Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Review: Skyfall ***THERE WILL BE SPOILERS!***

For my dad's birthday, my parents and I went to see the new James Bond film, Skyfall, and I have things I want to say about it that involve HUGE spoilers! I'm warning you now! If you don't want to know, then don't keep reading.

Have you averted your eyes, you who do not wish to know?

All right then.

I'll start with a personal revelation: for a long time I had a fantasy about writing a Bond story. It involved Judi Dench's M, who (in my world) has a daughter that M works hard to keep away from womanizing Bond. Eventually, daughter becomes supervillain bait to get to M, so of course Bond has to go get her. But no way is M going to be left at home to stew.

Here is my favorite part of my fantasy Bond story: M and daughter are together after a crazy escape, but coming under heavy fire. Daughter is freaking out. M finally loses her composure and says, "Please! Darling, let mummy handle this," racks up a semi-automatic and starts blasting at villainous minions.

Wouldn't that have been fun?

When Skyfall started, I had high hopes that we'd see the womenfolks be well-served. After all, it managed to pass the Bechdel Test in the frenetic opening sequence as M and a female agent (later named) talk back and forth about whether or not to "take the shot."

As the movie went along, I continued to admire the heck out of both Judi Dench's M and this female agent who continued to be competent, confident, and strong.

M is for the many things she gave me...
M in particular appealed to me, being neither masculine nor girly, but a strong woman in a role of authority that she took seriously and did well. I found myself thinking, 'I'd like to be like M when I grow up. Aside from the assassination part.'

M is the focus of our villain Silva's wrath. Played by Javier Bardem, Silva was a wonderful Bond villain, with a focused, understandable motive and clear objective: to make M suffer for the suffering he had endured because of her.

It's a role Bond could easily have played, as he suffers greatly from M's single-minded focus on her mission and its objective. Is this because M does not care? Perhaps. I suspect, however, that M might say, "I am not your mother." Silva seems to have missed this memo, as he repeatedly refers to M as "bad mommy."

Meanwhile, back in the government, a new Minister for Defense, played by Ralph Fiennes, asks M to "transition from her current role." Is the Minister a good guy or bad guy? It's hard to tell throughout a great deal of the movie.

With M under fire, Bond swoops in to protect her. "What the hell are you doing?" M asks, and I have to agree with her. He takes her off to the ancestral manse, named (wait for it!) Skyfall where Bond, M, and the Faithful Family Retainer, played by Albert Finney, do their best to fortify the old place.

Up until this point, I loved this Bond movie. It was coherent (well, for a Bond movie), it was well-acted, it was beautifully shot.

But then, it went all pear-shaped on me.

It was a wonderful, dramatic, climactic battle. And then M gets shot. She limps across the heath with the Faithful Family Retainer. Of course Silva tries to reach her. Of course Bond pursues and prevails. But then, in the family chapel, M dies dramatically in Bond's arms.

OK fine.

But it's what happens next that got me in a tizzy: our final scenes, in which Bond goes to see the new M, Ralph Fiennes, in his pinstripe suit in the inner office. And in the outer office, that wonderfully competent agent from the beginning of the movie, who says, "Some people are just not cut out for field work," and who introduces herself as "Eve. Eve Moneypenny."


So we go from having a woman in the inner office with a man as her major domo, to a man in the inner office and a woman back in the secretarial slot. Really? We had to do this?

You know, I love the Bond films. I love the old ones from 50 years ago in part because I can look at the gender roles and laugh. And I have no doubt that we'll do the same thing again in years to come. But for the moment, I have to say it sticks in my craw that the strong woman in charge gets bumped off, and the other strong woman decides to stay at home. Really? Isn't there anything else you can offer?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Finally saw the film, read your review, and could not agree with you more! When the villain was holding his gun to M's head, how I longed for her to grab it out of his hand and shoot him in the stomach ... I knew someone was going to have to die, but I didn't think it was going to have to be her.

I could live with Moneypenny in the outer office if there were some good reason for her decision to leave the field, but the film offers no transition at all from Moneypenny the truck driving, rifle wielding, radio using agent to Moneypenny the sudden secretary.

Also, I don't see why she has to apologize to Bond for shooting him or why he has to tease her for being a bad shot - she told M the shot was uncertain, M told her to take it anyway, and there probably wasn't much chance of anyone hitting someone who was standing on the other side of Bond without hitting Bond himself. Indeed, I still don't actually understand why the high speed bullet that hit Bond didn't travel right through him and into the bad guy on the other side ...

On the other hand, I did find a certain gender role reversal in the way M dies in Bond's arms. He looks down at her in tears, and it reminded me of every Pieta I've ever seen where Mary mourns her son. That's something.