I said at the end of last week's entry that I'd review the Korean 'classic' "A Swordsman in the Twilight" (1967) unless something better turned up. Well it has (sort of -- see below), but I should write a few words on 'Swordsman' regardless. Sorry to say it was a bit of a disappointment with little to recommend it. The black and white cinematography lacked the crispness of the best old movies and the cameraman had obviously never heard of deep-focus photography. The villain reminded me of a latter-day Korean Bela Lugosi with his mocking eyebrows, and our hero who had sworn revenge had two good chances to kill him earlier than in the final non-thrilling showdown. Also I wish someone could explain to me how he could have unwittingly killed his wife and daughter behind a wooden screen, when his arrows into the screen miraculously were lodged into his loved ones when the screen was removed with the arrows intact. Huh???
As for the latest James Bond, there are two ways to view such films. You can either sit back and wallow in the exotic locations, excessive violence, and mindless sex, or you can look at the film objectively and discover a bloated mess. This viewer wavered between these two extremes, admiring certain of the set pieces and the general standard of the acting, and then sitting there wondering how much more of this is there? 150 minutes is the answer to the last question.
Director Sam Mendes has given us a generally well-photographed travelogue -- Mexico City, London, Rome, snowy Austria, Tangier, and the African wastes for no logical reason except to keep the action moving with boats, planes, trains, and helicopters. The opening sequence filmed in the middle of the Day of the Dead celebrations was spectacular, but the subsequent and continuous explosions and devastation produced diminishing returns. Craig who is far from my ideal Bond goes through the motions (and at 50 plus he has threatened not to return for a fifth outing), but he comes across as a well-groomed thug, which is exactly what he is, despite our being given vague indications of a softer, more contemplative underlying soul. The lovely Monica Bellucci playing the widow of the villain Bond has killed in Mexico is being flaunted as the oldest 'Bond Girl' ever, but her brief turn was largely irrelevant to the plot and could easily have been omitted. She was only there to prove that Bond is still an irresistible 'babe magnet'.
Then there was the heroine of the piece, French actress Lea Seydoux whom Bond has promised her dead father to protect. She reluctantly accepts his help, but after a never-ending fight sequence on a train with lead heavy David Bautista (echoes of "From Russia with Love") in which she takes part, after Bautista has been thrown from the train, her first question is 'What do we do now?' The answer of course is vigorous rumpy-pumpy. Her accented English, along with that of chief baddie Christoph Waltz, made the dialogue a little difficult to take in, and I could understand Americans having trouble with some of the plummy British accents as well. Mind you they did offer good support in the shape of Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, and in particular Ben Whishaw's Q.
As for Waltz who normally makes a memorable villain, his screen time was limited to some twenty minutes, and I got the feeling that he was phoning in his performance as he subjected Bond to some brutal, but ultimately pointless, torture. However resurrecting Spectre's mastermind Blofeld after some forty years, and then not killing him off, was interesting in the overall Bond canon and could well figure in the inevitable sequels, with or without Mr Craig and/or Mr Waltz.