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Thursday, November 15, 2012

At the movies: *Skyfall*

SKYFALL poster wallpaper download, via the movie's website
Skyfall
Action/adventure drama (2012), rated PG-13
Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris
Written by: Robert Wade, John Logan, and Neal Purvis, featuring characters created by Ian Fleming
Directed by: Sam Mendes
Synopsis, via RottenTomatoes.com: In Skyfall, Bond's loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost. -- (C) Official Site
I had the strangest thought after seeing Skyfall, the movie which commemorates the 50th anniversary of James Bond, Agent 007, who has become one of the iconic characters of British entertainment. Another iconic character of British entertainment is just a few months away from a 50th anniversary himself. Maybe it’s time for the secret agent to meet the Time Lord? Nah, probably not. Although neither character is a stranger to regeneration--Bond’s on his sixth manifestation, while the Doctor’s made it to his eleventh--or to "rebooting" of his franchise, It’s hard to imagine that a James Bond/Doctor Who crossover would make sense anywhere in time and space.

That said, there have been plenty of times in those fifty years and dozens of films that Bond and his world haven’t made much sense. (I can’t speak for Bond in book form, as I only know the character through the movies, but I grew up on those movies during the Roger Moore era and feel justified in saying that.) Skyfall isn’t one of those times. Sure, there are plenty of chase scenes and explosions, a psychotic villain, and other Bond hallmarks (although there’s remarkably little sex by 007 standards), but there’s also a compelling story grounded in, and driven by, genuine human emotions.

Not that there’s much overt display of those emotions, mind you--that wouldn’t be properly British, and Skyfall is quite entrenched in the Britishness. The British intelligence agency MI-6, functioning in a new world where the enemies are a lot harder to identify, is under attack from an enemy who was once one of its own, and in order to protect it--and its leader, M--James Bond has to return from the dead and revisit his roots. The relationship between M and 007 is the key to the story; in some ways, it almost feels more like M’s story than Bond’s. I had no objections to that at all, and appreciated seeing Judi Dench have plenty do this time around. And at this point I’m pretty sure Daniel Craig is my favorite actor to play James Bond; he’s less glib and dashing than some of his predecessors, perhaps, but he’s had excellent story material in two of his three outings, and that’s made the difference for me. Another thing that made a difference to me in Skyfall was its villain. The success of Bond films often correlates to how strong the foil is, and Javier Bardem as Silva is an excellent one for several reasons, not the least of which is that his motivations are personal and comprehensible (even if he is, of course, psychotic)--again, it comes back to story.

I thought the current Bond era got off to an outstanding start with Casino Royale (2005), and was frankly disappointed by its immediate followup, Quantum of Solace (I was far from alone in that disappointment). Skyfall gets the franchise back on track, establishes a new order going forward, and honors fifty years of character history--taken together, it would be hard not to find all of that satisfying, and I certainly did.