It’s the opinion of some that James Bond films run on an alternating cycle, with the gems of the series flanking 007’s misfires. That’s not quite true of the franchise at large, as Sean Connery kicked things off with a string of memorable hits, but it’s surely true of Daniel Craig’s run as the suave agent, who soared in “Casino Royale,” tanked in the dismal “Quantum of Solace,” and is back with a vengeance in the superb “Skyfall.” Directed by Sam Mendes, who excels in an unfamiliar genre, the keenly made actioner propels Bond forward while digging into his roots, yielding a movie that should please everyone while still resisting compromise.
Following an unprecedented opening sequence, Bond and MI6 bigwig M (Judi Dench) are in trouble, as a deranged and vengeful ex-agent, Raul Silva (Javier Bardem), unleashes his lethal brand of cyber terrorism, which publicly unmasks undercover spies and leads to their deaths in the field. Bardem makes a great and colorful Bond villain, whose quirks include a bleached-blonde coif, an eerie removable jaw, and a Freudian link to M that’s tinged with sexual ambiguity.
There’s no shortage of slinky Bond girls either, as Bérénice Marlohe is aces as the sharp-taloned Sévérine, and Naomie Harris complements Craig nicely as a freshly-minted Moneypenny. Also on board is the terrific Ben Whishaw, who brings bespectacled panache as the new incarnation of Q.
“Skyfall” is all about mixing the cutting-edge with the vintage, from the modern resurrection of Bond’s iconic Aston Martin to a trial that holds M responsible for MI6’s failings, and accuses the agent program of being out of date. But, of course, that program is all that will save London from its ultra-contempo nemesis, and this movie preaches the power of classics without getting tied up in cobwebs.
We hear a familiar tune, and catch a glance of that signature cocktail, but we also see what seem like pushed boundaries for Bond, like a bombed MI6 agency and a riveting courtroom attack. Reinvigorating the series, “Skyfall” proves that what is old can be new again.
Three-and-a-half reels out of four
Opens tomorrow in area theaters
An unmissable documentary, “The Queen of Versailles” tells the crumbling tale of David and Jackie Siegel, a time share mogul and his pampered trophy wife who set out to build America’s biggest home, then fall into near-ruin amid the financial crisis. Directed by Lauren Greenfield, who began the project pre-meltdown, the film is a fascinating alternate take on who’s been hit by our troubled economy. It’s the sort of film you put in a time capsule.
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