29 October 2012

Skyfall Is Where We Start



Being the miserable cunt that I am, I'm obviously not a fan of special occasions. I could rant all day about my hatred of jolly, merry Shitmas but the rest are just as bad. All of the other yearly occasions were simply invented to make insecure people feel loved at the benefit of card companies. I hate to sound like a twat but if I have to pick a side, I'd rather be labelled as a 'cynic' than be a dead-eyed member of team gullible. Despite all that however, there is one thing that I look forward to more than anything else and that's the release of a new James Bond film. If commercialised affection isn't for me then you can damn well bet that watching a misogynist shooting a Russian in the face is. I think that everybody should also agree that after fifty years and twenty-three official films, the latest adventure to feature one of Britain's finest contributions to pop-culture really is something that should be celebrated. Given a choice between a birthday or 007's latest premier, I honestly prefer the one that doesn't make me feel a year closer to fucking death.

Because of this, Skyfall has a lot of expectation to live up to. Not only has it got several generations of film lovers eager to see it but it's been four years since the release of Quantum of Solace. I'm a punctual chap in general who treats lateness with such a level of fascism that for every minute waiting for someone who is late, I spend it planning the next holocaust. Considering that Bond has had me waiting for approximately one thousand, four hundred and fifty days, that suave cunt had better have a fucking good excuse. As it turns out, he bloody well does.

Skyfall begins with Bond trying to salvage a mission gone wrong. Somebody has stolen a hard-drive which contains a list of all known working field agents and M wants it back. Bond therefore gives chase in an attempt to prevent this sensitive information from being released. To be honest, the only thing on my hard-drive is hardcore pornography so I can empathise with MI6 here. God knows what I'd do if my computer was stolen because I'm seriously prepared to kill if anyone even glances towards my browsing history. 
After a destructive motorbike chase, Bond quickly finds himself fighting the thief on the top of a moving train as a fellow agent tries to snipe the assailant from afar. Under M's orders, Bond’s colleague takes a shot, misses the target and accidentally hits him. When I worked as a wedding videographer, the only way I could fuck my job up as much as this would have been if I was caught shaft deep inbetween the bride’s tits. The rest of the film is therefore M's attempt to repair the reputation of MI6, correct the mistake of shooting Bond and avoid the threat of a forced retirement. I don't want to call M incompetent but with Ralph Fiennes walking around, she also seems to have missed the fact that her department has been successfully infiltrated by Lord Voldemort using only a prosthetic nose as a disguise. What a stupid, useless bitch!

Considering that most people would feel short-changed if this was the end, I think it's obvious that 007 doesn't die in the first five minutes. Instead he decides to take a little time out to recuperate on a relaxing sandy beach. We rarely see Bond on holiday so it's interesting to watch what he gets up to. As it turns out he enjoys getting wankered, pissing about with scorpions and fucking people. I'm not a travel agent but I think that's called the 'Charlie Sheen Package'.
 
After an attack on MI6 headquarters, Bond decides to return to work. The stolen hard-drive from the beginning has come back to haunt them and the culprit appears to have some personal vendetta against M. It's not revealed why yet but I suspect it's probably that he saw the Judi Dench fingering scene in Notes on a Scandal. Unfortunately for her, 007 is now out of shape and needs retraining. Since being shot a couple of times, he can now only run several miles, do a few hundred sit ups and really struggles at a few measly pull ups. What a lazy, fat bastard he is!

In the twenty-three films released so far, it seems that there are two kinds of Bond film. There's the slightly more grounded ones like Live and Let Die and then there are the bat-shit crazy ones like Moonraker. I know every Bond film is technically a fantasy but there are obviously various degrees of it. 007 verses the drugs trade is quite grounded whereas Roger Moore riding a hover gondola past the double-take pigeon isn't. On a scale of zero-to-'what the fuck', I'd say that interestingly Skyfall is heading back into the more fantastical kind of Bond film. Personally I don't have a problem with this so long as they stay in control by continuing to hire respectable directors. Sam Mendes proved his credibility when he won an Oscar for American Beauty, a film which brilliantly depicted a man having a midlife crisis. Lee Tamahori helmed Die Another Day and has since been arrested for dressing up as a woman and trying to charge random men for a shag. No prizes for guessing which of those two had the better insight into the mind of James Bond.

One of the more fantastical elements of Skyfall is of course the crazed villain Raoul Silva. Played by Javier Bardem, he's a bit like a cross between Hannibal Lecter, The Joker and Quentin Crisp. I won't reveal too much about him except to say he's brilliant and proper full-on gay. As far as I know, there hasn't been a male villain who threatens Bond with sex since Grace Jones fucked him in A View to a Kill. Each Bond villain in the Daniel Craig films has had a disability and Skyfall is no exception. Again, I won't reveal it, except to say it's worse than Le Chiffre's bleeding eye but not as awful as Dominic Greene being French.

The other thing that I really loved about Skyfall was just how much of it was set in Britain. There's always been an odd relationship between Bond and Batman and there's no denying that this film borrows from The Dark Knight. The shots of Bond surveying London from the rooftops are iconically similar to Batman guarding his city of Gotham and there's a downbeat tone suggesting that not everyone will survive. Bond’s dead parents also get highlighted and used as the motivation for his life a little like Batman's always were. I think it's strange that being an orphan would make Bond want to become a spy as both my parents are alive and nothing could drive me to kill more than them. None of these comparisons are a criticism either by the way, as Nolan has made a career out of pilfering from 007 in the first place. To be honest I think if that fucker tries to take anything else from Bond he should be punished and forced to direct the next film in the franchise. That'd teach the talented little shit a lesson!

