Minor spoilers ahead.
As far back as I can remember, there have been new Bond films premiering on the big screen every two to four years. By the time I got into my teens, it had become a tradition for me to attend the latest release with my mother. I had never read the Ian Fleming novels (still haven’t), and the movies I saw with Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, and Pierce Brosnan, each playing that iconic role, never left me with the desire to investigate the literary side of the world’s top secret agent. Those flicks were fun (campy/cheesy), and really not meant to be taken seriously. (Yes, and all those gratuitous love scenes made me giggle – especially when the useless females would let out a breathless, “Oh, James.”) One never really got to see why Bond became a spy, or why he would be willing and able to kill people for a living.
That changed in 2006 with the release of “Casino Royale.” The franchise had gotten a much needed reboot – thankfully with writers who wanted 007 to come across as a real human being. Of course, many fans had a hissy fit when Daniel Craig was chosen to play a blond Bond. It didn’t bother me one bit. Craig is a gifted actor and, in my opinion, his looks fit the part of a hardened spy much better than the suave, nonchalant Moore, the charming, chiseled Dalton, or the flawlessly handsome, bored Brosnan.
“Skyfall” is the 23rd Bond film, and Daniel Craig shines in his third outing as Agent 007. He is joined by a stellar cast and a worthy director, Sam Mendes. We still have explosive, pulse-pounding action sequences to relish in exotic locales, along with a character-driven plot (courtesy of writers John Logan, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade).
As the new film opens, the latest mission has gone terribly awry, resulting in the exposure of several agents and a bold, unprecedented attack on MI6. Apparently, M (Dame Judi Dench) has a past and now it’s come back to haunt her with a vengeance in the form of a mysterious, diabolical villain named Silva (Academy Award winner Javier Bardem). In my opinion, there will never be another Bond Bad Guy as unusual as Bardem’s Silva. His performance has a creepiness factor nearly on par with Heath Ledger’s “Dark Knight” role. What’s even stranger is the fact that I experienced moments of sympathy for him as his agenda and the reasons behind it were revealed. Once again, it’s all about trust and betrayal.
M goes on the defense and tries to relocate the agency, but meanwhile the Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), steps in to cast doubt on her competence. To say that she and Bond have had “a bad day at the office” is putting it mildly. But despite everything that happens in the first ten minutes of the film, 007 stays loyal to M. With the help of the new, young computer-whiz Q (Ben Whishaw) and field agent Eve (Naomie Harris), Bond sets out to bring down the criminal mastermind who is hell-bent on destroying them all. It’s no easy task, and that, of course, means those two hours and twenty-odd minutes simply fly by. Or at least they did for this particular fan.
What I appreciated most about the script was the fleshing out of Bond’s character. Secrets from his childhood in Scotland are exposed, thanks in part to a small but significant role played by the wonderful Albert Finney. Finally, we can see more clearly how and why Bond became Agent 007.
As for the obligatory Bond girl, the two sex scenes (not “love scenes,” since Bond refuses to fall for anyone again) included in the movie were shockingly brief. You’ll have to decide whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I like to think of it as progress. Also, regarding the movie’s theme song, even though I’m not much of an Adele fan (she does have a golden voice), I have to say the title tune she penned with Paul Epworth couldn’t be more classic. The haunting lyrics and sensuous melody fits the somber mood established at the end of the opening scene, and the macabre animation accompanying it is rather striking.
I must admit that “Skyfall” is my favorite Bond film to date. Some viewers probably will find fault with it, of course – especially the “purists.” An English friend of mine told me he found the sentimentality quite appalling. “But you Americans like that sort of thing, I suppose.”
Yes, actually. In small doses, especially when it’s used to show someone’s vulnerable, flawed, human side. All of us have, at one time or another, trusted someone we shouldn’t have trusted and suffered for it.
But “Skyfall” is still a Bond flick: It’s not so heavy that it brings viewers down, and it still manages to be a game changer (with a salute to the past and new blood for the future). I have no qualms about recommending it because I think the majority of fans will be satisfied – perhaps even splendidly entertained.