Andy Bockelman: James Bond rises to his former glory in ‘Skyfall’
If you go
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars
Run time: 143 minutes
Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem and Ralph Fiennes.
Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.
Andy Bockelman's movie reviews appear in Explore Steamboat and the Craig Daily Press.
Steamboat Springs A golden jubilee for anything is worth celebrating, even if it’s not quite the high quality it used to be. With its protagonist so deeply ingrained in our minds, “Skyfall” shows itself to be a semicentennial event more than a movie all its own, though not a bad one, by any means.
During a mission to Istanbul to retrieve critical intel, British agent James Bond (Daniel Craig) faces nothing out of the ordinary — a high-speed pursuit across Turkey, working alongside a gorgeous associate (Naomie Harris) whose name he doesn’t even know, and battling a merciless killer (Ola Rapace) atop a train. Everything changes with a single errant gunshot that leaves the renowned spy missing in action and thought to be dead.
The head of MI6 (Judi Dench) barely has time to grieve the loss of her best field man before a whole new set of perils arises as a cyber-terrorist group targets her operation with deadly force, leaving the government to wonder if the department is up to snuff. It’s only a matter of time before 007 resurfaces, ready and raring to get back on the job. But as he gets to work tracking down the man (Javier Bardem) behind these attacks, he realizes he may not be quite up to the task.
Bond is at his best when there’s a human side to him, and Craig has perhaps his most vulnerable showing yet in his third go as one of cinema’s most timeless characters. It takes a blend of sensitivity and toughness that rarely has been achieved within the course of 23 movies — it took Sean Connery and Roger Moore a couple of tries before they got it right, and Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan never had it.
As the person who’s been with the modern-day Bond series the longest, Dench receives more attention than ever as humorless M, juggling inquisitions into her work with the harsh reality that Bond isn’t bouncing back from his latest ordeal quite the same way. Some needling from Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), a liaison to the British prime minister doesn’t help, but the main concern is the man who’s determined to move heaven and earth to exact his revenge upon her.
A blond Bardem nearly reaches his own personal best from “No Country for Old Men” in terms of pure menace as ex-MI6 agent Raoul Silva, whose vendetta against M is purely personal and so far-reaching that it makes you wonder if he ever considered the whole world domination thing. He certainly has the talent, but to each his own.
With the mirror image of Craig and Bardem as they meet face to face, it’s easy to see what might have been were James Bond less noble and possibly insane. We’ve looked into the psyche of 007 before, but this is easily the furthest we’ve ever dived into his mindset, questioning what has made him the man he is and the relationships he cultivates, well-defined by new director Sam Mendes.
This is far more stimulating than the slam-bang tactics of “Quantum of Solace,” which took the series in a whole new, unwanted direction after the promising reboot of “Casino Royale.” As the story opens, it looks like we’re going down that path once again, as Bond gallivants around the globe in his usual style. We’ve seen all that before, and done better, without hindrances like product placement of Volkswagen, Heineken and Caterpillar, although there’s nothing like a backhoe to tear a locomotive in half. 1960s and ‘70s series producer Albert Broccoli and literary creator Ian Fleming would not be pleased to see their suave, celluloid spy kowtowing to sponsors.
What sets this apart from the crowd, especially from Craig’s previous movies, is the third act, which gives us something we’ve never seen in any other version of Bond. Just what that is, you’ll have to see for yourself, but the people who have followed their hero faithfully from “Dr. No” on will be greatly rewarded.
With “Skyfall,” we look back on 50 years of James Bond films and inevitably compare the newest entry in the series to its many predecessors.
Does it measure up? At times, no, with many moments either rushed or halted.
Even with these lows, highs like the opening title sequence accompanied by an unforgettable tune crooned by Adele and the return of techno-wizard Q (Ben Whishaw) make us glad to be fans. As the credits remind us, James Bond will return, and we shall eagerly anticipate it.
Andy Bockelman is a Craig resident, freelance writer and Denver Film Critics Society accredited film fanatic who occasionally reviews movies playing in Steamboat Springs.