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BTDKYD 01 Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Albert Finney, Marisa Tomei, Rosemary Harris, Brian F. O'Byrne, Aleksa Palladino, Michael Shannon, Amy Ryan, Jord

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead: two brothers struggling with debt hatch a plan to knock-off their parent’s jewelry store, but it doesn’t go down as planned. This must have had origins in a play or theater; it doesn’t feel remotely cinematic. Technically, it has the look and feel of a film-school project or directorial debut – not from the person that has brought us 12 Angry Men, Serpico, Network etc. It contains the worst use of zooming and jump-cutting in the history of cinema. Worst of all, the film thinks it’s smarter than it is, and spends the duration flopping all over the timeline – and assuming the audience is too dumb to follow, it brands the time on screen at the start of every scene. For such a respectable cast (Hoffman, Hawke, Finney, Shannon, and Marisa Tomei’s tits) they’re all hamming it up – but every character is completely one-dimensional. The gratuitous crass language annoyed me more than it should have – mostly because it felt sledge-hammered in to make the film marginally more outrageous. This hasn’t aged well at all: made in 2007, feels like a film from the 90s. Nihilistic, boring, pompously-theatrical claptrap.

Score: 2/10

BTDKYD 01 Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Albert Finney, Marisa Tomei, Rosemary Harris, Brian F. O'Byrne, Aleksa Palladino, Michael Shannon, Amy Ryan, Jordan Gelber,

 

 

Skyfall: James Bond comes back from the dead to help MI6 – and justify his existence – during the agency’s darkest hour. The story is easily one of the strongest in the franchise, split in to three well-defined acts, and even at 2.5 hours it never feels like it over-stays its welcome, as most scenes reveal something about at least one of the central characters.

Javier Bardem‘s villain perfectly mangles the theatricality and campiness of the Bond classic villains (Scaramanga / Blofeld) with a dark, maniacal and twisted persona that’s among the best modern cinematic antagonists (The Joker / Detective Stansfield). It’s also a testament to Daniel Craig that he never gets out-performed – some previous Bond’s would have struggled. As for the under-discussed Bond Girls Sévérine perfectly plays the vulnerable and dangerous seductress; on the other hand, Bond’s field agent colleague Eve was pretty rubbish, lacking any believability, conviction or presence – she looked like she was on daytime TV.

The film’s well-paced, directed, and looks fantastic, with plenty full-frame/wide shot of landscapes & sets and – as you expect from the travelogue element of every Bond film – there’s a ton of stunning locations to take in; Turkey, Shanghai, the abandoned Hashima Island, Glencoe, and an eerily beautiful shot of a misty Glen Etive.

This film also continues to keep Daniel Craig’s outings firmly rooted in the ‘reality’ of the post-Bourne action film, steering well clear of the fantasy / ridiculous / gadgetry elements. Although this is the current style of most action movies, it would be good to see some gadgets and stunts that brought a bit of the classic Bond magic, although the line between magic and cheese is very grey.

The most interesting aspect of Skyfall is that it focuses on James Bond more than any other outing: not just through questioning his relevance in the modern world, or whether he’s still physically / mentally capable, but it also goes back to his pre-spy roots, fleshing out his childhood & backstory, giving the audience an insight into how he became the fearless, suave and dangerous 007.

You couldn’t ask for much more in a 50th Anniversary Bond film; most of the classic elements are there, even if they’re hinted at, or – like the famous ‘gun barrel sequence’ – simply tagged on to the end again. The story, characters and direction are all well above the average for a Bond film; however, more mentions of the previous 22 movies would have been the cherry on the cake, and added a truly celebratory vibe to the longest-running cinema franchise in history.

Score: 8.5/10

TOP TRUMPS

Villain: Raoul Silva – camp, cunning, crazy, deformed… just not in enough screen time 9
Henchmen: Patrice, the capable and silent assassin, + a few dozen mercenaries. 6
Babes: 50% classic beautiful siren, 50% awkward and rubbish. 7
Action: Opening mission / MI6 Bombing / Shanghai / Casino / Underground / Skyfall Shootout. 8

For reviews of every other James Bond film, click HERE