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The Warsaw Voice » World of Movies » November 29, 2012
Film review
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November 29, 2012   
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When James Bond (Daniel Craig) confronts Raul Silva (Javier Bardem), his nemesis in the latest, 23rd installment in the 007 franchise, the latter tells him: “She sent you after me, knowing you’re not ready, knowing you would likely die. Mommy was very bad.” By “Mommy,” Silva, a former MI6 super agent, means M herself (Judi Dench), the all-powerful head of British intelligence. Silva used to be her favorite agent, much the way Bond is at present. The duel between the two men as they compete for M’s respect, a duel in which the stakes are the elderly lady’s life, constitutes most of the plot in Skyfall.

Sam Mendes, who won the Academy Award for directing American Beauty (1999), is mainly known for ambitious dramas rather than for action movies. Still, his filmography includes Road to Perdition from 2002, which was a gloomy gangster drama set during the Great Depression. Incidentally, one of the bad guys in the movie was played by Craig. Rumor has it that it was Craig who suggested to Mendes that he should direct Skyfall and convinced the producers that Mendes would be the right choice. The resulting movie has impressed critics and proved a box-office hit.

Every Bond fan has his favorite Bond villain. Bardem’s Silva is right up there with the biggest, baddest of them. The actor, who won an Academy Award for his role as a psychopathic hitman in the Coen brother’s No Country for Old Men (2007), shines as the vengeance-craving former spy. Silva operated in Hong Kong until the territory was returned to China, but then his employers in London essentially betrayed him. A brilliant hacker, Silva managed to escape from Chinese captivity, after which he spent several years concocting an elaborate plan to take revenge on the British establishment, as epitomized by M.

Craig’s Bond, meanwhile, is not the shiny, invincible superagent of previous incarnations. In the opening set piece of Skyfall, Bond is accidentally shot by another MI6 agent and declared lost in action. It isn’t until much later that he resurfaces, mentally and physically damaged. He fails his physical fitness tests, misses the target on the shooting range and is diagnosed by psychologists as suffering from alcohol and substance abuse. In other words, in terms of serving his country, he is not up to the job. “Why not stay dead?... This is a job for young men,” the not-so-young-anymore Bond hears from Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), the Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, who demands that M should retire as well. But Bond is determined to return to the fray, whatever the cost.

Skyfall is not your classic spy vs. spy Bond story, complete with immaculate tuxedos. But the legendary Aston Martin DB5 is still there, hidden away in a garage, fully operational and with machine guns on board. The movie is not free from scenes that drag on and plot holes and, in terms of classic Bond fare, the characters spend a little too much time contemplating the meaning of life, loyalty and patriotism. Towards the end, it turns out that the British secret services have trouble in coming to the rescue on time in the Scottish Highlands, while they need just minutes to reach corners of the world thousands of miles away from London. Still, after the bland Quantum of Solace from 2008, directed by Mark Forster, Skyfall is a worthy successor to Martin Campbell’s Casino Royale from 2006, which reinvented the Bond movie format.
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