Thursday, November 15, 2012


This whole reboot concept for the James Bond franchise is a little strange. The whole idea behind it was to strip Bond of all the trappings that have plagued the character for the past 50 years; no banging every chick that crosses his path, the goofy gadgets were to be eliminated, the over-the-top opening credit sequences were to be toned down and the self-defacing humor was removed. These were to be serious action films in the vein of the popular Bourne Identity series. It was a good decision… when the producers stuck to their guns.

In my opinion Casino Royale was a revelation. After seeing the overblown travesty that was Die Another Day I was ready for the series to just go away. There was just so much ridiculous crap going on in that flick, from invisible cars to a hotel made out of ice that I found it mind bogglingly stupefying. I enjoyed parts of it on some basic level (the opening titles finally were a part of the storyline and the sword fights were fun) but for the most part I could not stand it. Casino Royale threw all that crazy shit away and brought Bond into the modern age in a dark and entertaining way. No longer was he the debonair secret agent with the magic shlong and witty one-liner on the tip of his tongue, he was a “blunt instrument” that was rough around the edges and psychologically flawed. It was brilliant, and Daniel Craig’s take on the character was amazingly refreshing.
Then came Quantum of Solace which pretty much cancelled out everything Casino Royale did right. The one night stands returned regardless that Bond was still recovering from the loss of his one true love. The villain and his plan were silly and non-threatening. The whole movie felt rushed and incomplete, evident in its truncated run time (it’s the shortest movie in the entire franchise). The action scenes were shot in such a way that they are indecipherable and the introduction to QUANTUM (aka SPECTRE) was an epic fail. I absolutely hated every minute of it. HATED!

So when Skyfall was announced it had a lot to make up for in my eyes. The announcement that Sam Mendes was directing was a good sign, as is the addition of John Logan as one of the screenwriters. The casting of Javier Bardem as the villain was a masterstroke, and once I saw that Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Albert Finney and Ben Whishaw had signed on I was hopeful that we’d get another great Bond flick. I am happy to say that my worries were for naught. This ended up being a phenomenal entry in the franchise.
During a mission to retrieve a hard drive containing the real names of undercover agents, Bond (Daniel Craig) is shot by friendly fire and is proclaimed dead. He survived and decided to go off the grid for a while. During his absence the MI6 HQ is bombed. The target was M (Judi Dench). Bond returns to service to find out who made the attempt at his boss’ life and why. He tracks down Silva (Javier Bardem), an ex-MI6 agent who M left for dead in the field years before, who has hatched a psychotic revenge plan against his old superior.

Once the main plot came about I was taken aback that it wasn’t about some ultra rich nutjob with plans to rule the world. The villain wants to kill one person, and one person only, M. Sure he will go to extreme lengths to do it, like blowing open a subway tunnel so the train spills out into a sewer to hopefully slow down his pursuers, but essentially the whole movie revolves around one person. I loved that aspect of the film since it basically meant this would be an intimate affair when the shit goes down, which is the polar opposite of 95% of all the Bond movies.
Another bright spot is that we finally get some back story on Bond himself. I won’t ruin anything here, but when we see where Bond came from and how he was raised it gives his character a whole new dimension that is not only interesting but highly emotional.

The performances are also greatly improved upon. Craig was great in Casino Royale, but looked bored/confused in Quantum of Solace. He goes full force here, giving it his all in every scene. He’s still not all that great with some of the comedy aspects, like his goofy jabs with co-worker Eve (Naomie Harris). He shows different facets of the character we haven’t really seen before and pulls them off nicely.
Javier Bardem… where to begin? There have been articles calling him the best Bond villain ever. I have to agree. Like I said before, his character isn’t trying to nuke the world or extort billions from the government. His quest for revenge has basically driven this highly intelligent trained killer insane, but Bardem plays his craziness off as playfulness and even an awkward type of hyper-sexuality. When the time comes for him to go into full-on batshit deranged mode he manages to never eat the scenery, which is as unlike a Bond villain as they come. And at the same time he manages to make his character mildly sympathetic, aided in part by some extremely creepy CGI enhancements. He’s an interesting baddie to say the least.

What can be said about Judi Dench that hasn’t already? She’s an amazing actor and I’ve enjoyed each and every character I’ve seen her portray, from Mrs. Brown to Aereon in The Chronicles of Riddick. She’s played M 7 times now and each time she gives the part something a little different, from being overly sassy in one installment (Goldeneye) to strangely motherly (Skyfall). I think I enjoyed her character the most in this film out of them all due to the twists and turns the writers put her part through.
Whishaw’s Q is geekily charming. Ralph Fiennes’ character starts off being a prick, but comes around to be more than a little awesome at one point. So much so that I felt like standing up and cheering. I saw the revelation about Naomie Harris’ Eve coming a mile away, but it was welcome and I think she will make an excellent addition to the cast in future installments. Albert Finney had a nothing part, but managed to pull magic out of his hat and made it work on several emotional levels in regards to a certain main character.

The writing is solid the entire length and there are no dull spots as far as I was concerned. The themes of “transition” and “accepting your past mistakes” is prevalent for much of the film and keeps the plot intriguing instead of just being mindless spectacle like Die Another Day. Director Sam Mendes makes this a very entertaining and surprisingly thoughtful Bond film. When I watch one of these movies I usually get into the “turn your brain off” mode since some of the happenings are beyond ludicrous (parasailing on a tsunami wave, anyone?), but this one, like Casino Royale before it, made me pay attention because the character moments are just as exciting as the action scenes. The writers and director have begun to focus Bond into a human being we can all rally behind and relate to in a couple of ways.
If I were to point out any flaws it was that some of the humor fell flat, a few of the references to past Bond movies (which this reboot series is supposed to be erasing) were either lame or really vague and some of the events were a mite predictable. But these are all minor quibbles. They didn’t really affect my enjoyment of the flick in the slightest.

Skyfall now sits at #2 on my list of favorite Bond movies, just barely trailing Casino Royale and a long way in front of Goldfinger, Moonraker, Goldeneye and The Spy Who Loved Me. I can’t wait to see it again!

5 out of 5

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