OMG! Can it really be 50 years since Sean Connery crouched, swiveled and pointed his gun at us in the opening credits of Dr. No? The world has changed drastically since then, the only constant being that Queen Elizabeth II was already ensconced on the throne.
To bring some closure to the iconic status that James Bond has maintained in the world of “pop” movie culture, her Royal Majesty even agreed to a cameo in the opening ceremonies of the London Olympics, allowing herself to be escorted to the stadium via helicopter by 007 himself. So there!
The vast franchise that Ian Flemming’s novels have set loose on the big screen over the past half-century have always been border-line if not outright of the Marvel comic-book type: half-mad megalomaniacs, masochistic tortured souls in all shapes, colors and sizes, out to destroy freedom, democracy and, of course, Mr. Bond himself.
What sets the Skyfall apart from what came before is the more sobered and sobering world that James Bond inhabits in the post 9/11 zeitgeist of 2012. We don’t need to imagine horror and terror coming at the free world. We’ve seen it and are still reeling from the seismic impact that the attacks on the World Trade Center produced, as well as the London subway bombings, video-taped beheadings broadcast on YouTube; the list goes on ad nauseum.
After the anticipated and always wonderful opening far-fetched, hold-onto-your seats-required chase scene, here on motorcycles over the roof-tops of Istanbul and through crowded vendor stalls, we settle into the meat and bones of Skyfall. Bond is older and looks it, but still pauses just long enough after his ordeal to adjust the cuff on his immaculate white shirt.
Still fighting trim and buff in his way too tight suit, Daniel Craig’s face is etched with decades of wear and tear and betrays a weariness that seems to speak “I’m tired of all this crap.”
Ditto for the “M” of Judi Dench, here given a much more substantial role than in any of the previous Bond franchise. She, in fact, becomes much the center-piece of the plot, as encroaching old-age comes crashing down upon her with the realization that she might be indeed replaceable by the younger and more able-bodied MI6 operative of Gareth Mallory, a very good Ralph Fiennes. “M” had botched up the rescue of some highly valuable lists of terrorists and she’s feeling the pressure to cave in and retire—but not just yet. This “grand Dame” is not going gently into that good night to sit in a rocker, knitting a comforter.
Of course, there is the “villain;” how could there not be, and here it is the wonderful and sinister Javier Bardem as Silva, a former MI6 agent who’s exacting revenge for being left out in the cold after a Cyanide capsule failed to bring about his demise. Playing just this side of cartoonish, Bardem takes the plot to its conclusion in the breathless final act of the film, where we finally learn the meaning of Skyfall and a surprising twist (I’m no spoiler, relax) takes us to the fade-out and final credits, promising us “Bond Will Be Back.”
The great Albert Finney comes through winningly and it’s great to see him in any film—always.
Director Sam Mendes shows us he can keep suspense mounting even if the film is a tad over-long at almost 2 ½ hours.
Shaken or stirred, I’m eager for the next 007.