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Laramie Movie Scope: Skyfall

James Bond turns the page, M to N, a new Q

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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November 10, 2012 -- “Skyfall” marks the 50th anniversary of the James Bond movie franchise, and the 23rd film in the series. It isn't the best bond ever, as some claim, but it is better than average (my own personal favorite is “The Spy Who Loved Me,” with the best opening act, a ski jump off a cliff, the best song, Carly Simon's “Nobody Does it Better,” the best Bond Girl, Barbara Bach, and the best villain, Richard Kiel as Jaws).

“Skyfall” turns the page on an era of Bond movies to a new era, ditching some older actors for younger ones and transitioning to a less romantic, more brutal action mode, sort of like the latest Batman trilogy. But the cold, brutal action style also dates back to the days of the first Bond movies when Sean Connery played the role. Connery had more charm than the new Bond, Daniel Craig, but he could be just as serious and deadly when he needed to be. I remember a scene in one of the old Connery Bond movies in which Bond spots an assassin aiming at him while dancing. He quickly spins his partner around so that she gets shot in the back, while he is unhurt. Now that is cold.

The movie's opening sequence has a lengthy chase scene with Bond chasing a spy who has stolen sensitive NATO information. Bond and the villain end up fighting hand-to-hand atop a moving train, while another British MI6 (the British equivalent of the CIA) agent, Eve (Naomie Harris of “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest”) tries to get a shot at the villain with a sniper rifle, but can't get a clear shot. Spy boss M (Judi Dench of “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” tells Eve to take the shot, and she does, hitting Bond by mistake. Bond is knocked off the train into a river and presumed dead, but of course he is not.

Bond seems to be enjoying his life as a dead man, but he decides to go back to work when he finds out about an explosion at MI6 headquarters in London, targeting M's office. After drinking heavily, Bond is in no shape to rejoin the service, but he is cleared anyway because M trusts him. The trail of the MI6 attack eventually leads him to a former MI6 operative, Silva (played by Javier Bardem of “No Country For Old Men”). Silva is a computer whiz whose diabolical viruses have reached deep inside British Intelligence.

Silva is a psychopath who seems uninterested in money or power. He wants revenge against M for something that happened to him during an earlier mission. The deadly game of cat and mouse with Silva reaches its climax in an old Scottish castle called Skyfall, the old Bond estate, hence the name of the film. By the time the end of the film has rolled around, much has changed, including a new Q (a role held by Desmond Llewellyn for over 30 years). The last Q was a former Monty Python fellow, John Cleese. The new Q is young Ben Wishaw of “Cloud Atlas.” There are other new characters as well, including a new Moneypenny (played by Lois Maxwell from 1962 to 1985, and by the actress with the fortuitous name of Samantha Bond from 1995 to 2002).

Bond himself seems the worse for wear in this film. Daniel Craig looks haggard and worn out, by design, in much of the film. The personal toll of Bond's hard living and hard drinking has taken on him reminds me of a similar toll taken on Batman in “The Dark Knight Rises.” This seems a little odd, if the makers of the Bond films are really trying to turn the page here. It would make sense if there is to be a new James Bond next year, but I assume Daniel Craig is still going to be Bond in the next film.

This is a very long film at nearly 2.5 hours (143 minutes) and it seems long. The previous Bond film, “Quantum of Solace” was only 106 minutes. “Skyfall” could have benefitted from a trim. The mood of the film is dark and sombre with little of the humor or romance of previous Bond films. In most Bond films, he saves the girl, or the woman, or the child in danger. Bond fails in this task this time around. He is still a hero, but less of one now. His final victory is both slight, and abstract. More than ever, Bond seems like a man whose time has come and gone. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2012 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)