Nov 9, 2012

The 50th anniversary of the Bond series:


Grade: A
Director: Sam Mendes (American Beauty)
Screenplay: Neal Purvis (Quantum of Solace), et al.
Cast: Daniel Craig (Casino Royale), Javier Bardem (No Country for Old men)
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 143 min.
by John DeSando

“We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved heaven and earth; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
Ulysses, Alfred Lord Tennyson, spoken by M (Judi Dench)

The 50th anniversary 23rd James Bond thriller, Skyfall, is a combination of nostalgia for the old-school spy story and the smarmy, glamorous new, the seasoned Bond and the young, techno-oriented operatives. The ancient reliance on intuition and human footwork and technology like the Aston Martin Db5 has been challenged by computer technology that can crash a train or blow up a building with far less manpower and combat than in previous iterations.

Bond (Daniel Craig) resurrects himself after being presumed dead in Istanbul from the traditional preamble (as good as the best Bond opener ever) to help M (Judi Dench) find the maniac who has commandeered the computers of M16 and threatens to reveal the identities of the agencies deeply-covered spies. Amid all this chaos, the typical Bond madman, Silva (Javier Bardem—remember him as the heavy in No Country for Old Men?), has a reason from the past to seek revenge on M.  Bardem’s play of menace and self parody is so refined as to make you forget the impressive Gert Frobe as Goldfinger. Adele’s modern theme song is delightfully evocative of sultry Shirley Bassey tunes.  The old and the new work for the enduring franchise.

So begins the link to the past that culminates in a climactic standoff scene in a remote region of Scotland, where Bond may find real spiritual comfort while neglecting his trademark womanizing.

The requisite chase scene at the beginning of the film is splendid to behold with motorcycles racing over roof tops and trains, and through outdoor markets. Roger Deakins’ cinematography is a kaleidoscopic buffet, be it the cool blue of Shanghai or the grey of Scotland.

As always the really interesting drama is Bond and M and Bond and Silva exchanging barbs.  Fine actors all and a delight to hear.

The rest of the film plays off the conflict between the old and new, culminating in fire war between shotguns and helicopters in an abandoned estate in Scotland. Also Q (Ben Whishaw) is new, a young whippersnapper who needs to be taught the value of the old school, and he is taught that in the course of the action. The new Bond played by Daniel Craig is a more business-like operative than Sean Connery’s, more Jason Bourne, less dashing, not as interested in seduction, brooding and crying, but he is more efficient and caring.

It’s all fitting for a new age when technology and humanity collide. So far the humans are winning but with casualties.

John DeSando co-hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at
He also appears on Fox 28’s Man Panel
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