Skyfall ★★★

007 Rank-A-Thon

aka M is for Mother

The one thing that Quantum of Solace had going for it was it's relatively trim running time, unfortunately Skyfall is more than half an hour longer. Which is not a good thing, unless of course the breadth and depth of the story justifies the length (spoiler: it doesn't).

The pre-credit sequence has a car chase which segues into a bike chase and finally a fight on a train. And already it's good news folks, we are back to a less frenetic style of but camerawork and editing, allowing the viewer to take in a little bit more of what's going on on screen and also allowing you to believe it, within reason of course.

Of course we do have a suspend some of our disbelief, for instance we are required to accept that a Land Rover is capable of catching an Audi in a chase through crowded streets. But we'll let that pass as the scene reinforces to us this notion of Bond as a blunt instrument, while the Land Rover's driver - we'll get to her later - is happy to draw alongside and give the Audi a little nudge, Bond isn't happy with that, grabbing the steering wheel to slam the target vehicle, sending it in a wall. He is not one for subtlety, although it may also be a comment on his unwillingness to be dictated to by a female driver.

Then it's on to the motorcycles for a chase across the rooftops, which I will accept, although I am less forgiving of all those literally blind leaps taken by the riders which of course always end safely for them instead of falling into some abyss.

Where I am less forgiving is the train which will eventually that tropiest of movie tropes, the fight on the top of a moving train which, if memory serves, we haven't seen in a Bond movie since Octopussy. Welcome back old friend.

But that's not the issue, it's the Caterpillar Excavator which is inexplicably on a flatbed carriage attached to a passenger train, but that's not my issue. Neither is my problem that Bond is able to operate it and that he must have had training to do so because my experience is that you need a good deal of practice in order to achieve the level of hand-eye co-ordination required otherwise you end up tipping yourself over.

No, it is that having use the machine as a weapon he abandons it to pursue his objective. And the film immediately abandons it too, completely forgetting that it was ever in the movie a couple of minutes later as the train heads into a tunnel which is so tight that the excavator could not possibly have made it through had it's carriage not been disengaged as part of the duel. I understand that it is a rule of train top fights that you must have really low tunnels which require the fighters to duck down or else lose their heads, but come on guys, you can't just forget all about 20 tons of excavator.

Now then, what of this young female field agent who is on the case with Bond? Well, she goes by the name of Eve Moneypenny, interesting, I hear you say, that's a familiar name in an unfamiliar position. Actually just the fact that we have a female field agent is, I think, a first. And that means that with her driving skills and her marksmanship she is obviously very capable, I'm thinking that perhaps the closest thing we've had to that previously is May Day in A View to a Kill, but I stand to be corrected. Plus Naomi Harris is easy on the eye, so in summary, good looking gal who can handle herself. I approve wholeheartedly.

And then she goes and fucks up by shooting Bond instead of the guy he's fighting. Typical woman. Or rather typical way of writing a female character. OK, so she's got a very difficult target to hit and she fails, it could happen to anyone, but the point is that happens to a woman. What the Bond producers giveth, the Bond producers taketh away.

But it gets worse, I'm leaping ahead a little bit here, but let's follow this train of thought. Moneypenny's punishment for accidentally shooting 007 is to be taken out of the field for a while. Only it ends up not being for a while, we get to the end and she declares that she has decided not to go back into the field, presumably because she's realised, or has been persuaded that she's just a weak and feeble woman who shouldn't be allowed to run around with those nasty old guns in case she hurts someone else by accident and that she's going to take a desk job.

And what job might this be after she's gone through all this training? As an analyst perhaps? Someone to be on the other end of the phone when a 00 agent needs help, someone who is able to take her understanding of what it's like to be out in the field and to put that experience to the best possible use? No, fuck it. she's going to be M's secretary. How absolutely, utterly and completely bloody insulting is that. Women, know your place!

The fact that the film makes her a field agent in the first place and then demotes her all the way down to some one who, no offence to personal assistants, is just going to be answering the phone, managing the diary and typing letters, serves only to emphasise the fact that with the exception of M, women are virtually invisible in Bond's world, except as objects of sexual gratification.

Anyway, Bond is hit, falls off the train, into a river at the bottom of a ravine and we are all supposed to believe he's dead. If that's the case this was a lot shorter than I had imagined and now I get to do something else with my life for the next two hours.

And so to the music. I have little interest in what passes for popular music these days, but it is my understanding that Adele is some kind of national treasure. I may have passingly heard some of her music at some point, but I really couldn't say and on this evidence I have no reason to search it out, it seems to me that the song is forever building up and never reaches any kind of climax, I'm waiting for her to hit some big note, but it doesn't happen. Having said that it seems to have won lots of awards and everyone loves it and everyone loves Adele. So what the hell do I know?

Right, back to the film and we get to learn what all the fuss was about before the titles. It seems that MI6 have lost a hard drive which contained the names of all the NATO agents who were embedded with terrorist organisations around the world. It seems to me that their security is a bit lax if you have something like that on a random laptop somewhere in Istanbul and raises all sorts of questions about how the bad guys knew where it was – clearly they were specifically after it -, why they didn't just hack their way in and what kind of encryption it had.

