Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Contents Under Pressure: Skyfall

"You know the whole story"

So says Bond to his mentor/taskmistress M in the climactic stages of this, one of the best in the half-century Bond franchise. It's success lies primarily in credibly showing 007 rising above pressures, both external and internal, rather than cruising coolly through assignments as may have been the case with previous Bond movies (before the Daniel Craig era).

He starts out gasping for air, having been shot by his own fellow operative, with none other than M having given the order. But hold fast, dear Bond fans, things are not quite what they seem. A vengeful rogue agent has taken it upon himself to disparage MI-6 by revealing and eliminating agents in place all over the world, particularly in China and Macau, where much of the action takes place.

We're also introduced to a new headquarters and a new Q, the technology and gadgets expert, only this time he's a mere whelp, with the requisite cynicism and dismissal for the old ways to boot. His "war chest" for Bond this time out consists of a mere miniature radio transmitter and a fingerprint-coded grip on Bond's trusted Walther PK-38 auto pistol.

Of course, this "quasi-reboot" doesn't mean a sweep of the former Bond DNA. There are still high-speed chases (the opener takes place in Istanbul's Grand Market, of all places), there's still the sharp repartee with M, there's still time to make out with gorgeous women in exotic locales (this time on board a sailing yacht), while enjoying his signature shaken-not-stirred martini (which shares screen time with global ad partner Heineken beer) and reflect on his overall usefulness and commitment to Her Majesty's Secret Service.

And, of course, there are still villains. And the Bond rogue's gallery gets a considerable upgrade with the addition of Javier Bardem as the rogue. Slick, sardonic, sinister and charming all at once, Bardem is never better than when he recounts the perceived "injustice" that took him out of the Service and kindled his ire against his old employer.

The denouement takes us to a remote Scottish country estate, whose name informs the title of the film: Skyfall. There, the movie lagely devolves into the standard Hollywood-type climax, with much gunfire and explosions. But before film's end we're introduced to Moneypenny (Jamaican Naomi Harris) and to another character - that person's identity we'll keep to ourselves.
Its still a secret service after all.

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