Shaken, not stirred, homie.
Skyfall, the latest chapter of the never-ending (23rd!) Ian Fleming secret agent franchise, gets everything right. And then some.
The story is simple, the dialogue snappy with double entendres flying fast and furious, the cars are shiny and sleek, the women are gorgeous, the villain is wicked, the locations are exotic, the chases are thrilling, the stunts are death-defying, the clothes are tailored, and the women are gorgeous. Am I repeating myself? As for Craig…Daniel Craig. Well, I’ve been a harsh critic of his 007 turn, but he is finally Bond…James Bond.
The opening action sequence of Skyfall must have cost $50m alone.
We are immediately in Bond-Land as 007 enters an apartment to find dead operatives and a missing hard drive – a hard drive containing intimate info on all of his fellow secret agents. So, of course, he has to get it back; and the chase is on.
And what a freakin’ chase! Suffice it to say, Bond will stop at nothing to catch the thief, so we are rewarded with one of those great James Bond opening chase scenes that suspends all rational and physical logic, complete with motorcycle trapeze work and a bulldozer on a moving train. These guys are good!
This is the over the top signature Bond excitement I found M.I.A. in Craig’s first two tricks as the hero, Casino Royale and Quantam of Solstace.
Then, if the opening wasn’t righteously nostalgic enough, we get a vintage James Bond title sequence, serenaded by multi-Grammy songbird Adele, four minutes of oozing psychedelic imagery courtesy of Daniel Kleinman, and announcing cinematography from Roger Deakins, with direction from Sam Mendes (Oscar winner American Beauty).
Mendes has made a spectacularly entertaining film.
It’s fast, it’s sexy, it’s heartfelt; and thankfully, even funny – another element absent from the last two Bond films.
It’s also smart and refreshingly restrained.
When Bond meets up with a fellow female agent (Naomie Harris) at his hotel room in Shanghai, the sparks are flying big time. She offers to shave him with his old school straight blade. Very sexy scene. Most films in the new millennium feel compelled to show way too much flesh when boy meets girl. Not here. When Bond goes in for the kiss, Mendes cuts to…
…fireworks above the palatial hotel, lighting up the Asian sky. Great touch. Once perceived as corny, now so cool – and ironically sophisticated.
Speaking of sophisticated, just as any Bond film worth its salt must have a top flight villain, Skyfall introduces the world to Berenice Marlohe.
Bond runs head on in to Severine (Marlohe), smoldering in Macau while in pursuit of the man behind the diabolical outing and execution of secret agents. She is one sexy siren to say the least; but one with fear in her eyes. And man, what a pair of eyes. This woman is stunning. Her performance aint bad either.
When super stealth Bond sneaks up on her in a steamy shower, he whispers in her ear “I like you better without your Beretta.” To which she purrs “Funny, I feel naked without it.”
I’m tellin’ you, folks. Bond is back!
However, he did learn something from the experience. Revolutionary Road was written by the late, great novelist Richard Yates. It was his masterpiece. One of Yates’ favorite sentiments about the secret to good storytelling was “Make ’em laugh, make ’em cry, make ’em…wait.”
With that in mind, we don’t even glimpse the scheming mastermind behind all of the mayhem until the picture’s half over. Then…
Does he get it?
Skyfall makes the Bourne Identity look like a Merchant Ivory film.
Skyfall makes The Hunger Games look like My Dinner with Andre.
Skyfall makes every Jason Statham film look like…well, a criminal waste of electricity and otherwise good catering.
Yep, it’s that good.
Screenwriter Neal Purvis, working on his fourth Bond film, wisely makes astute commentary on today’s terrorism threat. “You’d be surprised how much panic you can do from one simple computer,” Severine tells Bond. Another exchange has M explaining the difficulty of fighting “…an enemy that is no longer transparent, but opaque. That lives in the shadows. That wears no uniform and flies no flag.”
In addition, Skyfall carries a redeeming theme throughout the film: That newer & younger isn’t always better. M’s second in command, Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) challenges Bond to think about retirement, telling him “It’s a young man’s game.”
Bond just smirks.
He knows he’s back. And badder than ever.
Best Bond film ever? Better than the first 22? Is that possible?
Recently, I tried turning my sons on to the Bond films I grew up on (Moonraker, The Spy Who Loved Me, For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy – yep, Octopussy!) and they were not impressed. At all. When a Bond film can’t compete with Instagram, there’s a problem.
Always bet on red. And go see Skyfall.