Monday, November 26, 2012

Skyfall

I saw this the other day.  I'm not sure this is a review.  It will be in two parts: first, my whining about it; second, my feeble attempts to grasp the symbolism.

There are spoilers, though I try to keep particular scenes vague.

Criticism

Can we get some basic security?  How about this: Don't have any physical connections, whether cables or wireless, between the newly-recovered laptop of the crazed hacker genius and the network that controls everything at MI6.  Even if you don't expect the laptop to unlock all the security doors, wouldn't you at least want to keep it isolated to ensure that you don't have other malware slipping into your system?

When it appears that there is an assassination plot aimed at M or MI-6 in general, don't you lock the court doors?  I'd expect that a hearing filled with ministers would at least have more security than a few cops in an unlocked room and apparently no response teams when alarms are tripped (such as the metal detector, and surely someone in the courtroom could trigger a distress).  Also, why did MI-6 not have anyone sent to the hearing once they thought M was being targeted there?

The timing on the train was ridiculous.  Also, why not just have two explosions, one a little closer, so you don't need to rely on the train?  Or why not include a gun in the package and shoot Bond when he goes around the corner?  I suppose since it took 15 years to plan he had some time to throw in a few useless-but-flashy gestures.  While we're on the subject, for all the planning, he appeared to be completely unprepared for the actual assassination and escape, as if he'd mapped out every single step up to the moment when he enters the hearing... and is suddenly stuck firing a couple clips into hardwood before fleeing.

Was I the only person who thought that sneaking into the shower of the sex slave was perhaps not the nicest thing?

Q was not particularly good. I have no problem with the actor, but the character was useless.  The gun and radio were straightforward and useful (though I think the gun should have gotten more use than just not being fired once).  However his much-vaunted computer skills seemed to accomplish nothing.  He was the one who stuck the laptop in place to take over everything.  He couldn't even seem to unlock the computer (granted it was pretty nifty, but as a movie character, it's his job to be able to crack that sort of thing).

I think Javier Bardiem is good at villains.  His performance in No Country for Old Men was perfect.  His performance here was great.  But I don't know that he was the right type of villain.  He wasn't power-hungry, greedy, or ideological.  He wasn't even just bitter and after revenge (as in Goldeneye).  Instead he was insane.  He was obsessed.  There is focus and determination, implacability, but those are not the same as a man who had a stronger argument for an asylum than a knife in the back; except of course for the problem that he'd escape and get right back at it, so I still think it is best that he was killed.

I don't like it when the villain murders dozens or more people and in the end all the hero does is kill him.  I don't mean that he needed to be tortured or put on trial, but that he clearly had a lot of help and yet the network he created, all the other plots he had, are left entirely untouched.  Presumably his island was taken care of, but beside that, nothing.  In the end it is rather depressing.  I know that that is realistic, that single crazy people commit horrible crimes and are stopped without any larger context of evil being removed, but if I need depressing news about terrorism, I have the news.

It felt as if they were trying to make computers the new weapon, information and deception the new battlefields.  But they should know that they aren't new anymore.  Goldeneye was based in part on the nerd who lacked hacking everything.  Tomorrow Never Dies used control of media and manipulation of public perception.  Terrorism of the non-supervillain sort got only a couple tangential references with a few agents embedded in terrorist cells and one being executed by them.

I don't like it much when an entire plot line depends on one single bit of luck.  No, not Moneypenny missing the shot.  Instead, the cyanide capsule failing.  If he'd just died, no problem!  This ties in with my dislike of lone-wolf enemies (except when the hero is alone as well).

Symbolism
The movie seemed to be filled with it, and then I forgot most of it.

The house was Britain: filled with relics, the cold home, and the island which would be defended to the end.  No matter what happened in the rest of the world, the island would be defended.  That is perhaps the entire modern Bond franchise: refuge in a secure past.  And then they blew it up without even killing the bad guy.

The conflict between MI-6 and the civilian government felt like something that is almost happening in the real world.  We're almost questioning what our secret sides do, but not quite.  I think we should.  The film seemed to take a "shut up and let them get the job done" approach.  Certainly the ministers appeared to have nothing to contribute.

Bond always seemed to have missed the train.

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