Sunday, November 11, 2012

Movie Review: "Skyfall"

The James Bond franchise may be celebrating its 50th anniversary, but I saw my first James Bond movie, Moonraker, in the late 1970s, and then had the opportunity to see some of the older movies over the next few years. Although I haven't seen every movie in the franchise, I have had the opportunity to see some movies with each of the actors who have played Agent 007 through the years, from Sean Connery to Daniel Craig.

For me, James Bond movies tend to follow a general formula—there's a dastardly villain who poses a significant threat, Bond is foiled in his first few attempts to foil this threat, he meets two women—one drop-dead gorgeous one who tends to find herself in some sort of distress (and usually meets an unhappy end) and an equally beautiful yet smart one. And in the end, Bond saves the day.

Skyfall is the 23rd outing for 007, and if the franchise can continue to deliver films of this caliber, Bond is here to stay for a long, long time. Academy Award-winning director Sam Mendes (American Beauty) helms a tightly plotted, well-acted film packed with some action sequences which will leave you breathless, along with a little more introspection than you're used to with Bond films.

Bond's (Daniel Craigmission is to retrieve a hard drive that contains a list of all British intelligence agents working undercover all over the world. He finds the man who stole the drive, which leads to an amazing chase and brawl scene that leads them on top of a moving train. Eve, an agent sent to assist Bond, has both men in the crosshairs of her gun, but she is afraid she might shoot Bond accidentally. At the last second, M (Judi Dench) orders Eve to take the shot; she hits Bond, who falls into a river and is believed dead.

A few months later, the British government is irate that MI6 has lost the list of undercover agents, and they want M to retire and take responsibility. She refuses to leave the agency until the matter is resolved, and then events begin to unfold that make everyone realize they have a serious threat on their hands—and the threat is directly targeted on M.

Events back at MI6 motivate Bond to resurface, but he is weakened physically and emotionally by his brush with death, and the changing face of the enemies he has been fighting. He meets the new Q (Cloud Atlas' Ben Whishaw, playing every inch the young, disheveled genius) and follows a trail to Shanghai and then Macao, where he meets the requisite gorgeous damsel in distress, this time named Sévérine (Bérénice Marlohe), who ultimately leads him to the nemesis of MI6—Silva (a yet-again-unhinged Javier Bardem). Silva, it seems, has a history with MI6, and M.

And that's where I'll leave the plot so as not to ruin the fun. This is definitely one of the best Bond films I've seen in some time, perhaps ever. The added emotional depth brings a new dimension to Daniel Craig's Bond, making him more than the steely, sexy, tough secret agent. (As always, he looks pretty darned fantastic.) Bardem's Silva has a touch of Heath Ledger's Joker in his performance—a little fey, a little over-the-top—but this man has some serious axes to grind, and Bardem once again occupies the soul of a dangerous and wounded man all too uncomfortably well. And Dench combines her hard-as-nails persona with a little more vulnerability.

Don't write this off as just another Bond film. While Skyfall does bring its usual bag of tricks, there's more to the movie than meets the bloody eye. It's heart-pounding fun that makes you think and feel, too.

No comments:

Post a Comment