Skyfall review

To begin with I must state that I am NOT a Bond fan.  But I have an open mind and of all the Bond movies I’ve seen in my time (many) I have to say that I thought Daniel Craig’s Casino Royale was probably my favourite.  I chose not to see Quantum of Solace; a movie with a name as ridiculous as that had to be hiding something and it seems my gut feel was right given its poor reviews.  But Skyfall seemed different.  Certainly the advance reviews have been excellent and so I turned up on opening weekend willing to be impressed.

I was.

This is, by some margin, the finest Bond film I’ve ever seen.  Although it has its faults (it’s a little too long) it scores points in nearly every department; the acting is universally excellent, The plot and script suitably overblown but flecked with humour and humanity throughout.  Outrageous chases and set pieces (the rooftop motorbike chase just about winning price for most audacious chase scene I’ve ever seen).

But it’s what lies at the soul of this film (and it really does have a soul) is the cast.  In particular we see the cloth lifted on what motivates Bond, his back story and in  particular his upbringing.  It’s this that starts to flesh out his (and more unexpectedly Javier Bardem’s) relationship with M who although as feisty as ever actually develops into quite a sympathetic and interesting subplot.

The film is excellently directed (by Sam Mendes!) with a theme (yes a Bond movie with a “theme”) about age and the battle between tradition and modernity running through it like a stick of rock (occasionally clunkily so).  This allows the production team to have great fun with old Bond gadgetry (and music) alongside the very latest in technology – an obfuscated living data network being at its centrepiece which allows a new and ridiculously young looking (he’s actually 32) Q to be introduced in the shape of Ben Wishaw (Perfume).

But its Daniel Craig’s complete mastery of Bond as a character that is setting the movie industry into overdrive and not surprisingly.  In the movie, in tune with the theme of age and aging, he’s almost not fit for purpose having “taken one for the team” possibly once too often.  He’s on the verge of breakdown at the movie’s outset and takes the requisite, and to be expected, barrage of beatings as it unfolds, emerging at its denoument just about in one piece and ready for action with whatever lies in store in the next instalment.  It’s an interesting dimension and works well with Judi Dench’s excellent central performance as M.

Craig is the complete Bond.  Rugged, handsome, athletic, suave but with more steel than any since Connery and, to my mind, he’s a better actor than Mishter Cool himself.

As the face of not one but two major film franchises (The Girl with…) he’s solid gold and, for my money, worth every penny of it.

I also like Adele’s theme music.

Mercury Prize

With The Mercury only a few days away here’s my form guide to the shortlist..

Alt-J – ‘An Awesome Wave’

Odds on favourite; surprisingly.  It’s a good record but a bit geeky so I don’t  think it will win.  And anyway Django Django’s the better of the geek stuff.
Richard Hawley – ‘Standing On The Sky’s Edge’

Hawley’s best yet and a strong contender.  Love it.
Plan B – ‘Ill Manors’

Not a favourite with the bookies but I think it has a real chance.
Sam Lee – ‘Ground Of Its Own’

Folking no chance.
Lianne La Havas – ‘Is Your Love Big Enough?’

A really nice soul record, but released on Nonesuch records in the US does not sound like a Mercury Prize winning combination to me.
Django Django – ‘Django Django’

The years best reciord and should win.  I think it will.
The Maccabees – ‘Given To The Wild’

Much loved by Radio 6 but not the record buying public.  I think not.
Ben Howard – ‘Every Kingdom’

Cack.  Won’t win.
Jessie Ware – ‘Devotion’

A genuine outsider.  Lovely record, consistent throughout.  I give it a chance.
Roller Trio – ‘Roller Trio’

It’s Jazz.  Need I say any more.  I have nothing against jazz but the Mercury Prize does.  Tokenism.
Field Music – ‘Plumb’

Not as good as their earlier work.  I’d be surprised if this won.
Michael Kiwanuka – ‘Home Again’ 

Better than Ben Howard but pretty bland.  I doubt very much if this will win.

So my shortlist is Django Django, Plan B, Richard Hawley and Jessie Ware.  My money’s on the Djangoes with a touch on Hawley and Jessie.

Looper – Movie review

Let’s get this straight.  Looper is not, as many say, “the Matrix of the 21st Century” it’s “Sliding Doors with Guns.”.

It’s  a clever attempt to play with the concept of ‘what might have been’ on a very grand scale (although, interestingly, not, as I was expecting , on a mind boggling scale).

It’s a big movie but it’s not one that, had it failed would bring the studio to its knees and I kind of liked that.  Clocking in at $30,000 ain’t really that big a deal.

It’s set in 2047 in a now ragged USA with China having taken ascendancy in the world.  I liked the fact that director and writer Rian Johnson (Brick) doesn’t turn it into Blade Runner but adds a few neat sci-fi tricks (like flying motorbikes).  Loopers are “disposal men” of their future selves who are sent back from 2077 for, well disposal,.  They are called Loopers because the film is all about time loops. 2044’s Loopers are disposed of 30 years hence (and they know it) by themselves hence “Closing the Loop”, but occasionally it goes wrong such as here where Joe (our Hero played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has to close the loop on himself (Old Joe played by Bruce Willis).  But it all goes Pete Tong and so we now have two Joe’s on the go.

You can skip the next para if you’ve not seen the movie because it’s a spoiler.

Personally, my view is we have three because Cid, the child that young Joe encounters in the second half of the movie is, in my opinion, his younger self.  Which makes the sex scene he has with Sara (Emily Blunt – Cid’s Mum) interesting because that means he’s having sex with his own mother.

OK, back to the review.

Young Cid (a remarkable performance by 5 year old Pierce Gagnon)  has Telekinetic powers and a temper that makes Linda Blair look merely snippy in The Exorcist.

I could go on but won’t because there’s a lot of detail to consume.

Suffice to say it all pans out cleverly; the various loops are closed in perhaps unexpected ways and we are left with a movie that is clever, well acted, slick and genuinely original.

It’s a definite recommendation.  8/10.