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'Skyfall': Teaching an old dog new tricks

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo


Bardem, one of only two Oscar winners to ever play a Bond bad guy (Christopher Walken was the other — and the less said the better), expertly straddles the line between camp and menace, creating a sexually ambiguous villain who is as disturbing as he is wounded. His scheme — which doesn't really hold up to serious scrutiny — is driven by deeply personal pain, forcing Bond to reflect on his own origins and loyalties. More notably, there's more chemistry between the two actors than any of the series' Bond-Bond girl pair-ups.

While it is inevitable that Mendes will be credited with giving 007 his fullest movie treatment to date, it's ace director of photography Roger Deakins (No Country For Old Men, The Shawshank Redemption) who ultimately elevates Skyfall, establishing it as the most visually arresting film in the Bond pantheon. Not only does he make each and every location feel authentic and unique, he provides stunning compositions that amaze with clarity, color, and richness. The standout is a stealthy Shanghai showdown between Bond and an assassin in a glass-and-neon-filled skyscraper.

For all the craftsmanship, intelligence, and soulfulness on display, Skyfall does tend to ramble a bit, with a midsection that's less urgent than it should be and a final siege on Bond's boyhood home that feels unnecessarily protracted. Mendes also falls victim to the too-many-endings syndrome that plagues many epic endeavors. Still, it's unlikely audiences will care much about these flaws. Instead they'll be suitably impressed by a film that retains all the 007 glamour, thrills, and humor, while adding in a fresh layer of emotional and psychological complexity. At 50 years old, James Bond has matured in the best sense of the word.

Skyfall

★★★★ (out of 5 stars)

Dir. Sam Mendes; writ. Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan, Ian Fleming; feat. Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Naomie Harris (PG-13)

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