Since 1962, you have been able to count on a new James Bond movie to come out every few years. The most recent incarnation of the super spy is embodied by Daniel Craig, a fellow who knocked it out of the park with 'Casino Royale' and then had a sophomore slump with 'The Quantum of Solace.' Would 'Skyfall' be a return to form or a further descent into mediocrity?
Things go awry on a mission to recover a stolen hard drive containing the identities of undercover agents that are deep within terrorist organizations all around the world. Bond (Craig) is wounded in the field and the target he is pursuing gets away. All assume that he is dead.
Meanwhile, M (Judi Dench), the head of MI6, is under pressure to retire, especially from Security Commission Chairman Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes). Some feel that secret agents are antiquated. When things begin to get violent in London (MI6 being blown up), this attracts the secluded Bond's attention and he returns home from Turkey. The trouble is, 007 still isn't fully healed and he isn't quite as young as he once was. Is he up for the job?
As usual, our hero travels all around the world in his pursuit of this cyber-terrorist. The pieces begin to fall into place and the man behind everything has roots closer than anyone expects.
People were justifiably concerned about this Bond flick after the letdown that was 'Quantum of Solace.' Rest assured, this is much better than that. In fact, most people/critics agree that this is one of the best Bonds ever. That's a bold claim considering how the franchise has evolved over the last half-century.
More than any other Bond film, this gives us a lot of backstory and humanity to the mysterious secret agent. It also gives us a very flawed man who is very good at what he does and very resourceful. It also answers many questions one might have had about his youth and why he got into the spy game.
None of this should be that surprising considering Sam Mendes ('American Beauty,' 'Revolutionary Road' 'Away We Go' and others) directed this. He is an excellent dramatic director, not necessarily known for doing action sequences but don't worry. There is plenty of action to be found here.
As with any series that is 23 stories deep, there are some elements that seem like they have been done before. There are ingredients that you need in a 007 picture which is fine, but also a little restrictive. You need an Aston Martin, a martini that is shaken and not stirred, Bond has to get busy with one or more beautiful women, the introduction of a few handy gadgets, a chase, along with a few other details that structure the plot. Speaking of the Bond girl aspect of the film, Berenice Marlohe as Severine, got a ton of press as the love interest in the movie but she does very little of substance in the film and doesn't get much screen time. That could be a very good thing because some actresses in the past have really dragged the movies down. Eve (Naomie Harris) actually has a little more to do and is more interesting. M is by far the most important female character here for many reasons. Watch to find out.
Special features include: none.
'Skyfall' is an even stronger return to form than anyone had the right to expect. It combines some of the old-school charm of the franchise that was thought to be long gone with the slick modern sheen. This injects new life into the long-running series and could mean that we are in for another fifty years of globe-trotting espionage.
Add an extra half star to the rating.
Rated PG-13 143 minutes 2013