Wednesday, November 21, 2012

SKYFALL: Bond in Autumn

I have a confession to make:  I am not a Bond junkie.  I've never particularly been a Bond fan.  I think that might just have changed.

Last week was a rough one and I needed a distraction .  Sometimes there's nothing quite like a big screen movie to take you away from your troubles, especially one that just churns out plot, jumps around from one exotic location to another and features an impossibly handsome, contained and somewhat troubled cipher at its core.  Off I went to see SKYFALL, the most recent installment in the seemingly tireless Bond franchise,  in a packed theatre at the Varsity.

After half an hour of trailers and commercials (seriously?) the film finally started. It was completely worth the wait.  It's a very well-crafted script that draws on the history of the series of films but is at the same time, a very contemporary story about a man coming to terms with his place in the world and his relationship with his own past as he enters the autumn of his life.

The title sequence was gorgeous and scary, drawing the audience deeper and deeper into a world where death and dark forces are constantly present.

It is the 50th anniversary of  the Bond franchise and this feels very much like Bond in autumn: confronting the frailties of a body that is beginning to fail him, ghosts he has avoided seeing and feelings and fears he has avoided facing.

The film proper begins with an electrifying chase though a famous bazaar in Turkey that leads, if not exactly to the death of Bond, at least to a moment where he comes in perilously close contact to his own mortality.  Afterward, he takes a time out on a beach, but duty calls in the form of a terrorist incident in his hometown of London.  He puts down the bottle and returns to face a series of demons from his own  past and from the pasts of other friends and colleagues.

Daniel Craig is a great Bond, bringing depth and resonance to a character that could, in the hands of a lesser actor, descend to parody.  Javier Bardem makes a terrific nemesis, carefully walking a razor's edge of menace, humour and pathos. He is a devil for who we can actually muster some sympathy.  The stellar cast includes Judi Dench as "M", Ralph Fiennes and Albert Finney.  Dame Judi outdoes herself as a lady who is not for turning.

There are two "Bond girls" but they feel more like colleagues than arm candy and the film is pretty tame in that regard. People were there with quite young children, though I certainly wouldn't recommend it.  The story is too complex and the film is frankly too violent for a child under 11 or 12.

If you only go for the exotic travel locales, you'll still have fun.   I particularly enjoyed Macau.

It is when the film journeys to the bleak and austere beauty of a Scottish highland, however that the picture truly comes home, literally and metaphorically. This is not just a battleground where old scores need to be settled or where good must defeat evil, but one where certain ghosts from the past must  finally be laid to rest.

I don't want to say more, for fear of spoiling the plot.  If you need a good distraction for a few hours, as I did last weekend, this is time well wasted.  The trailer assures us Bond will be back for more and so will I.