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Charlotte

Skyfall

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I'm not sure who Sam Mendes is or why I should care, as a director he doesn't even register as "oh, I have heard of him". The trailer ... I dunno, I'll wait till they release a proper trailer, as a teaser this doesn't work for me, but that could just be the cut of the teaser.

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I guess I am in the minority here, but I think it works well as a teaser.

I always thought Pierce Brosnan would be a great James Bond, but all of his movies stunk; except for Golden Eye, which was awesome. Daniel Craig is 1 for 2 so far.

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Sam Mendes is the director of such films as American Beauty, Road to Perdition and Jarhead, the last one being my favorite. Jarhead is much like Full Metal Jacket applied to the Gulf War, a mediation on the dehumanizing effects of armed conflict - but while Jacket emphasized the violence of war, Jarhead is more about the weirdness of being stationed for a war that doesn't ever seem to show up. It can be downright Kafkaesque - there's a scene where the main character hallucinates he's vomiting sand - which is why it disappointed so many, since it was sold as a boom-boom war film.(I had the good fortune to read the bibliography that inspired it, written by Pfc. Swofford, so I knew what to expect.)

What Mendes brings to the table is a distinct visual style - all the high-contrast colors in that trailer, where the scenes are lit to emphazise everything from Bond's blue shirt to the red glow of tiki lanterns. Most Bond directors don't get too visually distinct (we'll most likely never see an Edgar Wright Bond film even though it would be the single greatest action movie of all time) but it looks like that isn't going to apply to Skyfall.

Can't wait. As for Brosnan, he was a good Bond in search of better movies. Most people will peg Goldeneye as the one good one, but I have a soft spot for Tomorrow Never Dies, since it features James Bond shoving a drill into the face of a villain who is totally not Rupert Murdoch, honest.

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I agree with you Mike. And I love Daniel Craig as Bond. I even liked Quantum of Solace; not as much as his first but it was still better than some of the crap at came before Casino Royale.

I like the fact that they stripped the "super gadget" out of the franchise despite my general love of Q and his toys. I love Dame Judy as M. I love how gritty the franchise has become without (IMHO) loosing what makes Bond who he is.

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Saw Skyfall. Liked Skyfall.

Thoughts on Skyfall:

- the initial chase sequence is fantastic. In some ways, it feels like the most iconic "Bond" sequence in the film, when it comes to pure action - everything that follows it has an intentional sense of fatigue to it, as it's made clear that Bond's injuries are forcing him to struggle that much harder to keep up. This is not to say that having the villain throw an entire train at Bond isn't a fantastic shot, but the opener shows us a contrast with Bond in top form and a Bond who's staring down his own burnout.

- everyone upset over Bond drinking bad beer: he does it during his "burned out" phase, where he's held up by drink and pills. I wonder if the Heineken people knew just what they'd be made to look like.

- it's at this point, however, that one of a few chief flaws of the movie starts to show up: that parts of it feel a bit derivative, both of other Bond films and other espionage films. This is not to say that Sam Mendes hasn't found a fresh take on a lot of it, but for example: the list of deep cover agents reminds me of the NOC list from Mission: Impossible, the sequence where the villain's capture merely plays into his plans will invite a lot of comparisons to The Dark Knight, and of course, Bond has to order his favorite drink (thankfully we only SEE it shaken and not stirred.) Now, "villain lets himself be taken in" is a trope that's very old, but Mendes hasn't helped himself by explicitly citing The Dark Knight as an influence. However, I'd be be remiss in not mentioning how Q's relationship with Bond has changed - their ages are inverted, and Q has more of a presence throughout the movie beyond just giving Bond his toys.

- But this movie, more than any other, is more than just Bond's show - in many ways the movie belongs as much to M, since it's her actions that kick the plot into motion moreso than Bond's. Much of Craig's take on the character has revolved around Bond preparing himself for the life in front of him, by locking what's left of his soul away and cultivating a suspicious mindset - both M and the villain Silva show the possible endpoints of Bond's career, either having to send agents out to die because doing so might - not will, but might - make the world safer... or him getting cut loose for the greater good, perpetuating his trade of secrets and misinformation and destabilization because that's all he knows how to do.

