Babes, Booze and Big Booms Bring Bond Back to His Best – A Review of Skyfall

Look, if you read my stuff, you know I’m a nerd. A geek. I’m a pop cultural junkie who has already downloaded Angry Birds Star Wars, watched the previews for World War Z and Warm Bodies 20 times over and make my children watch, quite regularly, She-Ra, Jem, Fraggle Rock and a variety of other shows that filled my youth with pleasure. My DVR is packed with American Horror Story and The Walking Dead. My daughter was Princess Leia for Halloween a few years ago and she thinks her younger brother would make a great Yoda (or Yogurt as she likes to refer to him in a new attempt to irritate me.) What the hell does this have to do with James Bond you ask …? Well, there should be no shock when I say that I have seen every  Bond film several times over and openly wanted to be a secret agent as a young boy (and maybe I still do) – even going so far as to try and make a Swiss Army shoe and professional business cards.

So with that being said … I love James Bond. And yes … before one of my friends decides to make a snappy comment at my expense – it’s in an unhealthy, stalker and sometimes a little lusty kind of love.

Don’t judge me.

Regardless, every time a new Bond films come out, I have to see it. Thankfully, Bond’s newest addition to the canon, Skyfall, celebrates everything that has made Bond magnificent over the past 50 years. Boldness, bravery and babes!

The base story, this time around, is a little blah for me. Not because it’s poorly constructed or anything. Just because I’ve seen it before. Mission Impossible parts 1 and 4, Alias, etc. Luckily, some strong characterization, bad-ass action and a solid pace make up for it.

A list … always a list … has gotten into the wrong hands and of course, all hell will break loose if the good guys don’t get it back. Immediately thrown into the action, Bond and his newbie sidekick agent Eve (Naomie Harris) weave their way through a foreign landscape only to lose the package … and a whole lot more.  Months later, M (the always posh and snarky Dame Judi Dench) and her team of MI:6ers get a lead on the list, only to get infiltrated and terrorized by a hidden enemy. Ooooohhhh. The plot is thickening.

Thankfully, for everything that Quantum of Solace got wrong, Skyfall gets right. Less the overbearing, high-society shadow network of rich badness, Skyfall chooses a more personal, tight look into the lives of Bond and M and keeps the overall structure nice and simple. Much more a personal matter than business.

As the primary antagonist, Javier Bardem’s Silva is a perfect reflection of the Bond character. It’s exactly what was attempted with the Alec Trevelyan character (played by the always exceptional Sean Bean) in the 1995 Golden Eye, only way better. Not because Sean Bean did a bad job or anything, but because Bardem’s take is so nuanced and special, that it blows most of the stereotypical roster of Bond baddies away. Directly connected to M’s past, Silva represents everything that Bond is – only in the negative. Oozing with confidence and driven by a perceived betrayal, Bardem’s mission is not only to murder, but to humiliate, discredit and destroy everything that M stands and works for.

Of course, Daniel Craig in the title character’s role is fantastic once again. Cool as ice and hard-edged when needed, Craig devours every scene and gives some much needed humanity to a role that has always been larger than life. At the same time, viewers are given a look into Bond’s past adding even more layers of realism to a person that has been shrouded in mystery throughout his long career.

Adding to the goodness, I can’t say enough about Dench’s take on M. Strong willed decisive, intelligent, professional … the positive adjectives just keep coming and while flawed as any person is, Dench commands her agency with a power that I wish all politicians could demand. Dench’s scenes with Craig are so good and smart that you can’t help but smile as snipe each other with the dialogue.

Yet, as strong as these three actors/characters are, you can’t deny that their accompanying cast is just as kick ass. Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney, Ben Whishaw, the before mentioned Harris and newest Bond girl Bérénice Marlohe all add such strong performances that this film is overflowing with excellence.

At the same time, the direction is exceptionally solid. Director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition) has grabbed a hold of the reigns and proven that Bond is just as relevant today as he was fifty years ago. It’s clear that Mendes and the writing team of Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan (two of which also wrote Quantum of Solace) took their time to craft a Bond film that would be worth making and proving that Bond is a franchise that can continue for another half century.

Along with that, the rest of the behind the scenes team needs some solid recognition. From the gorgeous cinematography to the art direction, this film is one layer on top of another layer of sweetness. Nothing seems half-assed in this film and along with the work the actors are putting in, every environment adds to the overall accomplishment.

On the flip side of this lovefest, it is a bit long. With a running time of 2 hours and 23 minutes, better not have to go pee. At the same time, as with most films, a big section of the film is based on a master plan and it’s a little hard to believe that every little piece could fall perfectly into place in order to for it to happen. Similar to the Joker getting arrested in The Dark Knight. Yeah is all works in the script, but after some dissection, it gets even more far fetched than it already is.

But you know, whatever. Realism isn’t something Bond is known for.

Fifty years of anything in this day and age is pretty impressive. This is especially true if it can stay relevant the entire time. Skyfall is a highly entertaining explosion of excellence that near perfectly brings Bond back to pure excellence. With Easter Eggs and nods to his past, Skyfall reaches to the future and proves that Daniel Craig is the right man for Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

4.5 out 5 miles of hidden tunnels under the city of London

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