Release: Friday, November 9, 2012
It took until this day, late in the ever-crispening air of November for this new installment in Ian Fleming’s James Bond franchise to appear, but better late than never. That’s a reasonable expectation to have for a movie like this, similar to the one most of us have for the single delivery of the line, “Bond. James Bond.”
It just hits you at the right moment, scene by scene, and at some point deep in the two-and-a-half hour affair it starts nipping at the heels of Casino Royale for a run at the “Best Bond Film Ever” distinction. And there’s been a LOT of good ones. Or, it might just get a nomination for Best Picture of the Year. Probably not, when it comes to the Oscar’s, but this is the closest a director behind Bond’s explosive story has ever come to that. Thank you, Sam Mendes. And, to be honest, we can or should thank Mendes for getting one thing perfect about this latest mission: the functionality of seemingly brainwashed operative orphans like James Bond.
Since Quantum of Solace, I’ve had a real concern about the future of Daniel Craig’s relationship with Bond. If some people found something to like about his second try at the role, maybe I missed it but I recall feeling nothing but confusion and disappointment trailing me after seeing it. It was one of the emptiest Bond films maybe ever made: the plot had Bond blowing up more things than ever and whomever was unfortunate to cross paths with him were mowed down like blades of grass. His bloodthirst was unquenchable and a little…..out of whack with Bond’s normal style.
Good thing there was such a low quantum of quality in that flick; it seemed to do nothing but just make Skyfall “pop” that much more. Made it feel a much more matured, premeditated idea. In Solace, it was like the directors slapped on a fancy title to an angry film, forgetting that the Lethal Weapon series had concluded a decade earlier and did not require yet another sequel.
But I shall doubt no more whether Craig is the right Bond; the suspicion if the role could be reprised, gone.
Neal Purvis, Robert Wade (the Broccoli film writer originals) and John Logan weave a darker and more personal storyline, great interpretations of what Fleming penned years back. First of all, they restored some old-school Bondisms: The silver Aston Martin DB-5; Miss Moneypenny; some primitive weaponry to get that rust off Bond’s trigger finger. In a way, in Skyfall we go back to Bond’s roots. We go to Scotland, where we learn what ‘Skyfall’ really is. But that’s fairly far into the film. Before we even get to that, we become more personally acquainted with M, a perspective never before tampered with in previous missions, because, simply, it wasn’t called for. In this one, the dreaded evil genius of one Javier Bardem (otherwise known as the looming threat in No Country For Old Men) has personal business with “Mum.” In fact, Raoul Silva’s hatred is so fixated on MI6 and M that Bond becomes more of a pawn in the game rather than the center of attention, a trend we’ve been accustomed to seeing in the previous 22 films.
But before I spin off into infinity with details about “how it is great,” I need to first pay tribute to “who is great” here. Bardem’s Silva, formerly known as Tiago Rodriguez, is a former employee of M. Cast out for going rogue on a mission long ago, he has since seriously gone rogue on himself, turning into a maniacal beast of a human being having been taken captive by the Chinese during a mission. Presumed dead MI6 gave up on him, and Silva/Rodriguez, in a domino effect, attempted suicide by swallowing a cyanide tablet, causing horrific damage to his facial features. Though it is no mouth built of metal, Silva serves as one of the creepiest, most unsettling villains since Jaws in Moonraker. Did I mention humorous?
Silva’s sick scheme here is to eliminate five MI6 agents per week until M decides to finally come forward, conceding this latest chapter in British geopolitical unrest. She may be stern, she may be patriotic, she may be well-versed in dealing with terrorism. But as the film unfolds, it is difficult to believe that she can withstand this as well.
And because Silva (and Mendes) successfully reach to the very core of what (maybe more importantly who) Bond’s missions are all about, there’s a unique sensitivity in the feature; an unsettling grace that carries through Act One and peaks come Act 3. Good thing Bond survives that first shot in the beginning, and is as tough as nails to begin with. That’s why we need someone like Daniel Craig to carry on. A man who may somehow stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Silva’s insanity.
There are other amenities in this continuation of the spy saga. One of which is our wide and bright-eyed Q-branch (Ben Whishaw), offering more irony than Bond can really tolerate. He’s afraid to fly, yet he’s no old-schooler. There’l be none of those exploding pens these days. He tells Bond in the museum, “We don’t really go in for that anymore.” This Q seems an adequate fit for this installment, though I still miss Desmond Llewelyn.
The Bond girls certainly seem up to par. And by that I mean, Eve Moneypenny (played by Naomi Harris) and the Chinese casino babe Sévérine (Bérénice Marlohe) each give Eva Green (who was Vesper Lynd) a run for her money. It would seem fitting that Bond be introduced to a new, perhaps healthier relationship fostered with Moneypenny (who is now much more appealing than the secretary of the Pierce Brosnan era), since his last “relationship” — should Bond afford himself the luxury — pretty much resulted in the forgettable second Craig Bond movie.
In theaters November 9, Skyfall has taken its place among the great Bond films produced to date. Agree or disagree, I think many are going to find it easier than ever to sit through this and at times forget it’s even a movie involving the British Secret Service. That’s an accomplishment in and of itself. Why didn’t Mendes come to the attention of Albert Broccoli and company earlier??
Recommendation: Simply put, a must-see: for the scenery, the free travel, the women and the high-tech terrorism. It’s a complete package and then some. It has all the right ingredients for being my favorite of the Bond’s, which is not the same thing as being the absolute best.
Running Time: 145 mins.
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