Skyfall

I think it might be something to do with it being Year End, but I’m struggling to find much to say about the new Bond movie Skyfall. Of course, I’ll not have a word spoken against Daniel Craig (who seems to have shrunk) – plus Naomie Harris as the capable new Moneypenny is just delightful. It does open quite brilliantly – the high-octane scenes in Istanbul are some of the best adrenalin-pumped, Craig-era Bond yet….

But after that it all becomes a bit silly. There are no grand ideas, there’s no dastardly genius out to destroy the world, there aren’t even gadgets. Aside from Istanbul, even the locations look more like studio sets than real places. I felt I’d seen everything before – even Javier Bardem just looked like Anton Chigurh with dyed hair. (And let’s not get into the decision to play gay-as-camp.) Given the amount of time the film takes to set up the new characters that’ll populate the franchise in future, it felt a bit like the second part of a trilogy – interesting enough but no resolution. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate it or anything. I was just a bit disappointed.

A Lonely Place to Die

A group of five friends hiking in the Scottish wilderness stumbles across a young Serbian girl, kidnapped and buried alive deep in the mountains. As they try to rescue her, across some of the most difficult countryside, they are pursued by brutally efficient kidnappers, and by the girl’s father, a Serbian war criminal who’s not exactly a good guy himself.

I usually take Brit movies like A Lonely Place to Die with a Lot’s Wife of salt – they so often star Danny Dyer and are kind of crap. But this one, surprisingly, was really quite enjoyable. It does the audience the favor of taking itself seriously, its pacing is frenetic, and the characters, ably lead by Aussie actress Melissa George, act pretty much logically throughout without ever jumping the shark. Yes, there’s a couple of odd scenes towards the end, particularly concerning community policing, or lack of it – but by that time you’re hooked. Lonely shot in and around the town of Dingwall, north of Inverness, and Scotland looks really spectacular on screen.

Doomsday

A couple of years ago, in the middle of the night, we were woken by the sounds of shouting in the streets outside our loft. Sounded unnervingly like a riot – which would be unusual but not entirely unheard of in South Africa, after all. It turned out to be a movie production, featuring people dressed like punk rockers attacking a large vehicle, right on the steps of elegant City Hall. (You’d think that South African producers would be a bit more fastidious about neighbour notification – I remember a few years back a movie filming a gun battle, at night, in the middle of gang-land, and they hadn’t notified anyone. Gang members came running…..)

It turns out the movie that woke me was Doomsday, a post-apocalyptic thriller starring Rhona Mitra. It’s  something of a bit of a dog’s breakfast of a film – Mad Max meets Braveheart meets 28 Days Later. In short, it’s 30-odd years after a devastating Scottish plague, and the country’s been isolated ever since by its cynical southern neighbours. As a result, half the surviving population has gone feral, the remainder, medieval. And now a small team of scientists are sent in to find out what’s what…..

It’s completely inconsistent (cannibals in the midst of a massive herd of cattle) but all entertaining enough. (same director, Neil Marshall who made The Descent and Dog Soldiers, so not a surprise.) Rhona Mitra was good too. I thought the producers did very well to seamlessly merge the South African scenes with the Scottish ones; it was difficult to tell the difference. Wikipedia interestingly has the best stuff on how that was achieved.