Skyfall and Underwater Combat

I just saw Skyfall, and was quite impressed. Daniel Craig provides all the usual Bond-ness, as well as a believable action hero. Javier Bardem never fails to please as a crazy / creepy villain. Even Ralph Fiennes, who I hadn’t realized was in the movie and thus initially assumed was the bad guy (on the “it’s a recognizable actor who I didn’t expect to see” rule – apparently this doesn’t apply outside TV) ended up fitting right in.

The storyline was interesting, and provided a little backstory for Bond himself – something these films largely have steered away from. There was an interesting, and well-underlined, moment late in the movie when the justification for having agencies and agents like these was explained. I’m not sure I agree exactly in the real world, but at least within the world of the movie, it provided a sense of purpose.

So, all in all, an enjoyable film. It was marred though, for me, by a basic misunderstanding about human biology evidenced in a fight scene near the end of the movie. This fight is between Bond and an underling / sidekick type, so (very minor spoiler alert) it’s no surprise that Bond eventually prevails. What is a surprise is that though the fight takes place underwater, both Bond and the sidekick spend most of the fight attempting to choke one another.

It may just be me, and I must admit that I’ve never fought anybody underwater, but I would think that the objective in such a circumstance would be to attempt to force your opponent to breathe, as opposed to stopping him from doing so. There’s no logical reason to attempt to cut off someone’s air supply when all that’s available is a (fatal) water supply. All you’re doing by choking someone is prolonging the period where they’re not breathing water!

On a side note, I feel like I’m missing an Air Supply (the band) joke there, possibly about how the music is fatally sappy, but feel free to submit one in the comments if you feel strongly about it.

Anyhow, this fight scene felt absolutely backwards because of this. We’re one guy away from the boss fight, and both Bond and the last sidekick forget that humans breathe air?

After the scene ended, I had a brief flashback to a terrible early 90s Charlie Sheen movie (I’ve just looked it up, and it was actually called Navy Seals). One early scene from that movie involved a fight underwater (if you could call it a fight). Basically, the SEAL in question – probably Charlie Sheen –  simply grabbed the guy and dragged him deeper and deeper in the water. I don’t remember if there was any dialogue around this, but the clear message was that if you know without a doubt that you can hold your breath longer than the other guy, you don’t need to fight him – just wait him out, and make him wait with you. All the bad guy was trying to do at the end was to get away – as another non-spoiler, I don’t think he makes it.

This approach is actually taught (or was taught at one point, back when I was young) as part of lifeguard certifications. One major safety issue in a rescue situation is getting grabbed by a panicking drowning person, who then proceeds to attempt to climb you in order to get to the surface, and thus ends up drowning you along with them. There are several outs, including just punching the person in the face (something like that happens in the middle of that Kevin Costner Coast Guard rescue swimmer movie from a few years ago – you can look that one up yourself if you want to). The simpler alternative, though, is just to drag the person underwater. Then you are no longer a route to perceived safety, and the drowner stops trying to use you as a flotation device. Needless to say, in the “lifeguard” scenario, the point is to get free so you can then turn around and save the person, not to continue dragging them under forever, a la Charlie Sheen. I can only imagine that you would fail the certification exam if you forgot that last bit.

It’s got to be a bit embarrassing when a bad movie from 15 years ago, starring Charlie Sheen of all people, as an action hero of all things, manages to get something right that goes oh so wrong here.

So, this is not to say that the movie was ruined, or anything along those lines. Just that it was a jarring error in both basic human biology and hand-to-hand combat tactics (at least as I understand them, purely as a bystander) at a very late stage of the game in an otherwise enjoyable experience. Did anybody else notice this, or did I miss something, or can everybody else just breathe underwater and I somehow lost the coupon for the upgrade?