Movies: Skyfall

Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes
Directed By: Sam Mendes
Written By: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade & John Logan (from characters created by Ian Fleming)
MGM, 2012
PG-13; 143 min
5 stars (out of 5)


A near perfect movie, at least for its genre, and better than a lot of movies from other genres besides.

I'll admit I don't remember much of Quantum of Solace, but lucky for me it wasn't necessary for this film to recall exactly what had come before. Skyfall is something of a reboot (again) of the Bond franchise, and the film wholeheartedly embraces itself as such by making that the central theme.

Note: key plot points are discussed below, so if you don't want to know, go see the movie and then come back later for my take.

The core story is of Bond (Craig, now decidedly my favorite incarnation of the famous spy) tracking a leak in the MI6 system—namely, undercover agents that have been sent to infiltrate terrorist cells are being posted online, and the result is messy, particularly for M (Dench), who sits in the hot seat as these agents are killed, buildings are bombed, and the world watches a British Intelligence implosion.

Bond's hunt leads him to ex-agent Silva (Bardem, with orange eyebrows) who apparently has had some kind of psychotic break and is out for revenge against M. It seems everyone thought Silva was dead, but MI6 has a less-than-perfect record when it comes to keeping track of these things . . .

In any case, the plot eventually comes to a Mummy-likes-me-best sort of tension between Bond and Silva. But more than that, the fight is about old ways of doing things versus new. Early on in the movie M is primed by Mallory (Fiennes) to prepare for retirement, which he tells her will be expected of her in two months' time. Bond, meanwhile, is left to deal with a new Q, much younger than any other (played brilliantly by Ben Whishaw). This makes sense when you think about it, since in this day and age the technological innovators continue to get younger, though I like that Bond points out, "Youth is not a guarantee of innovation." But the final fight comes down to an old house in Scotland, and an even older gamekeeper, a kind of living relic from Bond's childhood. And of course, at the end of the day, the old dogs' old tricks win the day.

I don't think that's the message, though. I think the idea is that, in order to succeed, there must be a kind of blending of old and new. You have to have old techniques to fall back on when the new stuff fails. And sometimes less (as with gadgets) is really more.

It stands to reason this is a not-so-subtle look at the Bond history, with its ups and downs (near bankruptcy of studios), the way Bond has been made and remade . . . And Skyfall becomes that perfect balance between old-school Bond, the slick ladies' man, and the newer, grittier, somehow more "real" version that Craig has come to personalize. Skyfall has plenty of nods for the classic Bond fans, but those less versed in Bond lore will still find it immensely enjoyable. This is 50 years of Bond, and Skyfall is golden.

No comments: