trailer) – indie somesuch starring John Krasinski and Olivia Thirlby

A Royal Affair (trailer) – Danish period film about royal intrigue

Skyfall (trailer)

11 responses »

  1. Yup. Exactly the way I felt about Skyfall. I thought it was very poorly written. A series of very well-done set pieces without a feeling of saying anything.
    Oh, man…the ending.

  2. Here’s what I don’t understand (spoilers ahead!!!):

    Bond says they’re going to Scotland, where they’d “have the advantage”, I guess because it’s all old-school and there’s no computers around. But what, pray tell, was that advantage supposed to be? Silva shows up and pretty much kicks their asses, because he has grenades and a helicopter with a machine gun and Bond has some makeshift IEDs under the floorboards and a sawed-off shotgun. Whatever.

    Also, it’s not like I expected a more thoughtful, more socially relevant Bond, but if the series ever had the chance to add a little self-reflection, this was it. M gets hauled in front of a public hearing, after a series of manifest failures and demonstrable incompetence, and she gives us the same BS every shady national security official gives us whenever they’re trying to cover their own ass. World’s a dangerous place, invisible enemies, foreigners are going to kill us all if not for me, etc.

    We’re supposed to be alarmed at the thought of her getting killed, but the series has made her into a really repulsive character. And by extension, they’ve done the same to Bond, because he’s so slavishly devoted to her. Again, it’s not like Bond has ever been a “good” guy when you try to fit him into a serious socio-political context … but still.

  3. Ralph Fiennes really is incomparable. He’s a bright spot here and points towards a promising direction for future films in the series.

  4. See, I don’t think she had any ‘manifest failiure’…
    **********************Spoilers**************************

    She made an executive decision to ‘take the shot’. which was ridiculous in and of itself. Bond is the world’s number one super spy. They use him because he is him. They have him go through *driving* a front loader over a train to get to another train and *suddenly* he’s not good enough to do things for himself? Why did they want Bond if they were just gonna use the other agent?
    And he goes to her house and says ‘you should have let me finish the job’, and then the conversation ends with *you’re bloody well not sleeping here*? Really? Dude, (as you pointed out Brian) she just did a fucking reprehensible thing to you and did something she never, ever does. Why are you saying ‘I’ll get a hotel’? WHY? It made no sense to me in the entire myth of what Bond has become in all of his films.

  5. However, I will say
    ***************spoilers*****************
    The ‘Patrice Sniper’ sequence was unbelievably shot and lighted and edited. At no time have I ever felt I was actually in a Splinter Cell game more than at that sequence. And that isn’t a dig.

    And Naomie Harris is criminally underwritten and only there to temper the ‘what makes you think I never have’ line. (Which was pretty sly by the writers, I have to admit, even though no Bond-loving audience member thinks he’s revealing something and not playing Bardem).

  6. **************spoilers**********************
    I meant ‘drive a front loader over one part of the train to get to another part of the train.
    And if Bond is in the cab of the front loader, don’t unload from there, walk forward, aim and shoot, but now I’m just nitpicking, and that’s not even the worst part of the scene. They actually wrote into the script that the female agent says ‘Volkswagen Beetles!’…..oy.

  7. I had a great time with Skyfall. I can’t fundamentally disagree with anything you’ve written, because trying to find logic in a Bond film is a fool’s errand. After all, this is a man who leaps onto the bottom of an elevator, confident he will be able to hang on for the several floors it needs to go up.

    It’s clear that what Mendes and the writers had in mind was a self-referential, almost meta Bond. The Aston Martin, the first Q sequence, the serving of a shaken martini, and Bardem’s performance (he’s a villain who seems to have studied the work and mannerisms of other villains) makes for fun for those who have seen all the Bonds. I’m also wondering if the role played by Albert Finney was offered to Sean Connery. Imagine him showing up at the end of the film–it would have brought the house down.

  8. Imagine him showing up at the end of the film–it would have brought the house down.

    And it would have been extremely tacky. Even tackier than the Moneypenny thing, which was really tacky.

    I don’t really see the movie as all that self-referential overall. It has its meta-moments, sure (and they’re mostly hamfisted and obvious), but on the whole it’s very different than the classic Bond movies in style and tone. They’re really more like the last three Brosnan movies than they are the classic Bonds, except that Craig brings a physicality to the role that Brosnan wasn’t capable of.

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