Film Friday: Skyfall and Pusher

The latest 007 flick is a good bet for a matinee or Tuesday cheap night, while a remake of the Nicolas Winding Refn gangster film just sucks.

Sure, we could have chosen another picture, but this one says so much.


There’s only so much you can say about James Bond movies. They contain exotic locales, cool gadgets, corny jokes, awesome action sequences and really good-looking people having “sex” scenes that cut away after the kissing starts. Basically, a 12-year-old boy’s fantasy of what a movie should be.

Skyfall starts off with a classically spectacular action scene, in which at one point Bond (Daniel Craig) operates a bulldozer on a moving train, while getting shot at and (of course) never breaking a sweat. Accidentally shot by his fellow agent Eve (Naomie Harris) on the orders of M (Judi Dench), Bond disappears and is declared dead.

After this premise is drawn out for a bit longer than necessary (guys, we know he hasn’t died at the beginning of the film), Bond returns to the secret service and is soon back on the trail of an international super-hacker who threatens to reveal all of MI-6’s global undercover operatives.

This target soon turns out to be former agent Silva (Javier Bardem), a supervillain in the classic Bond mould. Bardem plays the character in over-the-top camp mode, pushing to the utmost limits of cheesiness and pulling it off with his usual panache. Also notable casting: the first hipster spotting in Bond history, with Ben Whishaw as a young, fashionably spectacled Q.

Director Sam Mendes is competent at the helm, but veteran cinematographer Roger Deakins (known for his work with the Coen brothers among many others) really stands out. There’s a sequence in Shanghai in which nothing that important happens, but Mendes and Deakins create a Blade Runner-esque orgy of neon that’s truly beautiful.

In the Craig era, the heirs to the Bond empire have made some efforts to give the venerable super-spy some humanity. Skyfall provides lots of digs about Bond being over the hill, along with some deep back story on the character. But do we care what happened in his childhood? I suppose the Bond producers are damned if they do, damned if they don’t; if the movies were nothing but wall-to-wall action, people would complain about that too. Nonetheless, I humbly submit “less talk, more rock” as a template for the franchise’s next chapter.


Zlatko Buric: just see the original Pusher, trust me.



Years before Drive, Nicolas Winding Refn started off his career with a Danish gangster film, and later went on to make two sequels. For whatever unfathomable reason, the franchise has been rebooted as a British crime flick (from Spanish director Luis Prieto). But where Refn’s films stood out with his trademark mixture of stark minimalism and gruesome violence, the remake is a sloppy mess that makes Guy Ritchie look like a paragon of originality and talent.

Richard Coyle is Frank, a London coke dealer trying to move up the ladder into some bigger-time deals. But wouldn’t you know it — spoiler alert! — the delicate house of cards he sets up starts to crumble, and he finds himself indebted to a gangster (a menacing but charismatic Zlatko Buric, reprising his role from the original).

Every time the new Pusher threatens to get interesting, it detours into another dead end. The plot is so predictable I can barely find the energy to bother describing it, the style is basically thrice-warmed over Trainspotting and the depiction of the criminal milieu is the same old boring perspective, undecided between showing how nasty these people are and celebrating their badass coolness.

Buric is a great screen presence (I wished he’d been onscreen more), and the film has some pretty cool music. That’s about all I can say for it, although I’m sure that legions of teenage boys will flock to it, as they do to just about anything having to do with gangsters (surely the cynical studio ploy at the core of the film’s existence). ■

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