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Posted by on Jan 6, 2013 in Culture, Diversions | 4 comments

Sunday Supervillainy: Let’s get started… and a short review of Skyfall

Since someone asked (in the previous thread) about my Sunday Supervillainy series, you can most easily catch up with it by searching my old site for this blog, using the word “supervillainy”… or just click on this link. It’s marvellous how those posts have added up.

Meanwhile, I finally got around to seeing Skyfall, which I loved. I was much more entertained than I thought I’d be, and this was largely down to the superb performances by Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, and others.

(I’ve tried to avoid spoilers in what follows, but read on at your own risk.)

Judi Dench is formidable in the role of spymaster M. In many ways, she is at the centre of the narrative – much of the action is based around an attempt to kill her, and her decisions as she strikes back at her enemies (while also having to fight off her political critics).

Daniel Craig has made the role of James Bond his own, though with echoes of Sean Connery’s approach to the character in the early Bond movies of the 1960s. His version of James Bond is not entirely admirable, but he’s a bloke who gets stuff done. As portrayed by Craig, he has a menacing physicality – there’s a kind of low-slung, dangerous, potentially explosive, all-round competence here, putting him in psychological control of every situation. Even when things are at their worst, he gazes on danger with an amused alertness, rather than fear. Think of a modern version of Homer’s cunning, deep-chested, often unscrupulous hero, Odysseus.

But the villains are also impressive. The cold-blooded professional assassin, Patrice, seems a good opponent for Bond through the early scenes of the film, matching him in physicality and competence, gunshot for gunshot and blow for blow, and almost mirroring him in appearance. This leaves us often confused during the chaotic scrambles of their combat scenes (and, indeed, much is overtly made of this).

But later we meet the even more formidable Raoul Silva, acted by Javier Bardem. There’s a touch of decadence, a touch of (apparent) softness about Silva… but as events unfold he proves to be easily Bond’s match, often outwitting him, while also appearing unkillable. Indeed, one of the many things that Bond and Silva have in common, beyond their extraordinary levels of all-round competence, is that both are living beyond what should have been their deaths. Both have survived experiences when they have seemed for all purposes finished, but they have recovered, however scarred or mutilated, and now they continue on, resurrected, implacable, apparently indestructible, and entirely without mercy for their enemies. Bond often seems as psychopathic as his antagonists, even if his special ruthlessness, and particularly his coldness about death and danger, operate in a good cause.

Skyfall has been enormously successful, earning over a billion dollars on first release, becoming one of the biggest earning movies of all time, and, indeed, the highest grossing ever in the UK. In my opinion, it’s merited. With its twists and turns, and its plots within plots, with stunning acting and extraordinary visuals (Shanghai looks like a cyberpunk city of the future!), this is a pop culture masterpiece.