Everyone’s favorite spy, Agent 007, returns in a thrilling new adventure
After half a century on the silver screen, James Bond still has a few surprises up his immaculately tailored sleeves.
The British secret agent is back — and, some might argue, better than ever — in “Skyfall,” a smart, sexy thriller that pays tribute to the franchise’s past while spinning Agent 007 forward into the future.
“Skyfall” establishes its tone early with a fun, frenzied chase through the streets and rooftops of Istanbul that rivals “Casino Royale’s” landmark parkour sequence. Aided by fellow agent Eve (Naomie Harris), Bond bounces from Land Rover to motorcycle to train — all in pursuit of a hard drive containing a list of the MI6 agents secretly embedded with terrorist organizations around the globe.
When Bond corners his quarry on top of a speeding train, M (Judi Dench) orders Eve to “take the shot” — even if it means her favorite agent might end up in the crosshairs. She shoots. He falls.
Bond survives, of course, nursed back to health by a beautiful woman on a remote shore.
And when MI6 comes under attack, the super-spy resurfaces. Sure, he claims that he’s healed. But this is a broken Bond — the haggard, hollow-eyed shadow of his sleek, stylish self.
The trail — and the lovely Sévérine (Bérénice Marlohe) — leads Bond to Raoul Silva (a blond Javier Bardem), a former MI6 agent with a deep-seated grudge against the organization that left him physically and psychologically scarred. His animosity toward M, who he mockingly calls “Mother,” is even further entrenched.
Like Bond, Silva has suffered betrayal. Like Bond, he’s a once essential player now considered obsolete. And like Bond, he has nothing to lose.
“We are the two rats left. We can either eat each other,” Silva says, “Or eat everyone else.”
In the hands of director Sam Mendes (“American Beauty,” “Revolutionary Road”), “Skyfall” isn’t just a return for Bond. It’s a return to his roots.
In fact, the 23rd entry in the James Bond franchise is the first film in a while that feels utterly linked to its lineage. In addition to the usual guns, gadgets and girls, we get in-jokes and knowing nods. Heart-pounding action scenes are interspersed with humor and a touch of nostalgia.
It doesn’t hurt that nearly every scene in this beautifully crafted thriller boasts visual and visceral impact. And the settings — ranging from the neon-lit high rises of Shanghai to the golden gambling houses of Macau to the rugged moors of Scotland — couldn’t be more stunning.
David Craig continues to prove his worth as a sexy, sardonic successor to Sean Connery and company. His character in “Skyfall” may be older, wiser and considerably worse for wear, but he manages to maintain the same sense of playfulness that makes Bond so irresistible. At the same time, he taps into more emotional depth than I thought previously possible.
As Silva, seething with hatred and puckish perversion, Javier Bardem makes a worthy adversary. He has the grit to beat Bond, the craft to confront M and her commanding officer, soldier-turned-desk jockey Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), and the cunning to outwit Q (Ben Whisaw, a delightful addition to the franchise).
As for the women, Naomie Harris brings a sweet spunkiness to her cute coworker role, while Bérénice Marlohe is scintillating as a terrified femme fatale trying desperately to play it cool. But the real Bond Girl in “Skyfall” is Judi Dench, playing an aging matriarch clinging to the shreds of her now-tattered career.
She’s both ruthless and remorseful, torn between her position as a cutthroat commander in the war against terrorism and her role as a surrogate mother to an army of orphaned agents.
When Mallory urges her to “be sensible. Retire with dignity,” M retorts, “Dignity! To hell with dignity! I’ll retire when my goddamn job is finally done.”
Her reply could be interpreted as Bond’s own answer to a world that claims he’s old, out-of-date and altogether unwanted.
Unwanted? Hardly. If “Skyfall” is any indication, we want Bond than ever.
“Skyfall” image courtesy of MovieWeb.com.
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