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SKYFALL (director: Sam Mendes; screenwriters: Neal Purvis/Robert Wade/John Logan/based on the character written by Ian Fleming; cinematographer: Roger Deakins; editors: Stuart Baird/Kate Baird; music: Thomas Newman; cast: Daniel Craig (James Bond), Javier Bardem (Silva), Ralph Fiennes (Gareth Mallory), Naomie Harris (Eve), Bérénice Lim Marlohe (Severine), Ben Whishaw (Q), Rory Kinnear (Tanner), Ola Rapace (Patrice), Albert Finney (Kincade), Judi Dench (M); Runtime: 145; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Michael G. Wilson/Barbara Broccoli; Columbia Pictures and MGM; 2012-UK)

This is one of the better Bondfilms in the franchise.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Sam Mendes (“American Beauty”/”Revolutionary Road”/”Road to Perdition”) crisply directs this21st-century-ready Bond, that comes some 50 years after Dr. No and is the 23rd official Bond film. Bond films are still an exciting brand and this one marches forward with the new without ignoring the past that made it such a great franchise (it still has the Bond trademark one-liners and also a celebrated singer, in this instance Adele, singing its showy title song). Writers Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan play on Bond’s vulnerabilities such as aging, becoming more vulnerable because of his weakening physical abilities and that he is now identified with the problems ordinary folks have when they can’t any longer do their job as well as before. Also Bond has a tortured soul that still haunts him from his childhood tragedies and from all the gun-play he was involved with that took so many lives.

This is one of the better Bond films in the franchise. It offers changes that work, a more introspective, searching and humanized Bond, a richer story than usual and the right person cast as the iconic superhero for the third time. Bond is cast as someone increasingly mortal and somewhat more subdued from his usual cocksure self, but who maintains the same fierce determination to be a super spy.

The stunning opening scene grabs our attention from the get-go, as 007 (Daniel Craig) and fellow field agent Eve (Naomie Harris) are in Istanbul chasing an unknown assailant via car and with Bond on motorcycle over the Grand Bazaar’s rooftop. The suspect is believed to have in his possession MI6’s hard drive crypted list of spies who are embedded in terrorist groups throughout the world, that was pilfered from a slain MI6 agent. Under the orders of the imperious MI6 boss, M (Judi Dench), tracking the operatives from her London office, agent Eve is ordered to take a rifle shot while Bond and the suspect tussle atop a fast-moving train. The agent hits Bond and he’s believed dead, but he shows up weeks later after going on a drinking binge and hears about cyberspace terrorism in London causing many deaths from a bomb planted inside MI6 headquarters. The aging M and Bond become allies, as the powers in government, such as the bureaucratic MP Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), want the two legendary agents to retire quietly. Instead Bond is returned to duty by M’s trickery and meets the new nerdy young Q (Ben Whishaw), who equips him with a few nifty unique gadgets to track down the escaped culprit named Patrice (Ola Rapace) in Shanghai. Unfortunately the culprit dies before he can reveal who is his boss. But a trip to a gambling casino in Macau, using Patrice’s winning chip as reason to be there, and with the help of a self-sacrificing woman with a good heart and a tortured sexual past (Bérénice Marlohe), Bond locates on an isolated nearby island the crazed boss of this operation. He’s a disgruntled former MI6 operative, Silva (Javier Bardem), who has serious issues with M and lives only to get revenge on her and the spy organization for giving him up to the Chinese when they no longer had a use for him. The crazed Silva might be Bond’s alter ego, as he represents the dark side of what can happen to agents who become too mentally and physically crippled to make logical choices anymore.

It all leads to one of the better Bond climaxes, as Silva and his henchmen have a less than predictable shoot-out in Skyfall, the ancestral home of Bond in Scotland, with Bond, M, and the family gamekeeper Kincade (Albert Finney). This fight is not just for King and Country, but is mostly personal and has nothing to do with saving the world as do the usual Bond finales.

REVIEWED ON 11/10/2012 GRADE: A-

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”