New Bond Movie, Double-Oh-No.

Photo Courtesy of 007skyfall.com

The Aston Martin driving, shaken-not-stirred martini drinking, overtly handsome British secret agent is back in “Skyfall,” Daniel Craig’s third crack at the role of the iconic action hero. Bond fanatics were expecting something extravagant with the franchise’s 50th birthday this year. Disappointingly, director Sam Mendes’s first turn at Bond is a dull affair, all the way to its gloomy third act that will have you hoping it gets better, but never does.

Six years ago, the Bond franchise was reignited thanks to “Casino Royale,” guaranteeing a return to glory and potential for a new era of 007. Its successor, 2008’s “Quantum of Solace” took a slight misstep while still showcasing a few bits of intrigue. The next serving is “Skyfall,” a Bond story that is just doesn’t work like it should.

The film’s opening sequence is one we’ve seen James Bond in the middle of many times: a chase after something incredibly important that has fallen into wrong hands; this time a list of NATO undercover agents. Before he can stop it, 007 seems to have met his maker, but there’s no way that’s happening. The resurrection will bring flashbacks of Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” trilogy, most similar to the bloated and over the top third entry “The Dark Knight Rises.”

Bond’s main mission involves a computer hacker and ex-secret agent known as Silva (a frightening Javier Bardem) that wants some revenge with M16 head M (Judi Dench’s 7th turn as the maternal figure to Bond). M’s life is in Bond’s hands, and the two need to cooperate more than ever to survive. Potential can be seen, but the story stays lukewarm.

I’m all for Bond showing some new tricks, but at least have him play inside his strengths. Impressive action sequences, troubles with femme fatales, or even a suspenseful climax are largely missing. Whatever “Skyfall” is trying to do with Bond’s backstory doesn’t satisfy the questions it raises. I’d much rather see more of 007’s work with his new sidekick Eve (a beautiful but tough Naomie Harris), than what Bond has to work with.

It’d be false to say “Skyfall” does not have some successes. It’s undoubtedly one of the most beautifully shot 007 movies ever. Cinematographer Roger Deakins (“No Country For Old Men”) gives the film’s look real flavor. Appearances by Ralph Fiennes as Chairman Mallory and series favorite Q (Ben Whishaw), will undoubtedly be useful in the future of the series. The theme song, sang by a soulful Adele and placed with an impressive credits sequence, is mesmerizing and fitting.

I still believe that Daniel Craig is one of the greatest to play everyone’s favorite British spy. It’s just too bad he’s being forced to turn Bond into every anti-hero of the last decade. Whoever takes the reigns on the next one will need to come with a better game plan. As an attempt at rekindling the fire that 007 used to have, “Skyfall” is just as stale as the popcorn I ate watching it.

 

By E.J. Spangler

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Categories: Lifestyle

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1 reply

  1. Notice: This comment contains spoiler alerts.

    There was nothing ‘dull’ about Bardem’s introductory sequence, and to a larger extent his entire role in the movie. If I had one complaint about Skyfall, it would be that Bardem wasn’t given enough material/screen time to work with. He stole every scene he was in.

    I’ve often felt that Bond movies should be taken with a grain of salt; in a sense, they exist somewhat outside the realm of normal filmmaking narrative. An example: each Bond film since the dawn of time, er, 1962, has had at least two separate love interests for James (and spoiler alert for Skyfall: I’m not including Bardem’s hilarious provocation/seduction of a tethered-to-a-chair D. Craig at the evil mastermind’s island lair)—these love interests often come at the expense of the story, but that doesn’t mean they can’t add something to the show.

    Even Casino Royale, which everyone and their mom seems to covet these days as the ‘purest’ Bond film of all-time, had a needless love fling for James (the tryst in the Caribbean suite with the plane-hijacking-bad-guy’s girl). Just because it sidetracked the narrative for a few minutes didn’t make CS any less of a film, and I firmly believe that’s the same case with Berenice Marlohe’s appearance in this newest ‘Bond.’

    Forget her stunning entry into the film, in that absolutely breathtaking masterpiece of cinematographic design atop the Shanghai skyscraper — the conversation between Marlohe and Craig at the Macau casino bar is one of the more brilliant bits of acting — Marlohe makes you feel her crippling fear at her predicament in the subtlest of ways (which of course the ever-observant Bond picks up on). Is Marlohe a key element to the film? Not really; she gets Bond to Bardem, but that’s about it. But from an aesthetic standpoint, her brief appearance is an absolute triumph.

    Skyfall moves at a brisk pace; it’s characters motivations are genuine and believable (Bond may not have a personal vendetta to pick with Silva, but he is loyal to M, and Silva wants to get M, so naturally Bond is against Silva all the way). Previous Bond films — particularly the Moore heyday, and some of the later Brosnan tripe — have been all glitz and glamour, but there’s something to be said about Mendes’s unflinching attempt to shear away all that sheen and show two aging government agents (Bond and M) fighting to remain relevant in a world that seems to be sweeping past them. The film is about their unflinching resolve to do good in a world where there’s so much less black and white than they are accustomed to.

    So it is in that gaping crevice of old and new, lines fading around them, that Bond and M push toward the film’s third act. They invoke the past — aided by Mendes’s brilliant reintroduction of the sporty silver Aston Martin DB5 first seen in Goldmember — because it is there that they are most comfortable. And as Mendes, terrific when it comes to foreshadowing, first noted in M’s government hearing, where she invokes Tennyson in an attempt to keep face, both show that the old ways can still sometimes defeat the new — perfectly represented by Silva’s easy-peezy cyber terrorism, so brilliantly portrayed by Bardem in his first scene at the lair. There’s no subtlety in the way Bond finally gets the better of Silva, as it were.

    I found myself on the edge of my seat throughout Skyfall. Like any good Bond, there was just the right amount of levity mixed with cutting-edge intrigue. It’s a worthy admission to the 22-film pantheon that preceded it, and it offers some appetite-whetting snapshots of the road ahead. Considering that this was Craig’s third Bond, and he’s signed on for two more, it was the perfect “middle” film for his portrayal as the super agent. We see that the narrative is now tipping toward the downward path, but it should be an exciting one to witness.

    Like

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