… is the ancestral estate of McBond, James McBond. I hadn’t known he had Scottish roots, but it seems they got that right. In fact, the screenwriter went to some pains to include some of the things that Ian Fleming revealed about the character, including the fact that his parents died when he was eleven. I was surprised when he arrived there at the ugly old house, which was short of being a castle but a lot bigger than I had expected. I’d always been under the impression that he was from … not the working class, exactly, but more like the middle class. A city boy.
At the beginning of this DVD they try to sell you a huge Blu-Ray set (with 120 HOURS of extras!) for the 50th anniversary of Bond, James Bond. Yikes! I recall seeing the second one, From Russia, With Love, when it was new. I thought it was pretty damn great. One of the best fight scenes ever, between Sean Connery and Robert Shaw in a tiny little room on a train. Counting that one, and adding in Dr. No, which I only saw later on TV, there have been 23 Bond films now—not counting the first Casino Royale and Never Say Never Again. Or that famous short film with Craig, Daniel Craig, and Elizabeth, Queen Elizabeth. Bond, James Bond, has been played by six men, and Andress, Ursula Andress.
I liked this one better than the last two. It wasn’t quite so over-the-top unbelievable as Quantum of Solace, though of course they were unable to resist two of the stupid standards of the genre these days. Maybe three. First, at the end of the terrific opening action sequence, Bond, James Bond, falls from a moving train into an abyss that might as well be bottomless, into a raging river, on his back. As I’m sure you know, at around 100 miles per hour landing on water is very little different from landing on concrete. Shit like that takes away a great deal of my pleasure in watching an action sequence. Then, near the end, we get the obligatory “outrunning an explosion” scene, where Bond, James Bond, is running through a tunnel with fire on his heels. At the last minute, he ducks into a side passage. As I’m sure you also know, explosions move a great deal faster than any human being can run. As you may not know, an explosion like that will use up all the oxygen almost instantaneously. He would have suffocated if he had survived the blast. So, he’s dead three times in the movie. And we’ve reached the point where we must be grateful for that, because in the typical action picture today—such as A Good Day to Die Hard, which I haven’t seen, but the trailer was enough—the hero is dead ten times.
So that’s what I didn’t like, and it’s really a generic dislike, because that sort of silly shit is totally standard today. What I liked was, again, Daniel Craig, who is a very good 007. And Dench, Judi Dench, as M. And the story, which relies on the fact that 007 is getting older, and a little creaky here and there. And Bardem, Javier Bardem, as the bad guy. And lots of other stuff. The final fight at Skyfall is very nicely done, other than the tunnel explosion.
These movies have been around long enough that they take a form about as rigid as a sonnet. There are things we have to see and hear, such as one time when 007 identifies himself as … well, you’ve gotten that point already. There is the Bond Girl, two in this case. There is the moving gun barrel and the blood running down the screen, at the end of this movie. There are the fantastic opening credits light show, which have evolved from a simple (but very innovative for 1963) projection of letters on a girl’s dancing, semi-nude body in From Russia, With Love, into the truly eye-popping CGI extravaganzas we see now. There is a sexy song, this one written and performed by Adele, just Adele. And there is John Barry’s immortal 007 theme. There is the Aston-Martin and the other gadgets, mercifully kept to a minimum and joked about in this one.
One of the action sequences takes place on the roofs of the old marketplace in Istanbul, which is a city where a lot of action movies are set these days. Always you get an establishing shot of the magnificent Hagia Sofia. And in fact only a few weeks ago we saw Taken 2, which has another action scene set on the very same rooftops. In that one, the actors are running. In this one, they’re on motorcycles. I found myself wondering if there’s a little booth or something in the marketplace: TO FILM A CHASE, TAKE A NUMBER AND WAIT UNTIL YOU ARE CALLED. Then the muezzin in his high tower sings out “Number 55! Calling number 55! Bruce Willis, and party of five hundred!”