Its almost that time of year, and I think this double-review (at this point in time) can point towards my upcoming Top 10 of 2012.
Well lets start with the stranger of the two.
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Written by: Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola
Review Score – 10/10
I’d never seen a movie by this Wes Anderson guy, but he’s apparently a pretty notorious director. Among things I’d heard before seeing this film, a lot of them focused around the fact that Moonrise Kingdom is apparently one of the most, “Wes Anderson-y films that Wes Anderson has ever made.” This is supposed to be important because apparently this Wes Anderson fellow is a bit of a hit-or-miss for most people with his films.
That being said upon watching Moonrise Kingdom I felt like this last statement can easily be taken for a misconstreuity because the only way this film could possibly miss is if the viewer in question were missing a part of their brain.
Moonrise Kingdom is the story of two twelve year old lovers, Sam and Suzy, as they run away from their New England lives where they aren’t accepted. Sam is a member of the Khaki Scouts, a knock-off of the boy scouts, (not that I needed to explain that) and an outdoor expert due to said membership. He meets Suzy, a binocular equipped book loving student. After a period of being pen pals, they conspire to run away together. Having disappeared together, the community goes up in a roar as Suzy’s parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormad) and Sam’s Scout Master (Edward Norton) team up with the police captain (Bruce Willis) to go searching for the children… and holy shit did you see how many amazing actors were just named back there?
The plot is interesting enough by itself, but what really stands out are the odd quirky situations that the two child characters get into. Being twelve they are not filled with enough angst to remind you of whiny annoying teenagers, and they are not childlike enough that the more sexual overtones in the first act of the movie are surprising or uncalled for. This is helped by the wonderful script and writing work that has been done to keep dialogue simple. There aren’t any plot lines or dialogue strings that will go over your head. This helps make these two twelve year olds feel like one of the most honest and innocent couples ever portrayed in movies. It’s not complicated because it doesn’t need to be complicated. They don’t like their lives, but they like each other, so why not be with each other?
Their relationship is compounded by the issues that the adult characters have going on. Bruce Willis is sleeping with Frances McDormand who is cheating on Bill Murray. The Scout Master had no idea that Sam’s parents were dead, and Sam’s foster parents willingly say that he is not allowed in their house whenever they learn of his running away from the Scout Camp. These decisions that affect the lives of the children echo back to the overall theme of childhood and duty that runs through Moonrise Kingdom.
This doesn’t stop the movie from being flat out hilarious at times. Black Comedy is caked to this movie in a way that can only be compared to the Coen Brothers. It keeps the feeling of a independent coming of age comedy while also being visually and echoically brilliant. There is something to be said about movie scores, and the score in Moonrise is probably one of the best I’ve ever heard. It resonates with the film so well in just about every part of the film. The visual representation adds to the movies quirk, the film takes place in the sixties, and all of the fashions from that time period are put here.
Speaking of visuals, one final scene is shot entirely in blue filter, due to a storm taking place, and the effect of it, especially when the two children (who are being chased up to this point) have their last touching moment together before the climax occurs, gives such a feeling of poignancy that it touches your heart in a special way. Again, this moment defines how innocent and honest they truly are.
Poignancy is probably the best adjective I can think of to describe Moonrise Kingdom. It taps into that special area of childhood where you aren’t quite teenager and not quite child anymore. You are capable of doing without understanding and all the motivation you can find is honest and complete.
Moonrise Kingdom is a great film, perhaps one of the greatest films. And if this is Wes Anderson-y, then I say welcome the man. I have a back log of films to catch up on, because if this guy can hit a homerun like this, then I must be missing out on something. Where did that brain stem of mine go?
Review Score: 10/10
Directed by: Sam Mendes
Written by: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and John Logan
Review Score: 10/10
Two tens in one day can take a lot of a reviewer. Especially one with as crumpled a black heart towards the blockbuster machine running out of hollywood as mine. I heard the raves. I read some reviews. What I didn’t expect though was to come away from Skyfall feeling like someone took the Bond series and made it into something that was not only a great Bond movie, but also one of the greatest action films ever made. There is so much that is awesome about this film without relying on old action movie tropes, and even when it does fall back on those tropes it does them in a way that is creative, interesting, and more amazing that anything else that was supposed to be ground breaking this year.
