Other than politics of late, the other conversation-starter is always the release of the latest James Bond film. Everyone has opinions about the best and worst of the entire series, which now encompasses 23 films over the past 50 years. It doesn’t matter if you are staunch supporters of Sean Connery, or Roger Moore, or Pierce Brosnan or any of the others. All Bond fans are ready to sway you to their point of view.
With the release of Skyfall this past Friday, we’re now to number three with Daniel Craig doing his 007 thing. His first film, Casino Royale, was terrific, and one of the best Bonds in years. The follow-up, Quantum of Solace, was pretty ho-hum stuff by comparison. But Skyfall is stellar entertainment and will probably end up in the ultimate list of perhaps the best three or four 007 tales ever. First, let’s touch on a couple of minuses. The title song, written and sung by Adele, is limp. She’s a good singer, but a Bond film needs Shirley Bassey, or Tom Jones, someone who can really belt out a spy-laden anthem that will put chills on your spine. Also, you may start thinking about midway during the second act that it feels slow-paced and sluggish. I think that’s on purpose for two reasons: one, to catch your breath, since Skyfall begins with a sensational chase thru the streets of Istanbul using all manner of vehicles. And act three ends with non-stop action that should have your pulse pounding.
The other reason is it helps with more characterization, and yes, there’s plenty of that in this film. We learn a bit more of the Bond family back story. Judi Dench as “M” is given a meaty role unlike any other she’s had in this series. We ordinarily see her barking orders from behind her desk at MI-6. In Skyfall she’s an integral character that is very necessary to the plot, and is so good, dare I say it, maybe even an Oscar-nominee again. The villain is a slimy psychopath with a shady past named Silva. He’s played by Oscar-winner Javier Bardem, scarier than ever, and with sinister blonde hair. You may see some similarities between Silva and Hannibal Lechter… but not necessarily over dinner. Ralph Fiennes is the division head at MI-6 who is in charge of Bond’s latest adventure, and there’s even a nice part for the legendary Albert Finney, who always manages to light up the screen whenever given the chance.
As usual, the plot is rather convoluted, but not excessively, as it’s easy to follow. The music is by Thomas Newman and is adequate, although there’s no Bond composer like John Barry. He is certainly missed. But the stellar performances by the entire cast, the spectacular action, stunts and special effects are all first-rate, and at nearly two-and-a-half hours in length, you won’t want to miss a single scene.
Not only is Skyfall one of the best Bond films, it's one of the best films of the year.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, I’m still partial to Sean Connery as the best Bond; Honor Blackman in Goldfinger as the best Bond woman; Donald Pleasance in You Only Live Twice as the best ubervillain Blofeld; and, despite many who will disagree, my favorite Bond film is On Her Majesty's Secret Service. How can you not love a Bond film with Diana Rigg as 007’s love interest, Telly Savalas as Blofeld, and sensational John Barry score, with a title song sung by Louis Armstrong. I didn’t think George Lazenby was that bad. He looked the part, and with more training in the art of acting could have hung around for a few more films.
I shouldn’t forget to mention that there are surprises in Skyfall, which also fill in some of the Bond back story, and should add some interest to the next film in the series, whatever and whenever it is. Happy 50th Anniversary, Mr. Bond, and we hope you’re around for another 50.
The PG-13 rated Skyfall is playing just about everywhere.