It’s been fifty years since the first James Bond film, Dr. No, was released to the world. This will be the twenty-third installment in the franchise, which – if you do the math – suggests they’ve been pumping them out like clockwork from the beginning. Daniel Craig is the sixth actor to play the legendary British spy.
All of which makes you wonder. Does the old showboat still have any gas left? Is 007 still good for anything besides making money?
In a word: yes.
Director Sam Mendes steps into the Bond universe for the first time, with a pedigree including such highbrow flicks as Jarhead and Richard II. But he strikes just the right balance with Skyfall – serious but not too serious, with the classic mix of intrigue, brutality, martinis, sex, and explosions.
The plot starts out as typical spy stuff (which isn’t a bad thing, by the way). Someone’s stolen a hard drive full of ultra-top-secret data and Bond has to get it back. Car chases and fisticuffs ensue. Things get spoilery pretty quick, so I’ll just say that the stakes become more personal than usual. When I finally learned what “Skyfall” meant, it was cooler – and much different – than I expected. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that the plot wasn’t too convoluted to follow, and didn’t require knowledge of the last movie, Quantum of Solace, to understand what was going on.
The villain is great this time around, just the right mix of creepy and deadly and pathetic. Skyfall also introduces a new and very likeable Q (sans omnipotence) who emphasizes sleek, low-key technology over fancy gadgets. The focus on gritty realism instead of hi-tech wizardry is standard fare since the Casino Royale reboot, and it continues to serve them well. One other well-known character returns in this movie, with a higher profile than usual, but you’ll have to watch it to find out. (Or, you know, read Wikipedia.)
I can’t finish without mentioning the beautiful cinematography. Skyfall is simply a gorgeous movie to watch, with shot after shot perfectly capturing the Bond atmosphere: equal parts suave sophistication and brooding underworld. You could watch this film with the sound off and still enjoy yourself.
Well, for a while, anyway. It is two and a half hours long.
Seen any good movies lately?