Skyfall is a movie about… well James Bond, but beyond that, the best way I can describe it is this: You know that thing that Dark Knight Rises wanted to be, a great movie about the fall and rise of a hero, the death of an entire system of doing things… well that movie is called Skyfall and I can’t believe DKR was trying to rip it off.
This new bond movie centers around the plot of a bad guy who steals some codes to some things and has a history with M and tells her to sins, and anarchy and blah blah blah. No, there is definitely a plot in Skyfall, but where it matters in relation to everything else that occurs is so secondary its almost tertiary.
What Skyfall does that’s important is that it has chosen a theme and has stuck with it. The theme in Skyfall is death.
In case you’re a technophobe, Skyfall begins with James Bond being MIA and presumed dead after being shot off of a train. Whenever MI6 is attacked by a computer wielding terrorist who claims that M should reflect on her sins, Bond – who has been chilling on an island – comes back in order to serve his country. Only in his hiatus he has sustained injury and gone out of practice and may not actually be good enough to do his job anymore. Furthermore, the old school field agent ways are threatened by computer laden terrorist moves that use technology to reroute control and outwit and undermind the martial prowess that James Bond is supposed to have. In this bad guy, not only he, but all of MI6 is outmatched.
Said bad guy is Silva, played by the absolutely excellent Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men). Silva is an ex MI6 agent who was abandoned by M for the sake of the mission. He strikes back with a loving tendency. Bardem brings a haunting danger to Silva, his dark skin does not match the blonde hair, his wicked shadiness does not fit his bright and affable character, his sense of control does not advertise his underlying chaos. And the only thing I can say that disappoints me about this movie was that it did not focus more on this god damn guy. Silva had a strong possibility of becoming a new age bad guy for the bond series. Twenty or thirty years from now the culture could’ve reflected this guy in this movie, but he just wasn’t used to his full potential. In short, he has a very personal reason to kill M in person and takes great lengths to do so. More comparisons between this movie and the Dark Knight need not be applied.
What all this eventually comes to is what I said earlier, Skyfall is about death and the unlikelihood of rebirth. James Bond is considered dead in the beginning before coming back, and even then, its unclear whether he has the true physical condition to fulfill his role. M is cornered, having given the order that caused Bond to be seen as supposedly dead, and wondering if she is truly capable of leading MI6 anymore. The entire idea of being a field agent is in threat of death due to the techonological evolution of its enemies. And it all leads up to a conclusion and ending that are ultimately symbolic of the death of background, the shedding of the old skin, and ends on a note of a brand new starry eyed world we’ve yet to see.
I know I’ve described a lot of vagueness in Skyfall so far, and that’s because to discuss the masterstroke of the film is undermine the work that leads up to this revelation. In short, Skyfall has a nasty surprise at the end, and it is a surprise that the film deserves, something that it strived for, and the ultimate tone of the film is hardset to the backdrop of a fire burning in the middle of a desolate field. Death is absolute.
Skyfall is a great fantastic film. Judi Dench has never been better as M. Daniel Craig has never been more amazing as James Bond. Javier Bardem… well, he’s definitely done better, but that doesn’t stop him from getting at least three scenes where he demands attention.
Lastly, amidst the rumors that Judi Dench is going blind, this movie likely marks the last time that we will see M. This is somewhat a landmark, almost capitalizes on the films themes of death and rebirth and wondering if things can ever be as good as they once were in light of it. It saddens me especially as, I’m young, I haven’t seen many old school bond movies, I practically started with Goldeneye and I’ve never known anyone else as M. So if that’s truly the case then the future is bleak indeed. And I’m going to miss Judi Dench.
Review Score: 10/10