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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Skyfall Great with Barely a Bond Girl

SkyfallThere was barely a Bond girl in Skyfall - no double entendre - and it is still one of best Bond movies ever made.  Certainly better than any non-Connery Bond, and right up there with Goldfinger, From Russia with Love, and On Her Majesty's Secret Service, which of course wasn't a Connery, but Lazenby looked just like him, and it was a powerhouse of a personal and spy-thriller story.

Which describes Skyfall, easily the best movie about Bond's life, along with OHMSS.   There's not a weak or wasted scene in Skyfall, from the stunning opener in which Bond is killed to the last in which Moneypenny is revealed and Bond reports to the new M for work.   Of course Bond isn't killed in that opening segment, and the fact that we know that and still find the opener a shocker is a measure of how good this movie is.

The villain - Silva - is excellent and close to exceptional.  Played by Javier Bardem with a blond wig, Silva is probably most reminiscent of Christopher Walken's Max Zorin's in a View to a Kill (probably Moore's worst), except Silva is a little more intense, brilliant, cracked, and makes a pass at Bond.   Silva's also a lapsed MI6 agent, which also gives him a kinship to Alec Trevelyan in Goldeneye.  These similarities to earlier Bonds are actually one of the best features of Skyfall, which also brings back and nobly sacrifices Bond's Astin Martin and its firepower, which served so well in Goldfinger, Thunderball, and other Bond movies, and also has a call-out to Jaws' teeth,

Ah ... noble sacrifice.   Skyfall is as much M's movie as Bond's - she more than Bond is the target of Silva's sociopathic anger - and the curtain call for Judi Dench's M is memorable indeed, and gives Skyfall another kinship to OHMSS.  Just as Bond's beloved Tracy dies in his arms at the end of OHMSS, so M dies in Bond's arms close to the end of Skyfall.  But rather than losing the love of his life, Bond is losing his metaphorical mother, another milestone in the gradual growing up of this Bond.

There's a wonderfully winning balance of old and new in Skyfall, with Bond at the fulcrum.  M literally passes, Albert Finney puts in a strong appearance as Kincade (and old friend of Bond's family), and we see the gravestone of Bond's parents.  On the new side of the ledger, we have a sharp young cyber-arrogant Q and a bright new Moneypenny - who actually is the first Moneypenny in Daniel Craig's Bonds and in this incarnation a field agent who comes in from the cold to take up residence in M's office.  Ralph Fiennes is the new M, who comes in the from the cold of being Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, and is pretty good with a gun.  It's assuring to see Fiennes, who played Voldemort, put his acting power to the good.

Craig's performance is altogether perfect, ranging from the near-derelict Bond to the full tuxedoed casino man.  The action scenes take him from the top of a train to nearly getting hit by a train from above in the Tube, with a man against helicopter, man on the underside of elevator, and all sorts of other goodies thrown in.  There's gunplay everywhere you turn, from courtroom in London to misty fields in Scotland.  Craig does these better than well, and the sheer intensity of the cinematography and speed of the scenes make the movie breathtaking.

Bond is in bed with just one woman, once, and Silva kills her before she has a chance to do much in the movie.  That's the only fault I can find in the film, which was otherwise so extraordinary that it almost didn't matter, and maybe didn't matter at all.  What Skyfall has finally given us is a Bond for the 21st century, as strong in its own way as Bond through the 20th, and I'm looking forward to many more.

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