The new James Bond film Skyfall begins with an awesome, high-energy sequence in which 007 takes part in a car chase, a motorcycle chase, and a shootout, uses a crane to rip open a moving train, and then fights with an assailant on top of that train.
Then he’s accidentally shot and left for dead (which, of course, he isn’t).
And all that happens before the opening credits (which feature that gorgeous theme song by Adele). Whoa.
To quote another famous Bond theme song, nobody does it better.
So why, then, is our hero in danger of being put out to pasture?
That’s the big question that runs through Skyfall: Times have changed, and there are new, more modern bad guys. Is 007 still the right man to take them down? Heck, even he says at one point that “it’s a young man’s game.”
And after the lackluster Quantum of Solace, moviegoers, too, had their reservations.
Go ahead. Let Jason Bourne try to take his place.
In this latest outing — definitely the best of the three Daniel Craig Bond films —Bond faces off against a cyberterrorist named Silva (Javier Bardem, kinky and creepy in blonde hair) who’s out to take down M (Judi Dench).
But there’s much more to this Bond film than just action.
This 23rd movie, coming in the 50th-anniversary year of Dr. No, marks an end and a new beginning for the franchise. There’s all that talk of ageism, and how Bond, M, and team must prove themselves anew; there’s a new bare-bones, high tech startartuppy headquarters for MI6; and there are the introductions of new characters who you’ll see again in future films.
There are also plenty of nods to Bond’s past, including a great scene where the original Aston Martin gets a chance to prove there’s still some gas in the ole tank. We even get a glimpse into Bond’s childhood, and we learn what turned him so dark all these years later.
Of course, through all that, whether he’s kicking ass or wooing the ladies (including new not-quite-Bond-girl Naomie Harris), Craig always looks perfect; his suits are cut just right so they move with him and never tear. Craig, as always, projects the steely persona that leaves little doubt that Bond means business, and here, he also gets the chance to balance it with insights that show more of the humanity in the man.
Kudos to director Sam Mendes, whose previous films (Away We Go, Revolutionary Road) didn’t necessarily indicate he was the right man for this job, but who has likewise proven doubters wrong. This is crisp, elegant filmmaking, resulting in a well paced, exciting, and not overlong movie.
Skyfall looks great: The film and its characters go from Istanbul to London to Shanghai to Macau to Scotland, and Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins have given each location a distinct and dominant color scheme. They also shot London — both on rooftops and down in the Tube — from angles that often give new perspectives on this iconic city, and make the setting just as important as the story.
The screenwriting team of Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and John Logan deserve credit for their efficient and often witty script. I just wish they had toned down all the references Bond, M, and other characters make to their continued relevance — “Youth is no guarantee of innovation,” “Sometimes the old ways are the best,” etc. etc. These get very old, very quickly. (Pun intended.)
But the screenwriters have worked with Mendes to successfully revitalize the Bond brand, making affectionate nods to the past and effectively setting up the characters for future fieldwork.
“You should have trusted me to finish the job,” Bond says at one point to M. After watching Skyfall, I doubt anyone will make that mistake again.
I’m giving Skyfall a B+.
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