Skyfall

James Bond (Daniel Craig) is dead; accidently shot by another MI6 agent named Eve (Naomie Harris) while the two were on a mission in Turkey to recover a computer hard drive containing the names of every NATO agent who had infiltrated terrorist groups around the world.  The bad guy got away with the hard drive and the Intelligence and Security Committee Chairman Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) is displeased.  He begins the process of replacing MI6 director M (Judi Dench).  M does not want to leave with the agency in so much trouble and is both surprised and relieved to find Bond standing in her living room.  Bond has been recuperating on a tropical island, treating his injuries with lots of alcohol and sex.  He probably would have stayed dead but he heard a news report of the MI6 office being partially destroyed by a natural gas explosion, killing six agents, caused by a cyber-attack.  The man behind the computer hacking is Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) who seems to have a personal grudge against M.  As the names of the embedded agents are released five at a time on YouTube, Bond must find Silva and stop his attack on MI6 and M.  To do that, he enlists the help of a beautiful woman named Severine (Berenice Marlohe) who may be connected to Silva.

 
Every James Bond film is loaded up with exotic locations, over-the-top chase scenes and beautiful women.  “Skyfall” doesn’t try to mess with the formula that has been successful for 23 films and 50 years.  What “Skyfall” does do is manage to make the film more about Bond and what makes him tick than just the scenery and the sex.
 
“Skyfall” is Daniel Craig’s third effort as Bond.  While I enjoyed both “Casino Royale” and “Quantum of Solace,” the second film was considered quite a downer and a little confusing for many 007 fans.  What the filmmakers have done since Craig has donned the tuxedo and strapped on the Walther PPK is to feature the man more than the gadgets.  Added to that is the more realistic portrayal of Bond as a brute who doesn’t mind getting in a violent fight, is willing to take whatever punishment that might bring but still has a way with women.  This Bond doesn’t depend on an unbelievable gadget to save his life as he’s more than capable of taking care of himself.  All these factors are on brilliant display in “Skyfall” as we learn more about what made Bond the man he is, how he and other agents are manipulated by M and the lengths he’s willing to go to protect her.  This film may go down as the best of the nearly two dozen so far.  I’m also proclaiming Craig as my favorite Bond and maybe the best of the bunch.
 
“Skyfall” also has a fantastic villain with Javier Bardem.  He does little things that make Silva particularly creepy and menacing.  As with all Bond villains, Silva is more than willing to kill anyone at the drop of a hat, but it’s the facial tics, the bleached blond hair and odd shape of his mouth that set Silva apart.  He also gets very up close and personal with Bond during an interrogation.  Silva strokes Bond’s face, his chest and his legs in a sequence that had both the agent and me squirming uncomfortably.  It certainly would be the best way to get me to talk just to make him stop.  Silva is clearly insane but still able to command a group of killers to do as he commands and to carry out cyber-attacks that bring him enormous wealth and power.  These are always the best Bond villains:  Men who are willing to destroy the world just to prove they can.  While that describes most Bond baddies some have been portrayed better than others.  Bardem is one of the best.
 
Judi Dench gives M her usual stoic, hard-as-nails personality while simultaneously showing a softer and more caring side.  She’s able to bark out an order that may send an agent to his death and convey a deep sense of guilt for doing it.  Dench is a treasure in cinema and has given the world over five decades of great performances.  Her vision is being stolen by macular degeneration and she now must have an assistant read scripts to her so she can memorize her lines.  I only hope she is able to continue performing for years to come.
 
The other ladies of “Skyfall” don’t fare as well in the film.  The much coveted “Bond Girls” are merely ornaments for the men whom they encounter.  Naomie Harris is under-utilized as Bond’s back-up agent.  While she does manage to avoid being bedded by 007, she is mostly eye candy and a convenient way to get James out of a tight spot on occasion.  Berenice Marlohe is absolutely gorgeous as Severine.  She is also the latest in a long line of female Bond characters that are completely at the mercy of the villain.  I had hoped she might get to break out of the predictable story arc her type of character is historically locked in to.  Alas, she is just another in a long line of women who get used and discarded in the Bond universe.  I hope one day a woman will eventually become the equal of Bond and, either as the villain or a fellow agent, rises to something other than the level of a victim or a sexual conquest.  I suppose we still have a long way to go in that department.
 
“Skyfall” is rated PG-13 for language, intense violent sequences, smoking and some sexuality.  The violence of the film can be intense at times with a great deal of hand-to-hand combat.  There are also several close calls with bullets blasting through walls and windows.  One female character smokes as we are introduced to her.  While I hate the smell of smoking, she makes it look very sexy.  As will all Bond films, the sexuality is mostly suggested and not actually seen.  Foul language is very scattered and mild.
 
While “Skyfall” continues the tradition of treating women mostly as props for Bond and the villain, the film is an excellent entry into the franchise.  It is a sprawling adventure that has all the usual 007 ingredients but mixes them and serves them up in a much more palatable treat than what fans of the series got in the last installment.  Daniel Craig is signed on for two more Bond features.  If “Skyfall” is any indication, I think we are in for some fantastic adventures with 007.
 
“Skyfall” gets five guitars out of five.
 
Two new films grace screen this week.  Vote for the next movie I see and review.
 
Lincoln—In a nation divided by war and the strong winds of change, Lincoln pursues a course of action designed to end the war, unite the country and abolish slavery.
 
The Twilight Saga:  Breaking Dawn Part II—Bella awakes as a vampire from her life-threatening labor, and her newborn daughter, Renesmee, proves to be very special indeed.  But the Volturi consider her an abomination and order the Cullen family killed.
 
Stan’s Choice—Stan sees and reviews any film currently in theatres.
 
Release dates are subject to change and not all films may be shown in Knoxville, TN.
 
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