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007 Back with a Vengeance in “Skyfall”

Skyfall

The wait is over.

It’s been four years since James Bond graced the screen in “Quantum of Solace,” a disappointing letdown after the excellent “Casino Royale,” which re-invented 007 as a more rough and tough spy, played by Daniel Craig. The four year period was one of the longest without a Bond film since the series debuted with “Dr. No” 50 years ago, and the wait is finally over with the British super spy returning in “Skyfall.”

Craig plays Bond for the third time, who must face off against Silva (a magnificent Javier Bardem), a man from M’s past who is hell-bent on destroying MI-6 and, more importantly, M herself, leading her into a quagmire of jeopardy and even civilian oversight, led by Mallory (Ralph Fiennes). The past plays a big part in “Skyfall,” with both Bond and M both being forced to face painful periods from earlier in their lives. Bond himself is even considered a thing of the past, with most everyone else at MI-6 being in their twenties, including Q (Ben Whishaw).

The third time is definitely the charm for Craig, who has ushered in a post-Jason Bourne Bond that returns the character to his roots and fulfills the promise of “Casino Royale,” which clung a little too closely to the ridiculous action pieces that helped make the Pierce Brosnan films somewhat ridiculous. “Skyfall” has its fair share of massive action scenes, but under the direction of Oscar winning director Sam Mendes (“American Beauty”) and cinematographer Roger Deakins, the action isn’t just exciting. It’s breath-taking to look at.

Mendes, making his first true action film, previously worked with Craig on the Tom Hanks mob film “Road to Perdition.” That’s the closest Mendes has come to action, with the exception of the Gulf War film “Jarhead.” Working from a script by Bond steadies Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and “Gladiator” scribe John Logan, Mendes & Co. have crafted far and away the best of the Craig-led Bond movies, but more so one of the best films in the entire series, except maybe “From Russia with Love.”

Most Bond films are only as good as their villain, and “Skyfall” has one of the best. Bardem, oozing charisma, knows how to chew up the scenery without letting Silva’s flamboyance go over the top. Several Bond films have skirted around the topic of homosexuality, but “Skyfall” dives in head first with Silva, a sign of the times.

The beauty of “Skyfall” isn’t that it’s one of the best James Bond films. It’s one of the best films of 2012, and by far the best action film. Bond is definitely back and better than ever.


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