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‘Skyfall’ raised to best Bond film yet
The last Bond adventure, 2008’s “Quantum of Solace,” was no great shakes, hampered in no small part by the most morose Bond ever. Understandable, given that the love of his life died in the previous installment, the stellar reboot “Casino Royale,” the film that launched Daniel Craig into superstardom. Just as ponderous as the title, “Quantum” forgot to bring the fun, and though hardly the worst of the series, it was certainly a big step down from the impressive heights of “Casino.”
Thankfully, the producers have gone back to basics in the newest installment, “Skyfall,” which, even more so than “Casino,” really takes Bond back to square one in ways that will please the die-hards to no end. Classic-era Bond accessories appear in full force: the gun: Walther PPK- in a nice touch, modified to only be shot by Bond himself; the car: the famed Aston Martin DB5; and the first appearance in the Craig era of the beloved Q, man of many gadgets- albeit, modified into a computer geek, with a disdain (at least in this movie- though hopefully, not in the next one) for flashy things: “What did you expect, an exploding pen?” Well, now that you mentioned it, I wouldn’t have said no!
No matter. This is one Bond movie that needs no gadgets. This is Bond stripped down- literally in some cases- to his down and dirty essence, the way fans like him. Drink in hand, weapon always at the ready, and a bevy of beautiful babes on hand at every turn. Bond babes include: Eve (Naomie Harris, from the 2nd & 3rd “Pirates of the Caribbean” films)- who turns out to have a clever, old-school Bond connection of her own; and the gorgeous Bérénice Marlohe as Sévérine, who has a connection to the shady villain.
That baddie, Raoul Silva, a rogue secret agent that also used to work for MI-6 (aka Bond’s employer), is played by Oscar winning actor Javier Bardem, of “No Country for Old Men” fame. It’s what has to be one of the most memorable Bond villains ever- and that’s saying something, given that this is the twenty-third (!) official film in the franchise. (That’s not counting the original version of “Casino Royale” and the dubious “Never Say Never Again,” for you sticklers- but it doesn’t change my opinion, even if we did include them.)
Bardem is by turns charming, slimy, menacing, and more than a little intimidating, all things considered- and not just in the ways one might expect.
To that end, there’s a wonderfully cringe-inducing scene in which Silva has Bond tied up and all but makes a pass at the helpless Bond- who doesn’t bat an eye before suggesting that it might not be his first rodeo, if you know what I mean, and I think that you do. (Okay, there’s a change some die-hards might have an issue with- myself, I thought it was an incredibly ballsy and instantly memorable scene, not to mention kinda hilarious.)
Another thing that helps make Silva a memorable villain is his intent. He’s not looking to rule the world or kill everyone or for money or what have you. No, his raison d’être is much simpler: he wants to kill M (Judi Dench), his former employer, along with as many secret agents as he can. Seems he resents being hung out to dry by her once upon a time- something Bond himself can relate to, given the opening sequence, in which Bond is seemingly left for dead after being accidently shot in an attempt to get back the intel containing a list of all the aforementioned secret agents.
Speaking of action, in addition to that boffo opening sequence, which goes from bike to train to underwater; there’s also some excellent action sequences scattered throughout the film, including a jailbreak that leads to a shoot-out in court and an excellent final showdown at the titular Skyfall, Bond’s boyhood home. So, in addition to the other mentioned old-school artifacts, we also get to see where Bond grew up- plus learn his parents’ names. There’s also a great bit part, played by Albert Finney as Skyfall’s gamekeeper, Kincade, who used to look after a young Bond.
All in all, “Skyfall” is an incredibly worthy successor in the Bond series, and bodes very well for the franchise’s future. The producers seem to have gotten a handle on what makes the series work, and how to update it for the modern age without losing what made people love it in the first place.
All this plus a great title sequence, complete with a solid song by Brit-songbird and Grammy-hoarder Adele. Add in Craig’s most lived-in Bond performance to date and “Skyfall” is arguably the best Bond yet of the latest incarnation. If you’re a fan, you won’t want to miss this one, because, like the song says: “nobody does it better” than Bond.