By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

The name Bond, James Bond pretty much tells audiences to expect action, adventure, seduction, guns, gadgets, fast cars and sexy ladies. Bond has gone through several incarnations in over twenty films and has reflected the styles of his respected eras.  In 2006, Eon films, the official production company of James Bond movies, rebooted the franchise with the much more gritty, edgy and realistic Casino Royale.  The series continues with Quantum of Solace and the latest installment Skyfall.  While these latest Bond pictures have been applauded for their more pragmatic approach, they’ve also been jeered by some die-hard fans of classic Bond movies for lacking some of the popcorn chomping, occasionally silly fun that characterized the older films.  With Skyfall, I do believe that director Sam Mendes and his writers have found a way to compromise which should please both fans and detractors of the modern day James Bond.

Daniel Craig returns as the world’s most famous/infamous MI6 Agent 007.  In his latest adventure, a computer drive containing the identities of British agents has been stolen and Bond is on the case.  The trail to the drive leads him to an international terrorist named Silva (Javier Bardem), a man hell-bent on eliminating the MI6, especially its leader M (Judi Dench).  A brilliant computer hacker and programmer, Silva poses a great threat to the agency whose usefulness is already under fire by the British government.

Of the three installments of Eon’s reboot of the Bond franchise, Skyfall clearly is the best. While I did enjoy Casino Royale, I found it a challenge to completely like Quantum of Solace.  After re-visting several of the vintage 007 movies recently, I can understand some of the gripes people have with the more modern take.  The new Bond often takes himself a bit too seriously. Granted, I’d really hate to see Daniel Craig’s agent go all campy, but it was time Bond, not only face realistic and harrowing threats, but also relish in the fact that he is a suave, debonair and badass secret agent.  So it came with great pleasure to see this happen in Skyfall. Mendes and writers Neil Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan manage to add a swaggering bravado to the realistic and gritty style established in the two previous installments, and pull it off quite nicely.

Mendes and his writers reach out to the modern James Bond and link him to classic Bond beautifully.  They pull this off by adding some lovely winks and references to vintage 007 characters and props that the die-hard fans have been craving with the recent films.  The film is loaded with thrilling action sequences, expertly shot by cinematographer Roger Deakins.  It gave me so much pleasure to actually relish the action on the screen! I could actually see what was happening.  That really has exceedingly irritated me in recent action films. The fighting, fast driving, etc. have often been indecipherable.  Thank you, Roger Deakins for allowing your audiences to savor these moments.

My one gripe about this installment has to do with a recently overused plot twist which unfortunately appears here as well.  I won’t spoil what that twist is, but when I watched it happen during the screening, I simply rolled my eyes and thought to myself, “Again?!” This story device is quickly becoming tiresome in action movies, particularly of the superhero variety.  Allow me to say that it involves the strategy of the villain and if filmmakers continue to repeat this over and over, it will no longer play out as a surprise.

Speaking of villains, I simply LOVED Javier Bardem as Bond’s antagonist Silva.  He truly is a joy to behold on the big screen and he brings an exciting breath of fresh air that recent Bond villains have been lacking.  Daniel Craig shines as 007 in a way he really hadn’t before.  He perfectly reflects that swaggering bravado that the filmmakers wanted out of their character and still can hold his own as a hard boiled fighter.  The magnificent Judi Dench returns to reprise her version of M and gets more screen time here.  Skyfall also welcomes Bond newcomers Ralph Fiennes as Garreth Mallory, Naomie Harris as agent Eve and the hilariously droll Ben Whishaw as the new Q.

So it comes with great pleasure that I applaud Sam Mendes and his cast and crew on a job well done.  The filmmakers create the perfect marriage between classic and modern James Bond, and allow us to see what is happening on the screen. The film was not screened for press in IMAX, but I can only imagine that superb cinematography looks even more incredible on a larger screen. Again, I wish they hadn’t used a certain plot device that several recent films have already used.  Nevertheless I highly recommend this movie for all fans of MI6 agent 007 as well as those who have yet to discover this awesome character who now celebrates his 50th anniversary.

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