Bond is definitely back
After a trek through Iowa City/Coralville Friday night to see the new James Bond movie Skyfall, only to find it sold out everywhere I went, I finally managed to see it Saturday afternoon. Was it as good as the filmmakers promised? Almost but not quite. Is it worth rushing out and seeing? Most definitely.
People with a particularly keen memory will note that during a column on the last Bond movie Quantum of Solace, I found a few flaws with the movie. Did that mean the movie wasn’t good? Not at all. It just could have been better. This time around they seem to have really tightened up storyline and the characters. A+. Of course the filmmakers said it was better than the 2005 release of Casino Royale. It wasn’t, but almost.
I left this movie feeling as if the original series, which was rebooted beginning with Casino Royale, had come full circle and was back to the beginning. Just one thing – the gun barrel logo goes before the pre-title sequence, not at the end of the movie.
WARNING — SPOILERS AHEAD. If you have not seen Skyfall yet, you might want to hold off reading this review. I’m trying to keep the spoilers to a minimum, but I don’t want to ruin any surprises for anyone.
The movie kicks off with a long chase culminating with Bond apparently being killed. In fact, he uses his supposed death to retire and pursue other interests, such as wine, women and song. After all, this is James Bond we are talking about. A terrorist incident at MI6 headquarters draws Bond back into service to help catch the elusive terrorist. During the original attack, which was done on computer, the terrorist expressed his desire to kill M, the head of British intelligence, and implies he is someone from her past. The hunt is on and moves through many scenic countries and includes some amazing action sequences, culminating on an abandoned ranch in Scotland. Yes, I’m purposely leaving this vague.
Daniel Craig, in his third outing as Bond, seems to have made the role his. Gone is the globetrotting playboy adventurer that most envision when they think of Bond. This Bond is as dangerous as they come. Although, several months of retirement with the drawbacks of having been shot, a painkiller addiction, and problem drinking has dulled his edge and he is seen struggling to get it back. Imagine, character development in James Bond. This outing also shows more about where Bond came from. He is really seen as much more than a superhero in a tuxedo.
Dame Judy Dench reprises her role as M. She is really spectacular in the role. On one hand she is seen as the calculating MI6 chief, while on the other hand she is shown as an actual person, with regrets and hopes, like everyone else.
Javier Bardem plays the villain Raoul Silva this time around, and he is chilling. His portrayal leaves people initially thinking he isn’t a worthy opponent. When it turns out that this is merely what he wants people to think, it is a stunning Bond moment that hasn’t been seen often. He does, however, come across a bit too much like The Joker in the movie The Dark Knight, but it’s all good. I think he’s slated to be one of the most memorable Bond villains ever.
I don’t know if I can really say there is a Bond girl in the movie. There is a couple, but I hesitate to call them Bond girls. The first is Eve, played by Naomie Harris, a fledgling field agent and Bond’s partner in his first ill-fated mission of the movie. The other is Severine, played by Berenice Lim Marlohe, but she didn’t even seem like a main character, much less the main girl.
Gadget master Q returns to the series, this time played by 20-something actor Ben Whishaw. While not the normal eccentric Q Bond fans are used to, he plays the role wonderfully. On one hand, you can see the character being a wizard of deadly gadgets. On the other hand you can see the character dressed as a wizard at a Dungeons and Dragons convention. He indicates that the service no longer goes in for gadgets like “exploding pens,” but he does provide some useful equipment. He also channels quintessential Q Desmond Llewelyn when he implores Bond to bring back the equipment in working order.
Speaking of wizards, Ralph Fiennes — yes Lord Voldemort himself for you Harry Potter Fans, —plays a former lieutenant colonel and civilian oversight director of MI6. He comes across as an antagonist, but his real motivations seem to be to push the main characters to new levels. He is definitely a good guy in the movie.
The story was there. The cast was top-notch. The action kept fans on the edge of their seats. Daniel Craig shined while carrying the movie. The stars really seemed to have lined up just right. While it may not have been as good as Casino Royale, I think the Bond franchise has had its reboot and the new series is holding its own.
As it said at the end of the film – James Bond will return.