It was always obvious that Mendes would be able to handle the drama of a Bond film but the question was ‘could he do the action too?’ So far the closest thing he's done to this is Jarhead which follows a gulf war soldier who, in an act of pure visual cinema, didn't kill a single bloody person. I hate to reveal my own mental issues but if Bond hasn't fucked and killed some dumb broad within the first hour then I'm really not happy. It's not that I'm a sexist, it's just that he is and I'm a little afraid of any change whatsoever. Luckily however, Mendes knows this and so deals with the death and destruction in a suitably nonchalant way. At one point there's a game of 'shoot the bottle off a girls head' followed by a brilliant, cold-hearted and fucked up quip from Bond. To be honest I'm glad the quips are making a return as from 007's previous one liners, it's obvious that like Fatty Arbuckle, he's always going to be known for being more of a killer than a comedian. However nothing beats a man with a prosthetic hand struggling to remove a watch before Roger Moore angrily calls him a “Butterhook”.

The other great thing that Mendes did was bring over his regular cinematographer Roger Deakins. For anyone that doesn't know, a cinematographer is simply the guy who hangs the lights up and makes a film look all pretty and shit. In terms of the people doing that job, Deakins is one of the best and a genuine genius. Being a reserved and gentle Brit, he's also one of the better DoP's that's not stupid enough to slag off The Avengers and piss off the fanboys. His inclusion on Skyfall is an act of sheer brilliance with this clearly now being the most visually impressive Bond film ever. Thinking about it, I'd probably say that the Shanghai sequence was so beautiful that with it's neon lighting I swear they must have invented some brand new colours for us.

There's also a shadowy noir feel to Skyfall that creates a blanket of mood so heavy it could almost smother Bond himself. In fact, the end of the movie looks so gloomy and haunted that it almost becomes the Bond equivalent of Straw Dogs. Just for clarification though, I mean that in terms of style and tone and not the occurrence of a randomly indulgent rape scene. It took us long enough to accept a blonde Bond so I think it'll be a few more years before we allow him to become a full blown sex offender. Whether he gets consent or not however, I do think it's about time Q branch started supplying him with standard issue condoms. If they designed some of those novelty luminous ones, Deakins could probably control that too and make a sex scene look like some sort of fucking poetic lightsaber fight.

If I have a criticism with Sam Mendes's usual team here, then it would probably be with the hiring of composer Thomas Newman. It's not that the music wasn't good but rather it was possibly too obviously his own. Half the film sounded like American Beauty and then every so often the Bond theme would unsubtly kick in. There was scenes in which Bond was talking to Silva and it genuinely felt like Chris Cooper was going to walk in and shoot them because of his own repressed homosexuality. Having said that though and because I'm really, really cool, I've just spent the last few hours repeatedly listening to the score and it does sound great. Maybe it just felt a little jarring at first because I'm used to the sound of regular Bond composer David Arnold being here. Like I said before, I'm not a fan of change so maybe this will be a grower. I know that the film isn't perfect but I'm genuinely struggling to find anything negative I want to say about it and that was the closest I could think of…

Daniel Craig's ears looked particularly massive but that's not really a fault of the film. If anything they'd probably even help Bond as a spy by acting as a pair of huge, meaty satellites. In fact you know what? Fuck it. The film is genuinely fucking brilliant and probably the best thing I've seen this year. I've been a huge fan of the franchise ever since I was old enough to support the weight of my own head and so this film was as enjoyable and appealing to me as pregnancy is to underage trailer-trash. It's nice to see too, that Craig is settling into the role with the kind of comfort that's going to ensure that every one of his successors will be one day compared to him. Judi Dench was also so stupidly good in this that she's officially become the first and best Bond Woman. She plays the vulnerable but confident surrogate Mum to both Bond and Silva with the two brothers fighting to protect and kill her. It's nice to know that the plot of Skyfall is kept very British and is clearly an adaptation of The Jeremy Kyle Show.  

In a way, Skyfall almost feels like it could, in an alternate world, be the reboot film that Casino Royale turned out to be. Its basic theme seems to be looking at how relevant Bond is in this modern world and then asking if we could get by without him. In fact that the whole set up can be summed up by Bond and M's first exchange in Goldeneye. She accuses him of being a, “Sexist, misogynist, Dinosaur. A relic of the Cold War!” before admitting that, “If you think for one moment I don't have the balls to send a man out to die, your instincts are dead wrong”. To her cold hearted credit she at least can't be accused of being two faced!

Skyfall spends its duration subtly and lovingly hinting towards 007's past films and upbringing and then like a twat, rather bluntly burns it all to the ground. By the end of this film, Bond is as complete, fresh and attachment free as Sean Connery's was at the start of Dr No. As far as last scenes go, Skyfall's is almost fifty years in the making and has created a level of excitement not felt since Batman Begins revealed the Joker card. The franchise has being going for half a century and the line; “He'll see you now” has ensured a freshness of direction that makes the sequel just too exciting to think about. Is Bond still relevant? Relevant's got nothing to do with it. Bond has an unexplainable and ingrained sense of loyalty to his country and so do we, to him. It's a similar relationship that fatties share with cake and lard.

For as long as they make films, Bond will be around with each new adventure being treated with the excitement and sense of occasion that they genuinely deserve. Perhaps the character has been a little lost since the Cold War ended, but finally with Skyfall he knows where he is and has found his place in our world. That's definitely more than can be said of hairy man-tit David Hasselhoff and he's still got a career. Five decades since the first film and I'm already looking forward to being in the queue for Bond 24. If there's two things us Brits love, it's a Bond movie and a good queue. Throw in a cup of tea and some repressed sexual urges and you've got yourself a perfect Saturday night. Is Skyfall the best Bond? Maybe- I'm just glad that we've now got twenty-three to choose from and there's a chance that it could be.

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