Skyfall (UK/USA, 2012)

Directed by: Sam Mendes. This is almost universally being hailed as the “Best Bond Film Ever”, which for all practical purposes means “Best Bond Film of the Last 10 Years”, because of cultural amnesia (who the fuck is Pierce Brosnan?) These three Bond films from the latest batch are definitely going to be the most enjoyable to watch for us for the simple reason that they’re new—with the curious exception of Quantum of Solace, which I am possibly alone in thinking was a perfectly acceptable contribution to the mythology, and better than a lot of the crap that’s been put out by that franchise. All this being said, I’ll take it as read that the idea of making a definitive statement of the “Best” in this context is so subjective as to make it utterly meaningless and, to me, pretty boring. However, we are a culture that loves our lists (I’m looking at you, fucking, and it’s hardly surprising that Skyfall is topping that particular list at the moment. It gives the impression of being completely new and fresh while still retaining enough markers of, nods and winks to, and love for, the previous 50 years of Bond. It’s as if, with this recent re-start of the franchise, they threw the baby out with the bathwater, thought better of it, gently placed the infant back in the tub and now they’re slowly filling it up with water again. I find this franchise so fucking fascinating, and this film is great fuel for that fire. How can you juggle such extreme self-reflexivity, just completely destroying that fourth wall—making overt references to things that happened in the previous Bond films, outside of any remote claim to realism—and yet still somehow keep a completely coherent and sober action movie, based entirely in stark realism of the most serious kind? There’s the whole Julian Assange thing, of course. You know…Silva, the mad villain with his shock of delicate blonde hair whose evil atrocities include releasing the private information of governments to the public via the internet. So that’s kind of interesting. I guess there’s an awful lot of cultural detritus floating around this movie—a Master’s student friend of mine brought my attention to a little Oedpidal subtext, which might be pretty cool to look at—but ultimately, I’m not sure how rewarding it would actually be to try to laboriously synthesize some coherent “explanation” out of this movie. Like the other comparable blockbuster I saw this year—The Dark Knight Rises—this film is full of (political)  contradiction and incoherence, but with a fairly unmistakable strain of conservatism at the core of it. In both films, the unshakable “truth” is that we citizens of the modern age, inheritors of the benefits of the leftist movements of the 20th century, are in today’s post 9/11 world hopelessly indebted to the efforts of a narrow strata of elite forces acting secretly and completley unaccountably, blowing things up and killing people, but ultimately for our own best interests and for the good of the citizens of this world grown too dangerous and unpredictable for its own good. Unlike Nolan’s last film, though,  Skyfall  seems to hold together much more to scrutiny, rather than falling like a house of cards at the slightest thought. Also, unlike Batman,  Bond is much easier to swallow, perhaps for the simple reason that a good-looking, muscular 30-something man looks way cooler in a great suit than in a stupid bat costume. I should probably stop soon, but I have to say that, thanks to Roger Deakins, this is probably the most beautiful looking action movie I’ve ever seen, and certainly within the Bond realm. As much as I like Ralph Fiennes and Naomi Harris, I was a little let down to see the whole status quo returned intact at the end. But, I am fantasically curious to see where this thing goes from here, and in that sense, I’d say the Broccolis and company have succeeded definitively. I’ve got some more to say on this whole thing, but I’ll save that for a special post

One response to “Skyfall (UK/USA, 2012)

  1. Pingback: Spectre (UK/USA, 2015) | Offhand Reviews·

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