Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

Entertainment

November 21, 2012

“Skyfall” is Bond by any other name

Greensburg — Based on critical consensus, I went into “Skyfall” expecting a severe, transcendent departure from anything previously seen in a James Bond film.

One critic — Shaun Munro of whatculture.com — went so far as to proclaim of “Skyfall,” “Comparisons are likely to be drawn with Christopher Nolan’s gritty, “realistic” take on the Batman mythos.”

Although most reviews have been similarly glowing, the aforementioned statement piqued my interest more than any other. Considering what Nolan accomplished with Batman, that’s high praise indeed.

After seeing “Skyfall,” however, I can’t quite understand the critical ruckus, and I certainly don’t agree with comparisons to Nolan’s Batman.

To be sure, this 23rd James Bond outing starts on a high note — a breathtaking note in truth. The sequence finds venerable, generation-spanning superspy James Bond (Daniel Craig) chasing down evil assassin Patrice (Ola Rapace) through the streets and countryside of Turkey.

Patrice possesses a stolen hard drive containing the names of numerous high-level MI6 spies working deep undercover around the world. Those names will bring top dollar from the right buyer, but they’ll also jeopardize multiple lives and ongoing undercover work if released.

Bond and MI6 can’t allow that, but they fail to stop it when the head of MI6, M (Dame Judi Dench), orders Bond’s partner in the field, Eve, (Naomie Harris), to fire at Bond and Patrice as they fight atop a moving train.

Eve hits the wrong target, sending Bond plunging over a ravine and into the river below. Director Sam Mendes (“American Beauty”) then transitions into “Skyfall’s” opening credits, which are among the most creative and memorable in Bond’s long big-screen history.

I won’t say “Skyfall” goes downhill from there, because that’s not quite accurate; what it doesn’t do after the impressive opening, however, is offer anything particularly groundbreaking as James Bond films go.

There is one noteworthy exception. “Skyfall” does offer a degree of unexpected back story regarding Bond’s childhood and formative years.

Otherwise, “Skyfall” is a competent, serviceable entry into the long James Bond canon. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but neither is it groundbreaking.

Uber talent Javier Bardem plays Silva, “Skyfall’s” villain, and although Bardem is certainly welcome in any film, he’s underused here, not making his first appearance until “Skyfall’s” halfway point.

More, like most of Bond’s adversaries over the years, Silva lacks depth. He’s a wronged former MI6 agent out to settle old scores with M. In his quest for vengeance, though, even in Bardem’s ultra-capable hands, Silva largely plays like...well, like the archetype of a classic Bond villain.

Again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but moviegoers should understand what they’re getting with “Skyfall”: Fans of Bond films in general and, especially, fans of Craig’s interpretation won’t be disappointed.

It’s certainly hard not to like the cool, understated, machismo-tinged charisma Craig brings to the part. There’s something in Craig’s style and his icy eyes suggesting he both knows something no one else knows, and that he takes none of this as seriously as he should; his Bond, in other words, realizes he’s almost too old for the job, but he’s too good and having too much fun to stop.

At its heart, “Skyfall” is James Bond through and through. Viewers who expect such a film are apt to enjoy themselves as much as Craig.

Rating: Bark

Score: 70/100

Runtime: 143 minutes

Rated PG-13 for intense action, language, violence and sexuality

Rating System Explained: Rabies = 0; Yip = *; Bark = **; Howl = ***; Lone-wolf howl = ****; Leader of the pack = *****

Contact: Rob Cox at 812-663-3111 x7011.

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