REVIEW: Craig returns with a bang as Bond in 'Skyfall'
They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Every film series sooner or later tends to have an expiration date, and the longer one ventures past that deadline, the worse the results: I’m looking at you, “Police Academy.” Every now and again though, that old dog defies the odds and does something pretty spectacular. Coupled with some exhilarating action sequences, “Skyfall” adds a new layer of drama and intrigue to the now 50-year-old James Bond franchise, and it does it with genuine style to boot.
James Bond, played by Daniel Craig, goes missing in the middle of an assignment to retrieve a hard drive with sensitive information about field agents. Assuming his death, M, played by Judi Dench, writes his obituary and struggles to manage the now-vulnerable MI6 branch, soon to be handed off to Gareth Mallory, played by Ralph Fiennes. An accident at headquarters then reveals the beginnings of a dark secret from M’s past.
Bond, rusty from lack of action and occasionally drunk, eventually finds his way back to London to help M uncover the mysteries of her past with the aid of Q, played by Ben Whishaw and Eve, played by Naomie Harris.
A lead Bond obtains in Shanghai takes him to Macau, where he eventually meets the professional assassin Silva, played by Javier Bardem. Silva knows more about the feeble head of MI6 then he initially lets on and is out to seek revenge for a past wrong. Only by shoring up his resources and facing his inner demons — and those of M — can Bond prevail against the odds stacked against him.
Wow. Daniel Craig left an indelible mark on the franchise with “Casino Royale,” and he does it again here in arguably grander fashion. Not only has Craig proven he is possibly the most physically capable actor to play the role, he is also the most complex. Bond is depicted as less invincible and more human. For the first time, we are treated to some background on Bond’s parents and his childhood home, which serve as unresolved obstacles in his character arc and ultimately the story. It makes us look at 007 in ways we never would have dreamed with Roger Moore or Pierce Brosnan in the role.
Javier Bardem delivers a strange yet chilling and engaging performance as the ruthless villain. His appearance hides not only a leftover incident from his past experience with MI6, but it also conceals a bitter hate for those who would oppose him. His disturbingly coquettish mannerisms not only made me chuckle: They terrified me, because I immediately sensed he’s not quite stable and thus quite unpredictable.
Judi Dench shines as brightly as she ever has as M. Her impatience for Bond delights us as much as it gets us to sympathize with her. A relatable circumstance indeed, considering Bond has been feared dead and later breaks into her house again for debriefing. All of those past missions certainly haven’t helped much in getting her to loosen up. After all, she still probably thinks Bond is a relic of the Cold War.12
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