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IN SHORT: BMT216A R.I.P. [Rated PG-13 for intense violent sequences throughout, some sexuality, language and smoking. 143 minutes]
Age and obsolescence are the underlying themes in the fiftieth year of the Bond James Bond franchise, which means the time has come to reboot and tear down all that has come before. This means utterly devastating James Bond and long time boss person M; cutting the monetary spigot to the always entertaining gadgeteer Q, and blowing Britain's supersecret spy organization MI6 to pieces . . . just to see what rises from the ashes. The front half of Skyfall, a battle that starts in Turkey and ends in Macau, may be the best hour or so of any Bond movie, ever. The back half, on the other hand, slips back into the familiar fight after fight after fight template, until the moment comes when everything old is new again.
We apologize profusely for quoting Peter Allen, for those of you old enough to know it. [and now that we think of it, we should have put the IN SHORT in spoiler alert mode. Then again, 23 movies into the franchise, even we wouldn't have figured it out]. We've got a checklist permanently etched in the engrams of our brain of all the things a Bond movie must have. If you need us to put that list in black and white, you haven't watched enough Bond movies. What we will say is that a very small piece of template dialog is not in this edition, but said omission is covered in the background action. So, shall we say that Skyfall shakes things up and move on to the more important things?
Things like: Bond. James Bond (Daniel Craig), son of Andrew and Monique Decarchies Bond; seventh man to attain the "Double Oh (00) license to kill" rank of Britain's MI6 spy organization and now training up and coming agents in the field. That agent is named Eve (Naomie Harris) and the training involves tracking a terrorist named Patrice (Ola Rapace). When all is said and done, ten minutes of action ends quite horribly, which leaves M (Judi Dench) to defend her agency and its actions in front of the British government's new Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes). Mallory doesn't particularly see any need for his government to operate "in the shadows" but, if it must, wouldn't it be best served by agents not so long in the tooth?
Agents like the new Q, now played by Ben Whishaw, whose latest whasamathingee is called "radio".
Mallory isn't M's only trouble. Some unknown troublemaker has hacked into her files and is leaking the names of NATO agents, deeply embedded in suspected terrorist organizations, to the world. We're assuming the Brit agent names are leaked first. MI6's operations are exposed, as is M's own history, in a very public way. We're not going to pull punches when we spill the beans that 007's face off with the aforementioned Patrice -- who is a guy, by the way -- ends with our favorite agent dropping the ball, in a big way.
"(Perhaps) we're both played out," says Bond to his boss, and somewhere along the line, MI6 is blown to bits. Their computers are compromised. All clues indicate that someone who has a grudge with M and knows the intimate workings of the spy organization is behind it all. Bond sees patterns in this whole mess and wings around the world to track down the ubervillain behind it all.
First, though, is the de riguer scene in a casino and the introduction of this year's Bond Girl, Severine (Berenice Marlohe), who is a minor bad girl with links to the bad guy of the film. His name is Silva. He is played by Javier Bardem, who tears the screen to pieces with his oozing badness. His reason for being is a third act thing, which means we've dropped as many hints as you're going to get.
All that is missing is a cat . . .
As for the titular Skyfall? It's a house. What is under the house is a third act secret that involves Brit class act Albert Finney. The run on of fight scenes in the middle of the film had us tired out by the time the end game plays on screen. It is something which is as touching and surprising as it is familiar. We've quoted Peter Allen once already so we're not going to do it again.
We'll just say that, when it happens, everyone in our audience was very happy.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Skyfall, he would have paid . . .
The Bond franchise has been walking the cliff's edge for years. Daniel Craig's run has been equally great and awful and, yes, blonde. Skyfall falls somewhere in the middle, on the "buy the big popcorn and settle in" side of it all.
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