James Bond better than ever in ‘Skyfall’


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This film image released by Columbia Pictures shows Daniel Craig as James Bond in the action adventure film, “Skyfall.

AP Photo/Sony Pictures, Francois Duhamel

To borrow a line from Depeche Mode, death is everywhere in “Skyfall.” James Bond’s mortality has never been in such prominent focus, but the demise of the entire British spy game as we know it seems imminent, as well.

Still, this 23rd entry in the enduring James Bond franchise is no downer. Far from it: simultaneously thrilling and meaty, this is easily one of the best entries ever in the 50-year, 23-film series, led once again by an actor who’s the best Bond yet in Daniel Craig. So many of the elements you want to see in a Bond film exist here: the car, the tuxedo, the martini, the exotic locations filled with gorgeous women. Adele’s smoky, smoldering theme song over the titles harkens to the classic 007 tales of the 1960s, even as the film’s central threat of cyberterrorism, perpetrated by an elusive figure who’s seemingly everywhere and can’t be pinned down, couldn’t be more relevant.

And yet “Skyfall” seems like it could stand on its own perhaps more than most Bond movies. In the hands of director Sam Mendes, it almost feels like a reinvention; he has said making “Skyfall” left him “knackered,” but audiences will leave feeling invigorated. And with Mendes collaborating once again with the great cinematographer Roger Deakins, it’s definitely the most gorgeous.

Deakins, who also shot Mendes’ “Jarhead” and “Revolutionary Road,” provides a varied array of looks, all of them dazzling. The MI6 headquarters, which must be moved to a hidden underground location following a vicious attack, have a crisp and stylish industrial-loft chic about them.

Bond being Bond, he can still get himself out of any dangerous situation; the opening chase, which begins in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar and ends in impossibly daring fashion on top of a hurtling train, is a marvel of timing and choreography.

But Bond’s vulnerability — dare we say, his weakness at times — makes him a much more complicated and captivating figure. He’s not always totally smooth and slick.

Ultimately, the reports of James Bond’s death are greatly exaggerated. Fifty years later, nobody does it better.

“Skyfall,” a Columbia Pictures release, is rated PG-13 for intense violent sequences throughout, some sexuality, language and smoking.

Running time: 143 minutes. Four stars out of four.

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