Skyfall review

Years ago, I dreamt up a Bond story in which our hero is injured badly in a screwed up mission. He assumes there’s a mole… recover from his injuries he retires to the Highlands. Once there, the rest of the film would deal with a quite primitive life and death struggle between Bond and an army of hit men sent by the mole. Minimalist, gadgetless, in other words: everything Bond wasn’t at the time (The World is not Enough, really?).

Well, thank my lucky stars, Skyfall has, at least in spirit, made this dream come true. A quite straightforward, and comprehensible plot, based on just a few main characters. And it even takes us to Scotland!

I really enjoyed Skyfall. Sure, there are several plot holes that don’t stand up to close scrutiny. Daniel Craig’s bond is, to me, as ever ambiguous. At times I just don’t see him as Bond, yet at other moments I understand the toffish/brutish type he is portraying. Javier Bardem is the perfect creepy foil, although I found that too little was done with certain aspects of his plot line, to say more would be to spoil….

The opening stimulates the senses, and some viewers have complained that the film slows down too much afterward. I couldn’t agree less. The timing is in fact a strong point of the film. The long build up to the climax works. The finale is both exhilarating and ridiculous in the best Bond tradition. Well done Sam Mendes and screenwriters Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan.

If you even slightly enjoy the Bond genre, you have to see this installment. A die hard Bond fan friend of mine actually clapped his hands in delight at the return of a number of Bond canon characters and set details at the very end of the movie. It bodes well for the future of this fascinating franchise. And then in a few more years they can reboot with Michael Fassbender as 007 – can you imagine that?

A Dangerous Method – indeed….

I’m not sure what Keira Knightley thought she was doing in this pic, but if that’s method acting, that’s where the danger lies.
This period piece, written by Christopher Hampton (Atonement, The Quiet American), directed by David Cronenberg is about psychologist Carl Jung’s (Michael Fassbender) affair with his patient Sabina Spielrein – a Russian hysteric portrayed rather manically by miss Knightley. Or is it actually about the relationship between Jung and his mentor Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen)? Or is it really a historic account of the early days of clinical psychology?
The story centers on Jung’s treatment of Spielrein through “talk therapy” the titular “Dangerous Method”. This leads him to a closer relationship with Freud. But it all goes sour as Jung oversteps his professional boundaries at great cost to himself, Freud and Spielrein. Or at least, we are told that it is at great cost.

I, as viewer never felt that very much in particular was at stake. And that is a grave accusation to make against any story.
As I left the cinema I felt quite perplexed about what I had just seen. Yes, the sets were well lit, costumes up to scratch and the camera work was professionally done. But never at any time throughout the picture did I feel involved or more than slightly interested in what I was watching. The intellectual discourses felt staged and off kilter, the acting was – the god awful Knightley aside – okay, but what the film sorely lacked was a central drive or direction. It was more or less a series of events and people talking. There were some laughs, but I was never sure whether they were meant to be.

One pet peeve, for mr. Cronenberg: when doing the accent thing, either have all the actors stick to their respective dialects or none. Who can explain why miss Knightley does her utmost to cling onto an unconvincing Russian accent, Mortensen to a more appealing German lilt, yet Fassbender – portraying a early 20th century Swiss gentleman- gets away with BBC standard English? Perplexing.
All in all, I would advise any and all to skip this one, unless that is you have a particular fetish for watching anorexic women being spanked and pulling monkey faces. I’ll leave it at that.

DVD’s lurking in your closet

If there is something..

…at the back of your DVD cabinet you haven’t watched, perhaps you should. For example when you are laid up with a frightfully sore back, as I am currently. Just for your pleasure, here’s what I watched:
Lurking around the back of my DVD cabinet was this New Zealand horror spoof. Two hours of quite well plotted meat eating sheep gone wild. Stunning vistas of sweeping countryside and a rather mixed bag of acting. The sheep did well though. As usual for this genre the backstories are quite thin but fun. Plenty of gore – for those who like that stuff – and thank god – it doesn’t take itself too seriously. All in all, quite watchable, especially when doused with painkillers.
Bought this DVD because the central plot resembles a project I am working on. Or so I thought. A movie essentially about childhood lost and yearning for how things might have been. Bookended by a stunningly solid performance by Daniel Craig as Joe, a washed up Hollywood star but intersected by a much weaker central part – the flashback to his youth. We are led to believe that the flashback will be mainly about some sort of break up between Joe and his childhood friend “Boots” – only it isn’t. I felt a distinct lack of dramatic impetus in the middle part. Special mention must go out to Felicity Jones, as the “Young Ruth” – a beautiful actress with bucketloads of talent.
But more than once the movie begged the question: what am I actually watching? Then, as the film returns to present day it becomes forceful again. The star of this movie is, however, undoubtedly “If there is Something” by Roxy Music. The movie itself is stylish but muddled.
VIDOCQ (2001)
This one’s been on the shelf a really long time. And after seeing it, it didn’t deserve that fate. Gerard Depardieu in a forceful role as the famous French detective. Reasonably exciting and shot in typical 90’s wild /camera / full close up (look ma, it’s MTV!!) style. This was a very early entry in the field of widespread use of CGI, SD and HD digital cameras and so forth. It carried me along succesfully enough to the grande finale which was a classic detective “drawing room reveal” – without the drawing room, it must be said. Quite dark and disturbing along the way too. Worth your while, if you’re into steampunk, retro sci fi etc.