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Dan's Review: Skyfall

James Bond goes retro.
Skyfall (United Artists/Columbia)

Rated PG-13 for intense violent sequences throughout, some sexuality, language and smoking.

Starring Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Bérénice Marlohe, Albert Finney, Ben Whishaw, Rory Kinnear, Ola Rapace, Helen McCrory, Nicholas Woodeson, Bill Buckhurst.

Written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan,based on characters created by Ian Fleming.

Directed by Sam Mendes.

GRADE: B+

REVIEW:

I'm going on record to say I think Daniel Craig is the best James Bond. Yes, I like Sean Connery's portrayal, but when it comes to raw acting talent and intensity, Craig is certainly the most skilled actor to play 007. Consequently, Casino Royale (2006) is one of my favorite Bond films, even though 2008's Quantum of Solace was a disappointment. Next up is Skyfall, which explores 007's roots as he tries to unravel a dangerous plot to destroy his boss and the agency he serves.

The story begins as Bond tries to stop a master list of undercover agents from getting into the hands of a secret villain who intends to share their secrets with the world. During the operation, Bond is unintentionally shot by a fellow agent Eve (Naomie Harris) and presumed dead. When M (Judi Dench) is nearly killed in an attack on MI-6 headquarters, Bond re-emerges from hiding (having enjoyed a little vacation while being "dead") and vows to help the boss find out who's behind it.

Bond travels to the Far East, where meets with the beautiful Sévérine (Bérénice Marlohe), who helps 007 meet with the mastermind hiding in a deserted city on nearby island. That criminal boss turns out to be Silva (Javier Bardem), a former "00" agent who used to be M's favorite (just like Bond is now) and has an axe to grind with her. Silva is eventually captured and taken back to England where he escapes from the new MI-6 makeshift underground headquarters and attempts another hit on M.

Bond rescues her and travels to his boyhood home in Scotland, a sprawling country estate named "Skyfall" where he prepares for an all-out assault from Silva and his heavily armed henchmen. Skyfall's old gamekeeper Kincade (Albert Finney) joins in the climactic battle along with 007 and M.

Skyfall is certainly a step up from Quantum of Solace, but not quite on the same par as Casino Royale. It's directed by Academy Award-winning director Sam Mendes (not known for action/spy thrillers), but his touch is barely noticeable for good or bad. Craig is awesome as the spy who can be both suave and intense while kicking a lot of bad-guy butt. Dench once again brings an element of class and grace to a role that requires both, while handling a complicated setting such as global security and counter-terrorism.

Skyfall's story is familiar, and takes up nearly 3 hours of screen time. The running time is noticeable when the story begins to drag a little, but there is enough sporadic action to keep your interest.

Something Bond purists will like is Skyfall's homage to some early 007 movies, like the reappearance of the silver Aston-Martin sports car used in some of the Connery films. One of the things I liked about Casino Royale was the departure from some of the silly gadgets that just happen to be in Bond's arsenal at just the right time. By the way, Q is back, this time played by the young Ben Whishaw, who adds an element of intelligence and charm instead of the staunch, goofy version of Q portrayed in previous Bond films.

Skyfall is another shake-up (not stirred) of the original Bond formula, with just enough raw, gritty new material to keep you interested in the outcome.


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