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Film review: James Bond is back on track

November 09, 2012|By Andy Klein
  • Daniel Craig and Berenice Marlohe star in the latest James Bond movie "Skyfall."
Daniel Craig and Berenice Marlohe star in the latest James… (Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer…)

If the characters in Ian Fleming's novels aged in real time, James Bond would be in his early 90s by now — probably a bit too long in the tooth to take the abuse meted out to him in “Skyfall,” the 23rd “official” Bond film (“official” meaning one produced by Saltzman and Broccoli’s Eon Productions). Luckily, even as the films' settings proceed inexorably through time (like the rest of us), Bond manages to remain in or around his 30s or 40s.

It probably doesn't hurt that, every decade or two, he receives a new body that rolls his age back a few years. Sean Connery was out of the series by the age of 41; Roger Moore was practically 60 when he hung up his 007 status (only one of the reasons the films were heading downhill). The switch to Daniel Craig in “Casino Royale” (2006) signaled a much stronger change: It rebooted the series with a different tone and a very different Bond. Gone were the insistent wisecracks, which had grown stale. Craig's portrayal was much closer to Fleming's vision of Bond — a resourceful, ruthless “blunt instrument” (as Fleming put it).

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Unfortunately, the next entry — “Quantum of Solace” (2008) — was one of the least gripping, despite the advantage of being the shortest film in the entire series. Thankfully, “Skyfall” is back on track, cementing Craig's status as the best Bond since Connery.

One of the traditions the series still observes is the lengthy pre-credit action sequence, and the new one is a doozy — a nonstop chase by train, foot and car, the latter being driven, not by Bond, but by Eve (Naomie Harris), a flirtatious junior agent and (hopefully) a recurring character. It morphs into a typically dazzling credit sequence, accompanied by Adele singing the theme.

For once, thank goodness, the villain is not a greedhead with plans for global dominion or destruction. Silva (Javier Bardem) is driven by vengeance; and, even though he's mad as a hatter and seeking disproportionate redress, he is not entirely unjustified.

One of the pleasures here is the greatly expanded presence of M (Judi Dench); likewise, the new Q (Ben Whishaw, dressed to make him look even younger than he is) has an active role in the story. He also provides Bond with one accessory of iconic status. After 45 years, that accessory's technology has stayed the same — impressive high tech back then, nostalgically quaint and pokey now.

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