Release Date: November 9, 2012
Runtime: 143 minutes
Studio: MGM / Columbia Pictures (Sony)
Director: Sam Mendes
Cast: Daniel Craig; Judi Dench; Javier Bardem; Ralph Fiennes; Naomie Harris; Bérénice Lim Marlohe; Ben Whishaw; Rory Kinnear; Albert Finney
Every time I see a James Bond movie it reminds me how much I would love to be James Bond. It’s every male’s escapist fantasy: you’re an undercover spy, you get to play with lots of hi-tech gadgets, you get to bed lots of incredibly beautiful women in exotic locales around the world. What’s not to love? (Well, in my case, I could do without bedding the beautiful women part, but you get my point). That’s the reason I think that Ian Fleming’s series has remained so incredibly popular ever since James Bond’s first cinematic appearance in “Dr. No” in 1962.
I have not seen every James Bond film ever produced, but of those I have seen, “Skyfall”, the 23rd official film in the series, is right up there as one of the best. All of the elements are in place: exotic locales, gorgeous women, men in tuxedos in daredevil action scenes, etc. Holding all of these pieces together is, of course, Bond himself: Daniel Craig. Now, Mr. Craig is cool. He’s just cool. There really is no other more appropriate word for him. His characterization of Bond reeks smooth, debonair, stylish, smart and sexy. Very, very sexy. You can almost see the coolness seeping from his pores. The Broccoli’s (Bond producers) knew what they were doing when the offered him the role, that’s for damn sure!
The movie gets things rolling immediately with a fantastic pre-credits action sequence set among cars racing through crowded streets, atop trains barreling through tunnels and on motorcycles speeding along dirt roads. The action culminates in Bond’s supposed death by gunshot, leading us into the Bond series’ trademark credits sequence, this time with a haunting theme performed by Adele (widely considered one of the best Bond themes ever – you will come out of the movie humming it). Of course, he’s not dead, and he resurfaces when MI6 and his boss, M (Judi Dench, returning), come under attack from an unknown madman. From here, we travel with Bond to Shanghai, Macau and Turkey as he follows the trail of said madman (Javier Bardem, not appearing until well over an hour into the movie, but making quite the impression).
Aside from the action and general Bond-ness of the film, the story allows us to experience a little of Bond’s humanity, as he strives to protect M, who he sees as sort of a mother figure. The relationship between the characters is nicely communicated, with Dench receiving much more screen time than in previous outings. We even travel to Bond’s childhood home, somewhere in the British Moors. None of this dilutes the aura of James Bond, but rather serves to add further depth to a character already so ingrained in pop culture.
In addition to Craig’s ultra-cool personification of Bond, Dench adds a warm dimension to M, a heretofore rather steely character. Bardem’s villain is slimy and scary, not a very far cry from his Oscar-winning performance in “No Country for Old Men”. He’s such a good actor though; I’d hate to see him become typecast as weirdo villains. As the Bond Women, Naomie Harris and Bérénice Lim Marlohe are breathtakingly gorgeous and, given the proper circumstances, deadly, as all self-respecting Bond Women should be.
So there you have it: all the Bond ingredients are in check (action, women, music, espionage, bad guys) and directed with substantial style and verve by Sam Mendes, making his debut as a Bond director. “Skyfall” is enormously satisfying entertainment and an absolutely worthy addition to the enduring series. Keep ‘em coming!