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Skyfall (2012) or livewithfilm takes notes from Bond’s talent for queue jumping…

13 Nov

After what seems like the whole of the UK caught Bond’s latest bust-up on its opening week, livewithfilm thought it should probably catch up and headed to the BFI IMAX. Such a trip dealt this blogger an odd hand as – with the favoured son of MI6 careering his way around London – Bond at one point decided to drive past the very cinema livewithfilm was sitting in. Perhaps his Aston Martin DB5 was an elaborate ruse to beat the nationwide rush for tickets…

With Judi Dench frostily glaring across the screen as MI6 chief M and muscular Daniel Craig set to save his country from the evil clutches of malevolent super-crim Javier Bardem, the stage seemed set for a by-the-numbers return for Bond. Yet Skyfall is not the spy as we know him. Steered into unknown territory by the acclaimed talents of director Sam Mendes and director of photography Roger Deakins, Skyfall sets a magnificent new dawn for Bond who remains at once nostalgic for his fifty preceding years and bold enough to hold his own for the next half century. After crashing out of a heart racing opening chase that rivals the Russian dam bust of Goldeneye (1995) and mirrors Brosnan’s final bungee dive, Bond is left to drink his sorrows away presumed dead. Yet as Bardem’s Silva wages a very personal war against a particularly matriarchal M, Bond is drawn back to protect his old boss.

Forcing Britain’s beloved spy to encounter a range of homoerotic and oedipal themes, Bardem subversively dominates Skyfall. A giggling hybrid of Andy Warhol and Hannibal Lector with an entrance to rival Omar Sharif in Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Silva is a furious reflection of Bond. In this landmark year for the secret agent, it is fitting that Bond – relentlessly criticised for his archaic and sexist spy lifestyle – is forced to confront himself in this manner. Deconstructing entrenched expectations in an approach akin to Nolan’s recent Batman reinventions, Skyfall takes Bond to new heights through a timely ‘self-aware’ reinvention. Craig once again deftly fills the tux alongside franchise stalwart Dench, new addition Ben Whishaw’s Q suitably matching up to the oft-credited pair. Most crucial of all though, Deakins and Mendes inject originality into Skyfall that almost erases all memory of Quantum of Solace (2008) to reinvigorate Bond for future duties.

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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

30 Nov

Dust off your popcorn and polish off the 3D glasses, livewithfilm is pleased to announce its return to the filmic marathon (fun run perhaps). Attempting to provide a pertinent return to form, livewithfilm decided to return to the cinema. It was unfortunate that the dimming lights and hushed sounds of the screening seemed anticlimax on such an occasion. Did livewithfilm expect some sort of fanfare as it returned to blogging? A confetti cloud of pick and mix? It was as if no one in the empty Odeon was aware of the monumental implications that this screening held for this jaded film blogger.

Thomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy envisages a collapsing British Secret Service, ripped asunder by the deceitful influences of the Cold War. As agents are betrayed and captured across the world, evidence from Control (John Hurt), the previous head of British Intelligence, points towards a leak high up in the Circus. George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is tasked with unearthing the Soviet mole, forcing the world-weary retiree to investigate the influence that the Russian agent Karla has over MI6. Aided by Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch), Smiley liaises with fallen spies Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy) and Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong) to uncover a history of betrayal and treachery.

Do not be fooled, this is no spy film. Whilst creating an engrossing piece of paranoid cinema, Alfredson has been able to draw on more interesting elements from Le Carré’s source novel. From the silence that reverberates across the film’s first minutes to the resoundingly downbeat final montage of solitude, Tinker Tailor is undoubtedly an exploration of fractured human relationships. Whilst film critic Mark Kermode supposed that Alfredson’s film focuses on an image of male relationships, livewithfilm would go further, suggesting that Tinker Tailor is cemented upon failed human connections. It explores the inability of characters to unite whilst they are embroiled in a global conspiracy, international influences serving to crush any humane relations. It seems a logical progression for the director to portray such a vision of inhumanity after working on Let the Right One In (2008), a film that located an emotional core amidst the immense implications of vampirism. In fact Tinker Tailor, whilst dealing with an investigation of loyalty, neatly contrasts the innocent unison that is to be found in Alfredson’s vampiric love story.

Postulating aside, livewithfilm is keen to emphasise the slow burning excellence of Alfredson’s film. The superior cast shine as the embittered and broken fraternity of spies. Oldman’s Smiley is suitably haggard, his hanging jowls and thoughtful stare proclaiming years of emotional solitude. Whilst Le Carré has suggested that Oldman was able to inject a hint of sexuality that was lacking in Alec Guinness’s portrayal of Smiley in 1979, livewithfilm found a tragic sterility in the character that was just as engrossing. Whilst the text gained from a greater investigation into Smiley’s cuckolding, the omnipresent shadow of his wife Anne was suitably forceful. An opposing image of femininity is endearingly created in Cathy Burke’s Connie Sachs, a retired intelligence officer of MI6. Her brief appearance is a blessing to Tinker Tailor, an injection of nostalgic affection that leaves lingering hints of melancholia across the film’s latter acts. Whilst the film is surprisingly beautiful, creating memorable images amongst a sepia dullness, it is such human elements that resonate. It seems appropriate that livewithfilm was able to watch such an investigation of human interaction whilst surrounded by a cinema audience. Tomorrow, back to solitary home viewing…