Tag Archives: Judi Dench

“Skyfall” (2012) – Review

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Director: Sam Mendes

Writer: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and John Logan

Stars: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, and Ben Whishaw

We begin on a mission where James Bond (Daniel Craig) has arrived too late, and a critical hard drive containing the real names and aliases of all undercover N.A.T.O. operatives has been stolen. The cat & mouse chase between Bond and the enemy operative leads across the streets, on the rooftops, and through the markets of Istanbul. We end on top of a moving passenger train where Bond is accidentally shot by his fellow MI-6 agent Eve (Naomie Harris) under orders from M (Judi Dench) and plummets to a river below. Cut-to opening song and credits.

With Bond presumed dead, MI-6 intelligence compromised, and a new administration in power, M finds herself under pressure from her new superior, Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), to resign; she refuses. In route to MI-6 headquarters she discovers the stolen hard drive is being accessed and orders it to be traced. Quickly they determine the hard drive is being remotely accessed from her own computer. But before M reaches headquarters a gas explosion compromises the building.

Under threat by an unknown enemy, MI-6 retreats to secondary subterranean offices. Bond, learning of the attack while on some tropical paradise, reports back for duty. Before he is allowed back into active service he must past a number of physical and psychological test; which M states he does. Back in action, he reports to his new “Q”uartermaster (Ben Whishaw) for his assignment and his equipment.

This is the first Craig Bond film that feels like a traditional Bond film. The director, Sam Mendes, is obviously a Bond fan and peppers the movie with a number of references to past films. His action set pieces are the best of the series, and are on par with the best of the Bourne films. Mendes also bookends the movie with two vastly different sequences that perfectly illustrate the journey of the characters and the audience. Istanbul is bright, crowded, and full of color occurring during the day. Scotland is damp, grey, and empty ending at night. In the beginning Bond is full of energy and support, at the end he is battered and basically alone.

The story is simple and straightforward, as well as focuses on character development and motivation–probably the only time in Bond film history where all those things come together. You understand where Silva (Javier Bardem), the antagonist, is coming from and what he wants to accomplish. For the first time M’s career decisions are shown to have severe ramifications. Her cold calculating choice in Hong Kong years past resulted in the death of many in the present. Also, you learn more of Bond’s past in Skyfall. Where he came from and what happened to his family. Why M likes him so much.

The story is brought to life with success by the excellent cast, both old and new. Daniel Craig has made Bond his own, and more importantly he has made the character grow from film to film. The Bond of Skyfall is not the same one as Casino Royale; he is more jaded; tired of the business; in need of a reason to go on. Javier Bardem continues to prove that if you need a bad guy with a bad haircut, then he is your man. But whereas his Anton Chigurho of No Country for Old Men is a one-dimensional force of nature, his Silva is nuance and more humane.

The new additions of Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes, and Ben Whishaw will also benefit the franchise in years to come. Ben Whishaw in particular stands out as a new Q for a new time; both understanding the power of technology and eventually its limits. He was cheekiley brought down a peg by Silva, but the character was made better for it in the long run.

As a purely Bond film with all the traditions–and baggage–that implies, Skyfall stands as Daniel Craig’s best entry into the franchise.

Grade = A

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5 Best James Bond Movies (and some other things)

I referenced Octopussy in my review for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and it got me reminiscing about the world’s favorite spy.  Thinking of the five best Bond films proved to be more difficult than I thought.  The main reason being the reboot of the franchise with Daniel Craig (disclaimer, I have not watched Quantum of Solace).  Before Casino Royale Bond films were stereotypical, and I would make comments such as, “It’s good for a Bond film.”  Now you must compare them to movies-at-large. The only criteria I had for this list is that it must be an official James Bond movie which means the 1967 David Niven Casino Royale spoof and the 1983 Sean Connery Never Say Never Again do not qualify.

#5 – Octopussy – 1983

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Stars:  Roger Moore, Maud Adams

Though much maligned, I really like Octopussy.  Roger Moore is a little campy in it, but otherwise I was well entertained.  The story kept me involved, there were many locales, the Soviets were the bad-guys (though the main Russian was in it for the money), and there was a circus.  What’s not to love.

#4 – From Russia with Love – 1963

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Stars:  Sean Connery, Robert Shaw

A down and dirty James Bond before all the typical conventions had been established.  It had the first appearance of Q–though he wasn’t called that–and the first appearance of the pre-title set piece.  Constant Bond enemy organization SPECTRE is the bad guy.  Nothing to do with the actual movie, but it also has my favorite poster.

#3 – Casino Royale – 2006

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Stars:  Daniel Craig, Judi Dench

Casino Royale is a great movie and an excellent reboot to the Franchise, but it is not the best Bond Film.  In effect, the elements–or lack thereof–that helped introduce this franchise to a younger audience and allowed it to become relevant again are the same things that prevent it from being #1 on this list. The movie just isn’t James Bond enough.

#2 – Goldfinger – 1964

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Stars:  Sean Connery, Gert Frobe, Honor Blackman

I know, I know, “blasphemy”, “sacrilege”, how is Goldfinger not #1?  The first Bond film which had all the elements that make a Bond film:  action set piece before the main title, maniacal villain, villain sidekick, great gadgets, great car, “Bond, James Bond”, “Vodka Martini, shaken not stirred”, and a Great Bond Girl with the best name of all time–Pussy Galore.  But what keeps it out of the #1 slot is a weak story.  Think about it.  If you know the bad guy’s plan, why would you allow them to bring their weapons and a nuclear device into Ft. Knox after you pretend to be knocked-out by their nerve gas.  Shouldn’t you take them out before you allow them to secure their positions and arm the bomb?  The good guys had the opportunity.

#1 – For Your Eyes Only – 1981

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Stars:  Roger Moore, Carole Bouquet

Roger Moor’s least gadgety Bond movie, and the one where he is actually called upon to show some emotion.  The story is also the most realistic:  vital piece of military equipment goes missing, get that equipment before the bad guys, use any means and/or people necessary.  It also has the best looking Bond Girl ever:  Carole Bouquet.

Which is your favorite?  All the bond films are listed below in release order.

Bonus:  Below is the trailer for the 1967 Casino Royale.

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