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MOVIE REVIEW: Skyfall

Skyfall doesn't have the ring of some many other of the Bond film names. But rest assured, this film and this Bond are distinctive all their own - keeping what makes Bond so iconic in the first place.

★ ★ ★ ★ out of 5 buckets | Matinee and DVD

Rated: PG-13  Language, intense violent sequences, smoking and some sexuality

Release Date: November 9, 2012

Runtime: 2 hours 23 minutes

Director: Sam Mendes

Writers: Neal Purvis, Rober Wade, John Logan, from characters created by Ian Fleming

Cast:  Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Albert Finney, Ben Whishaw, Rory Kinnear, Ola Rapace, Bérénice Marlohe

SYNOPSIS:  Bond's loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.

REVIEW: Director Sam Mendes, acclaimed creator of American Beauty and Road to Perdition, comes aboard to helm the 24th Bond film and the third of the series starring Daniel Craig. After Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, Neal Purvis return to scribeSkyfall. Joined by Robert Wade who has written several of the recent installments of the Bond series and Hugo writer John Logan, Purvis brings back the Ian Fleming British super spy back to life. 

James Bond (Daniel Craig, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and Eve (Naomie Harris,Ninja Assassin travel to Istanbul, Turkey to hunt down assassin for hire Patrice (Ola Rapace, Beyond) who has stolen a MI6 hard drive containing a NOC list of most of NATOs deep cover operatives. With Patrice battling Bond on top of a train, Eve is ordered by MI6 director M (Judi Dench,The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) to take the kill shot. Eve does and Bond is flung from the train and into the ravine's cold waters - left for dead. Some time later, when M is saddled with the operation's failure, she is asked by the new head of Intelligence and Security Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes, Wrath of the Titans) to step down from her position and transition into retirement. Unwilling to simply lay down, M pushes on to find the mastermind behind the theft of the NOC list. When she witnesses the bombing of her MI6 office, M moves underground and Bond, who had been quietly living off the grid in a hut on a Mediterranean coast, returns to London to be at his director's and country's service. The pursuit of Patrice leads to beautiful Sévérine (Bérénice Marlohe, L'art de séduire), which leads to Silva (Javier Bardem, Biutiful) a brilliant disgruntled former Double O disciple of M whose true intentions are known only to him.

Skyfall is the 24th James Bond film, celebrating 50 years of 007 films. Daniel Craig, in his third outing as the titular agent on her majesty's secret service, again turns the franchise on its head. Craig, too roguish and raw to replace the suave and smooth operations of Connery, Moore and Bronson, continues to set himself apart as 007. Some may like him, some may hate him, but all should admit that Craig's Bond is unique and earnest in his portrayal of the iconic character. And maybe Craig's raw and sometimes unrefined nature is what Bond should be in this day and age. I like the new Bond as much as the Bonds of my youth. Connery and Moore always exuded capable cool under pressure, never a stitch or cuff out of place. Dalton and Brosnan took up the mantle and the tradition of the character in the manner that those before them had established. Daniel Craig's Bond is more like George Lazenby's portrayal, more vulnerable and real flesh and blood. The campiness and over-the-top villains of my youth are gone, replaced by a more grounded and realistic interpretation of the Bond Universe.

Craig's James Bond has come a long way since Casino Royale. He is more experienced and a slight bit more comfortable in the suits and tuxedos that he wears. His martinis are again shaken, not stirred, but he still enjoys a whiskey or beer when it suits him. Like in Chris Nolan's caped crusader in The Dark Knight Rises, James Bond is now considered an 'old dog'. He and MI6 is part of an espionage world that is deemed by the Prime Minister outdated and antiquated. Yes, the world has changed. But with the clarity and reach of global technology, the understanding of the enemy has lost focus. The enemy is no longer just a dictator or an aggressive nation, but groups of terrorists or zealots who do not announce themselves like the enemies of the Cold War era. As the times and villains change, so must the experienced men and women called to defend crown and country against all manner of new threats.

The blond James Bond seems such a departure from the earlier versions. In Casino Royale, the secret agent was deconstructed and returned to a novice position. InQuantum of Solace, we saw Bond go deeper and darker than expected. Now, in Skyfall, Bond is again deconstructed - not as an inexperienced agent but as a man who has left the game and must struggle to find his way back to his former self. His vulnerability is what I find appealing about the character. It may be cool to seemingly dodge bullets and remain indestructible, but the fear of pain and injury makes what Bond does more heroic and important.

Daniel Craig and Dame Judi Dench are great actors and bring much to their respective roles. But no heroes can be heroic without an important villain. The phenomenal Javier Bardem from No Country for Old Men creates another villain just as quirky and original as that of Anton Chigurh, friendo-o. Bardem's Silva replaces the mop top with blond coiffed locks and an effeminate air that thinly veils a brilliant ruthless mastermind that keeps always two steps ahead. Silva could be considered over the top like Bond villains of old, but Bardem keeps Silva laser focused and tightly coiled without a hint of camp. Adding to the roster are Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw (Cloud Atlas) as the new MI6 Quartermaster Q, Rory Kinnear (Broken) as M's ever vigilant assistant Tanner. Even acting great Albert Finney (The Bourne Legacy) makes an appearance as Kincade, a gun-toting bearded man from Bond's past.

The action is fierce, the story propelling forward as if the train had no brakes. Even when the story does coast for a while with quiet dialogue, there is still an urgency to the scenes or the words that keep the pace tight and moving forward. The entire chase and confrontation between Bond, Eve, and Patrice in the opening scene will blow you away, from a motorcycle race through the streets of Istanbul to a train-bound dozer scooper that keeps Bond from losing his quarry. As always, the franchise takes us to beautiful exotic locales, with plenty of kinetic energy, blazing guns, explosions, and good old classic espionage. 

Skyfall doesn't have the ring of some many other of the Bond films. Live and Let DieDie Another Day, and A View to a Kill are so distinctive. But rest assured, this film and this Bond are distinctive all their own - without losing what makes Bond so iconic in the first place.

Chuck Ingersoll is the editor and movie reviewing contributor for Hot Butter Reviews. You can find hundreds of reviews at www.HotButterReviews.com.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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