review: skyfall

By Chris Robinson on 11/12/2012

Skyfall is the 23rd installment in the James Bond series, and marks the 50-year anniversary of the franchise. To celebrate, director Sam Mendes (American Beauty) has decided to copy the best in spy cinema, giving us an iteration that is fast-paced and frequently head-spinning, but ultimately feels like a bit of a letdown.

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.  Trailer

Starring: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney, Naomie Harris, Bérénice Marlohe

Rating/Runtime: PG-13/143 min.

Dingo Dictum: C

To open the (at times hard to follow) film, Mendes has lifted the best beginning sequence in recent 007 memory – the parkour-inspired chase scene which opens the fabulous 2007 Bond film Casino Royale.  Except this time, the roofs of Istanbul serve as the location, and obvious green screen and CGI use compromise the excitement and believability of the scene.

We are told that Bond’s quarry, an international criminal by the name of Patrice, has stolen a top-secret list revealing the names and identities of nearly every NATO agent in the field (sound familiar, Mission: Impossible fans?). But after the office of M, head of MI6, explodes, a more sinister mastermind is revealed: Raoul Silva (played by an eager Javier Bardem), an ex-MI6 spy who is back for revenge after a years-earlier betrayal. (Never mind the plausibility of a man named Silva, who speaks with a Spanish accent thicker than gazpacho, being a British spy).  Through a series of breathless exchanges, we learn that Bond’s foolproof idea for saving M is to take her north, in an old-fashioned Aston Martin, to his childhood home in Scotland.  There, Bond, alone, and with only a couple of antique hunting rifles to aid him, will face Silva, with his helicopters, legions of henchmen, and automatic weapons.  It seems a rather silly strategy, until they start booby trapping the house, Home Alone style; the decades-old shotgun shells they place under the floorboards are sure to kill the bad guys.  The climactic final battle, when it finally does happen, is entertaining enough.  It’s just hard to adjust to debonair, Walther PPK-toting Bond dueling things out cowboy-style with sawed-off shotguns.

Daniel Craig or, as I call him, “the best thing to happen to Bond since Pussy Galore,” is fabulous, as always.  His haunted, rough-around-the-edges interpretation of the role makes the film worth watching.  Javier Bardem is not as good, but Judi Dench is her reliably excellent self and Ralph Fiennes takes an admirable turn as Gareth Mallory, M’s would-be replacement.  Twin Bond girls Naomie Harris and Bérénice Marlohe are competent, especially Marlohe, who plays the most complicated (and short-lived) Bond girl in recent memory.

Although the film too often breaks that age-old moviemaking rule of “show, don’t tell” (we are told that Silva is a computer genius, but never see him sit at so much as a Macbook Pro; we are told that M betrayed him years ago, but we must take his word for it, as nary a flashback illustrates the deed) its ultimate undoing is a mere absence of plausibility. Still, Skyfall is an entertaining caper that isn’t the worst way to spend a cold Friday night.  Δ

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