(directed by Sam Mendes)
****+ (out of 5)
> ‘Tis the season to go out to see real movies in real theatres with other (often annoying) real people, despite the talkers, tall people who come in late and sit right in front of you, the ceaseless crinkling of candy wrappers and rude, clueless technology addicts who cannot possibly stop texting long enough to watch an entire movie.
. I can’t afford movie-houses, so I get my film fix from DVD’s, on a smaller screen, in my own environment, solo. The library has hundreds of good titles and I can see 10 or 12 films through Netflix for the same price as a single cinema ticket, without being limited to only films in current release. But possible Oscar contenders at year’s-end and large-scope epic projects can draw me out to the theatres, as well as flicks I have a particular interest in (the upcoming LES MISERABLES and THE HOBBIT come to mind), and always: James Bond films! A sucker for the James Bond franchise since I was a small boy with a toy plastic 007 attache case, I was hooked by FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE. I made a THUNDERBALL board game to play, drew DR. NO mazes, and wrote a small book full of hypothetical life-threatening situations the intrepid secret agent would find himself in, like the time he stared down GOLDFINGER, strapped to a table about to be cut in two by a deadly laser. (“You expect me to talk?” / “No, Mr. Bond! I expect you to DIE.”) The reader had to write their own escape scenario in the space provided below. My own solutions were listed in the back. The buzz on this 23rd Bond outing (50 years and going strong!) was very positive. The last two were so good, (CASINO ROYALE and QUANTUM OF SOLACE) a third Daniel Craig outing was highly anticipated. I have a bit of a holiday tradition with bachelor buddy to go to a movie on Thanksgiving and/or Christmas, if we are not otherwise predisposed, so this Thanksgiving: SKYFALL it was.
. These affairs always start off with a kinetic action scene in an exotic locale. This time, the action kicks off in Turkey, by car, motorcycle, and then atop a speeding train where our intrepid hero has another YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE moment that sends him deep underground, and falling into a nasty spiral. Cue the opening credits. Pop chanteuse (Adele here), sings smoky ballad to stylized visuals. Good ones here! Surreal and psychedelic. And we’re off: Betrayed my “M”, (Judi Dench at her very best. It helps when they give her something to do!) will Bond return to the fold when needed? Can he protect the firey little lady from the deliciously evil Javiar Bardem whose main goal seems to be to exact personal revenge on her? While quite different from the usual plot of attempted world domination of some kind, it provides one of the best Bond villains ever and personalizes things to the point that we actually get a hint of backstory on the enigmatic man himself.
. This time the interplay between 007 and M is very good indeed. Ralph Finnes is added to the mix, and a few supporting characters are successfully rebooted. Some great set pieces here, (including a tense sequence on an abandoned island-city and a chase through the London Underground), keep things lively. While not known for action, AMERICAN BEAUTY director Sam Mendes establishes his credentials well, with a film that never drags or gets ahead of itself. The closing sequence brings in a perfectly crusty Albert Finney (who sadly, does not look long for this world with all his wheezing and gasping), as Bond and M return to his creepy childhood house in the country to await the arrival of the assassination squad they know is coming to kill them. (Convenient to ratchet up the tension and reduce their odds, it is nonetheless totally unbelievable that they have almost no firearms with them for the showdown they know is coming! They had time to get the car. Didn’t they think they would need weapons?) The ultimate confrontation takes place on the frozen Scottish moors, bleak and spare, against a bloody orange sky- a fresh locale unseen in all the previous incarnations, and it is haunting indeed.
. The close brings a few big surprises and leaves us primed for more, with the parting words: ‘JAMES BOND WILL BE BACK”. And so will I!
© Kevin Paul Keelan and lastcre8iveiconoclast, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kevin Paul Keelan and lastcre8iveiconoclast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.