Monday, November 5, 2012

James Bond: Sky Fall



This year marks the 50th anniversary of James Bond on film. To mark this momentous occasion, we have the latest release in the franchise Sky Fall, starring Daniel Craig. This is the third production in which Daniel Craig has played the title role of James Bond. Although I’ve not followed the franchise on a regular basis over its 50 years, I think I’ve seen productions involving most all of the previous Bonds, especially Sean Connery, Roger Moore, and Pierce Brosnan, and to my mind, the Daniel Craig productions are the best of them. Instead of the suave and ironic character that Brosnan provides, Craig appears to be a street tough and savvy operative. In the Craig productions, Bond’s given more character, more depth, and more flaws. He isn’t exactly Alex Lemus, but it does a better job than prior productions. On the other hand, all of the Bond formulas are included in Sky Fall, from chases, to gadgets, to martinis (shaken, not stirred).

In addition to Daniel Craig’s gritty performance as an aging, steely eyed Bond, he is joined again by Judi Dench playing the role of ‘M’. Dench is one of those British actresses whose been acting for what seems to be an eternity, and her on-screen persona always seems to work whatever the occasion. In addition to these two regular cast members, Ralph Fiennes, perhaps the current reigning heavyweight among British actors, joins the cast. Javier Bardem gets the role of the villain and provides an effectively creepy performance. Thus, you know that the acting will be strong. Oh yes, less to disappoint anyone, we also have a couple of beautiful new young Bond babes.

For all of this, however, the film didn’t work very well for me. The formula can get tired. I came out of this film feeling much the same way I felt about the third of Matt Damon’s Bourne movies: the energy and intrigue it been lost and to try to make up for it, the directors and producers had simply attempted to add more chases, more action, and more speed. I understand that the Bond and Bourne franchises aren’t intended to match Le Carre for character, depth, intrigue, and nuance; however, at a certain point even with an old classic, you miss those additional features.

In fact, when I get down to it, I found myself a little annoyed after seeing the movie. Some things occurred to me were just a little too great a leap of fantasy to accept. I kept asking myself, doesn’t James Bond have a cell phone? Aren’t the British Marines every bit as tough savvy, and capable as US Navy SEALs? And when Javier Bardem, playing a really slimy and oleaginous villain, is racing after James Bond, does he rent his attack helicopter online or over the phone? Does that come with mounted machine gun and cartridge belt standard, or those features additional? Finally, does Bardem rent his thugs locally, or does he arrange transport to remote locales on the British Isles? I suppose I am perhaps sometimes a bit too practical thinking in my assessments of these types of niggling issues, but they do begin to gnaw on me when I find that the action has become a bit too repetitive.
It was fun seeing Bond, even here in remote India, and we had the chance to see and speak with some other Americans prior to the film (and I assume some of the other folks we saw were Brits), so is a worthwhile outing, but in the end, I didn’t come away satisfied.