Very much enjoyed this. It was a proper vintage spy thriller done for the modern age, so eschewed modern plotting to some extent – though in other ways was clearly a post-Dark Knight film. The whole thing was about the relevance of Bond in the modern age, tradition versus modernity, and that was seeded in from root to branch. As a celebration of 50 years of Bond, that seemed to be more than fitting. The cinematography was absolutely beautiful – stylish in a way that other Bond films couldn’t really achieve.
The portrayal of gender is a bit of an improvement for the series. (Edit: I’m talking largely about M here, since it’s not often you see a woman of her age doing the things she does towards the end of this film. There are some very good points to be made about the negative portrayal of a certain character.) It was also interesting to see some mild sexually threatening behaviour towards Bond rather than the women. Sex as a weapon hardly ever gets used against men.
We can set aside the script, which wasn’t perfect – this is Bond, not Shakespeare. The plotting was elaborate – though knowingly so – and a fraction silly in a lot of places (this is Bond – at what point were you taking plotting seriously?) The acting was mostly sound – Ben Whishaw was on good form, as was Ralph Fiennes. Judi Dench was arguably the centre of the whole film – a celebration of women in film being judged not on appearance but achievement – and I thought she’s been great for the whole franchise since she first appeared.
Macallan whisky featured heavily, which was nice to see. From the £6,400-a-bottle Macallan 1962 (bottled in 2009) to the Macallan 12 Year Old on M’s desk. That more than made up for the Heineken featured towards the start. As an aside, product placement was rather over the top, but I guess it’s par for the course if fewer and fewer people are going to the cinema.
Nice to see the Aston Martin DB5 shoe-horned in, too.
So there we go. Cerebral, subtle – probably too subtle for some – and full of in-jokes and references. The best Bond film by a country mile.
Thanks, Mark. I look forward to it when it finally gets to our side of the Atlantic!
I had no idea it wasn’t out there yet!
Haven’t seen Skyfall yet, but I’m certainly looking forward to checking it out. I was interested to see you have such a positive reaction to the gender stuff in the movie – I just read Abigail Nussbaum’s take which was a lot more negative… http://wrongquestions.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-weeks-films.html
Well there were still flaws, yes, but this is Bond with the restrictions of its template, so I’m really speaking within the contest of other Bond films I guess.
Ultimately it is hard not to give spoilers, but M is central to this in a way that’s not normal in cinema. She does things that few films show a lady of her age doing. That is significant and what I was really thinking. I’ll edit the post to reflect that.
Yes, Abigail is right in the comments of that character. It is a bit of a stereotype of sex-trafficked people etc. I wonder, without at all defending such writing, how easy it is to deal with the flaws of the real world in film without it being presented in a negative way. Of course, if Bond hadn’t slept with her, that would certainly have helped and it was one of the stranger scenes in the film.
Weirdly I think the Dalton Bonds were amongst the better films for gender, in context. Suddenly there were no Bond girls, just one girl with whom Dalton struck up something of a more meaningful relationship. For its time, and for the franchise, that was pretty good.
Thanks for the thoughtful response! I clearly need to go see this movie for myself. And I’m super excited to see Judi Dench in action, she’s always fantastic.