- So it's fitting that it ends where it all began, at Skyfall - specifically, at the Bond family estate in Scotland (fittingly, since Connery was a Scot.) Bond's family home is used as a living weapon against his attackers even as it's burnt to the ground. The theme of rebirth through death is perhaps a little TOO on the nose, but I can forgive it since "subtle" is a word rarely used to describe a Bond film. Skyfall may be blatantly about rebuilding oneself after suffering through a figurative death, but it's about something - something more substantial than "Bond shoots a snooty megalomaniac and sleeps with two pretty girls."

- Not to say that he doesn't do that, and this is another issue I have - namely, that all the women in this movie either wind up dead or demoted. Okay, so Eva Moneypenny voluntarily chooses an analyst position, but it still feels like a step down after so much of the movie is about Bond proving he's up to the task of field work. Severine dies, which is somewhat permissible since at least one Bond girl has to per movie, but her death is just another way for Silva to twist the knife in Bond's back. Combined with a shaving sequence that feels a bit... out... of place, and it's clear that Bond movies have yet to shed the last of outdated attitudes, and that's a shame.

- As for M, well, if Dame Judi Dench decided that seven movies was plenty, that's well and all, and how often does a death truly matter in a Bond movie? All the same, Ralph Fiennes as the new M feels like a step back. Not to mention that this is my biggest concern with the film - that if the villain wants M dead and M winds up dead, then in a very real sense Bond failed in the end. However, I have a theory that in a movie where so much is made out of Bond having found a way out of the game by allowing himself to stay officially dead - that M took the same route Bond did, and is somewhere on a beach, sipping a stiff drink and letting the world run itself for a while.

- Silva is possibly one of the great Bond villains. Yes, there will be comparisons to Sean Bean's 006, and in a sense they're similar characters yet couldn't be more different. 006 was the perfect foil to the smooth as ice Brosnan take on 007 who was as unflappable as his nemesis, and Silva in turn is the end result of where Craig's Bond is headed - still skilled, but broken inside, so lacking in direction he turns his back on what he used to be just so he can keep having his war. There will be a lot of hay made of the fact that he might be gay - I think it's entirely possible that he doesn't really have any functional sexuality and is just running standard honey-trap seduction on Bond to throw him off, much like Bond could never meet a female nemesis he couldn't shag his way past. His reaction when Bond brushes him off is of someone who's been outwitted, not someone who's been rejected. All the same, if someone says he's gay, I won't say they're wrong, and this takes on an extra air of poignancy when you consider that when he was active (the 90's) society's attitudes towards gay people in a military capacity was not quite as enlightened as it is now.

- Silva also has the most genuinely disturbing deformity I've seen in a Bond villain in quite some time.

- The film looks gorgeous, popping in color and with carefully framed and choreographed violence. The Bourne films have their fans, but I'm not really one of them; I feel that close-in shakey-cam just makes me wonder what's going on, rather than draw me into the immediacy of a moment, and consequently the turn Quantum of Solace took towards Bourne-style fight sequences left me cold. This is not a problem in this film, though the movie keeps to the Craig aesthetic of violence as something that leaves you shaken.

- I love the fact that when Q Branch gives up on tricking out cars with ejector seats and machine guns, Bond's reaction is "well, I'll just do that to an Aston Martin all by myself."

So that's a few thousand words on Skyfall. Best Bond film of all time? Well, you could certainly make a case for it. Personally, my top three Bond films are Casino Royale, From Russia With Love, and Tomorrow Never Dies (TND is just fun as all hell and I never got the hate it earned.) I don't know yet if Skyfall will dethrone any of those, but I could easily stick it in fourth place. Fourth best out of twenty-three films is not shabby in the slightest.

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I guess they never really explained how the Aston came to be where it was, but I like to think that he rescued it from being decommissioned after its service period. To me the car was another nod to the "old warhorse that is still capable of being relevant" themes.

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