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‘Skyfall’ is Bond at its best

11/8/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Craig Marks

Daniel Craig is James Bond in “Skyfall.”
Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures
Fresh off his helicopter jaunt with the Queen at the London Olympics, Daniel Craig’s James Bond returns in “Skyfall.” He and the movie succeed royally.

After the gloomy and unmemorable “Quantum of Solace,” “Skyfall” brings back fun and style to the 50-year-old franchise. Craig’s Bond is still moody and troubled, but he’s also a man who does his job with gusto. Perhaps one can’t appreciate their occupation until they feel they’re being pushed out of it. Both he and his British Intelligence boss, M (Judi Dench), are told in subtle — and not so subtle — ways they’re relics. At a government hearing, M is informed the golden age of espionage is over.

If so, long live this new age. The movie’s curtain raiser is Bond and fellow spy Eve (Naomie Harris) in Turkey, in pursuit of a henchman with a mysterious stolen list. The chase, some of it taking place on a moving train, isn’t anything we haven’t seen before, but it’s done very well and gives us an idea of how high the stakes are. M makes clear that, if it’s a choice between Bond’s life and reacquiring the list, we must say farewell to 007.

But Bond is a survivor (and early on, looks like a cast member of “Survivor”). After a short time off the grid, he returns to England to serve his country in its time of need. The madman Silva (Javier Bardem) is on the loose, and while Silva has the tools and lack of morals needed to be a tyrannical ruler of the world, he’s more interested in settling personal scores. It’s up to Bond to prevent him, with gadgets provided by a new — and hilariously droll — Q (Ben Whishaw).

“Skyfall,” directed by Sam Mendes, leaves little off your Bond-movie checklist. Scene in a casino? Check. Weapon-carrying Bond girl? Check. A gorgeous, dreamlike opening credits sequence? Yep. Bond’s sharp retorts to those who want to torture him and/or romance him? Double check.

As a bonus, the movie throws in reminders of Bond flicks that came before. I won’t reveal the biggest reminder, but it’s a crowd pleaser. Imagine the Rolling Stones adding a 60s-era harpsichord to one of their 21st-century singles.

Silva is a genius, but also a rage-filled emotional mess, a combination that on any career-assessment test screams “Bond villain.” At times crying out for help and other times creating large-scale mayhem, he’s a compelling match for Bond.

While Craig and Bardem handle their roles with aplomb, the MVP of “Skyfall” is Dench. Whether defending her office to a government superior (Ralph Fiennes) or engaging in give-and-take with her favorite agent, she’s nothing less than superb. Dench can even pull off playing an action hero, as when her character, trapped by the bad guys, cobbles together explosives from common household items. Who knew that “M” was short for MacGyver?

The movie, which opens Nov. 9, is rated PG-13 for intense violent sequences throughout, some sexuality, language and smoking.

Four Stars (out of four)

 

Craig Marks is a cartoonist and editorial, sports and entertainment writer for the West Side Leader.

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