‘Skyfall’ rises to the occasion

Article Published: Nov. 15, 2012 | Modified: Nov. 15, 2012
‘Skyfall’ rises to the occasion

Daniel Craig stars in 'Skyfall.'

Out of all of his targets, James Bond has never exactly aimed for continuity.

All the same, he never misses a shot.

The Bond films are unique as a series, in that their narrative continuity is more of an atmosphere, a knowing wink – the films are tangibly connected by a character, yet that character has been portrayed, officially, by six different actors over the course of 50 years.

All it asks is for viewers to go with it, and Bond fans are happy to oblige. They’ll be more than happy to do so with “Skyfall,” the 23rd official entry in the series.

“Skyfall” is a deft blend of old and new, celebrating the character’s 50-year history through Daniel Craig’s (“Layer Cake”) modern interpretation of author Ian Fleming’s iconic super spy.

Skillfully directed by Sam Mendes (“American Beauty”), it’s probably one of the most artistically shot Bond films in the series, rife with brilliant visuals, steady cinematography and actual stunts.

Put simply, it’s old school meets new school, and it works wonderfully.

The film opens with Bond suffering fallout from a mission gone awry in Istanbul. Thought for dead, he later resurfaces after realizing his boss and mentor, M (Judi Dench, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”), is in peril.

It seems someone is hellbent on revenge against M and MI6, using a stolen hard drive filled with embedded agents’ identities to expose them and bring down the agency.

Naturally, it falls to 007 to find out who’s behind it all and put a stop to the mayhem. Bond’s mission takes him to Shanghai and beyond, as he unravels the mystery and learns the identity of this criminal mastermind – Silva (Javier Bardem, “No Country for Old Men”), a psychotic and nihilistic former agent, who, like Bond, was presumed dead.

Silva blames M and plans to reveal the identities of MI6 agents until her career is in ruins, before striking the final blow.

Meanwhile, M is facing scrutiny from her superiors, who believe her agency is a relic of the past, in that national security is better preserved through technology than manpower. Not so coincidentally, Silva believes this, too, using networks, servers and manipulation to achieve his nefarious goals.
When he sets his technological sights on Queen and country, however, it becomes evident that “the old way” is still relevant – and necessary.

In that sense, “Skyfall” works on multiple levels, delivering a more grounded story, which also serves as a metaphor for the series itself. Is Bond, a creation of Cold War fiction, still relevant in this modern age? If so, he’ll have to adapt, and that’s where Mendes’ direction soars.

Mendes gracefully keeps 007 in the 21st century, while playing up the old-school elements that keep the series enduring and endearing. For starters, we’re introduced to beloved Bond staple Q, delightfully portrayed by Ben Whishaw (“Cloud Atlas”) as a young, tech-savvy computer whiz. That’s not the only referential ace up Mendes’ sleeve, however, as the director skillfully plays more than a few nods to the Bonds of yesteryear, including a spellbinding climax that brings everything to a head.

“Skyfall” marks Craig’s third outing as Bond and is arguably his best, as we find him settling into the iconic role and taking on the characteristics that made it so memorable.

Bardem, as usual, brings an unparalleled – and oftentimes disturbing – level of depth to his character, creating one of the most unnerving Bond villains of all time and effectively stealing the show in each of his scenes.

Fortunately, “Skyfall” has a lot to show, classily revitalizing the series after its dismal predecessor and proving that Bond, James Bond, is a hero for the ages.

“Skyfall,” rated PG-13 for intense violent sequences throughout, some sexuality, language and smoking, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.

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