As a result of all this M is getting fired, or is going to be allowed to retire on a bit fat pension and with some kind of honour, because that's how we reward incompetence in this country. Having said that it's a good thing she was out of the office getting her bum smacked by Ralph Fiennes because otherwise she would have been blown up in the explosion at headquarters which is apparently really easy to hack into which again begs the question as to why whoever is behind all this didn't just get what they wanted via a keyboard.

Also Q is now a nerd. He is very good at all that computer stuff, which is all very well but that's not what a quartermaster does, so why does he get Q's job?

Shockingly it turns out that Bond is not dead after all and has been sunning himself on some tropical isle, doing sex and getting competing in drinking contests that for some reason have to involve scorpions that have never existed anywhere other than in a computer.

But now he's back because of M needing him and stuff and he's of to Shanghai because a) you need your film to appeal to the Chinese market and b) because of something to do with the story.

You would think, wouldn't you, that in this brave new work of cyber terrorism there would be no need for Bondian antics, running around the world punching people wouldn't serve any useful purpose, when all the badness happens at the behest of some faceless individual who is impossible to trace. They want to move with the times in terms of the story but that really doesn't leave any place for 007. I'm afraid that at the end of the day you can only reinvent the franchise so much.

It's not until we reach the exact halfway point in proceedings that we meet the villain du jour in the form of Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem sporting a blonde wig). And we get to learn that he used to work for MI6 out in Hong Kong but was operating outside his brief so M turned him into the Chinese. And now he's mad at her and wants to get his own back and apparently has been planning his revenge for 20 years. He has mummy issues.

It's not entirely clear how he has managed to fly under the radar all this time given that he does stuff like scaring off the entire population of an island just because he wanted it for himself. For a cyber criminal he does seem overly willing to stick his head up above the parapet which is I suppose how the writers get themselves out of the corner they've painted themselves into by creating a villain who should be invisible.

What's going on with him fondling Bond when they meet up? And why it is that Silva is sort of mincing about? Whatever it was I'll forget about it because the film seems to as well.

Despite all his talk Silva is really easy to catch. Or is he? Because the next thing you know he's all shut away in a glass cage, wearing a jumpsuit, exactly like Hannibal Lecter, so obviously it won't be long before he escapes because they could not signpost the fact that he has a plan more than if they had put up a big sign pointing at him saying 'He's got a plan.'

And do you know what? He has a plan. And it's one he's been formulating it for years and it's really clever and intricately designed. Which of course is nonsense because there are far too many variables which could not possibly be foreseen, mostly involving humans who may be predicable but only in general terms, not down to the nth degree, there are just too many things which are not part of the plan but which can nonetheless effect the outcome. The world just doesn't work like that.

Except there where Q is stupid enough to hook Silva's laptop up to MI6's system, allowing it to do all sorts of nonsense including letting him free. So apparently he was able to predict Q's idiocy in not isolating the computer he's trying to hack. Maybe Silva is that smart after all because who else would have predicting a dumb ass move like that.

And all of this, it would seem, is to allow Silva the opportunity to kill M, which seems like a pretty shit form of revenge to me. The best thing you can do with that sort of person is to break her, to destroy her reputation and humiliate her. But no, this IT guy has to be hands on, she has to be killed and he has to do it and what's more he has to do it himself. Does he know nothing? That's what henchmen are for, admittedly they never succeed, but that is there job. And that's another problem I have, where is the henchman? He's got plenty of helping hands, but no one who is anything more than a gun-totting thug, where's the style, where's the panache?

And so we reach endgame. Bond and M will retreat north of the border where they will invite Silva to come along for a bit of a punch up. Why? I don't know, I couldn't follow the rationale. It's all very well and good to lure him into a trap but when he's outmanning and outgunning you it's seems like a really stupid move, surely there are resources that MI6 might call upon?

But no, and worse than that we have to give Bond a back story. He's going home to a house which is literally in the middle of nowhere so we can learn that he is landed gentry, that his family is all dead and that he has an old family retainer.

Who cares? It's just unnecessary, leave him as a blank book with no past and no future. They are answers to questions no one was asking and when you throw in stuff like the fact that his actual name is actually Bond, that just confuses everything that you think you've figured out about the character. But then of course this is a reboot, we're starting from scratch, I shouldn't care about his or Moneypenny's origins.

Except for this small point, that Bond has the DB5 tucked away in a garage. Not a DB5, but the DB5, fully loaded and everything which is evidence that it is a product of Q Branch. Go on, pick the bones out of that. How do you explain it? How does a 50 year old motor fit in with this new version of Bond? Well I'll tell you, it doesn't because it's bullshit, you can't make sense of it because they trashed all the backstory when they started from scratch with Casio Royal.

And who the hell calls their house Skyfall?

Apparently I gave this 4 stars first time around. I was wrong, obviously it's better than QOS so 3 is where it's really at. I realise now that it's all very well moving Bond on for the 21st Century but the films still need to have a sense of fun about them, that doesn't mean they have to be funny, but there should be some joy about them but for me this is all a little too po-faced. I really am missing Roger.

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