Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
Skyfall

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Title: Skyfall

So, Is Bond Back? James Bond is 50 years old, making him as venerable a cinematic institution as there is. Bond isn't "back" because he can never leave. He's like the "Hotel California" of movie series.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Three Komodo dragons out of five.

Brief Plot Syopsis: 007 comes out of "retirement" to track down the mysterious figure who stole a list of NATO undercover agents.

Tagline: There isn't one. If I was going to revert to my own particularly witty brand of 80s-inspired phrases, I'd probably use, "This time, it's personal."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: A hard drive containing a list of covert British operatives has been stolen, and it's up to James Bond (Daniel Craig) to get it back, especially since he failed to retrieve it in the first place (it wasn't totally his fault, getting shot tends to throw you off your game). After spending some time off the grid, he returns to find MI6 under attack by a cyberterrorist with a personal vendetta against M (Dame Judi Dench).

"Critical" Analysis: I wanted to like Skyfall more than I did, which is funny because after the opening sequence, I felt sure I would love it. Bond (along with fellow agent "Eve," played by Naomie Harris) pursues the hard drive thief through Istanbul and onto a moving train in what may be one of the best action sequences in any 007 film. Then we get the opening titles and Adele's rather lacklusters theme song, and ... we wait.

Following the disappearance of the list, Bond exiles himself to what looks like the same place Jason Bourne hung out in Supremacy. He returns after learning of the attack on MI6, reunites with M, tries to get back in shape, meets the new Q (Ben Whishaw) and eventually goes after the thief. From there, and after a liaison with the bad guy's squeeze Sévérine (Bérénice Lim Marlohe), he finally meets the mastermind behind the attacks, the decidedly flamboyant Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), who has a bone to pick with M.

Silva is a great Bond villain, and explores some previously unexamined avenues with regard to interrogation techniques. Sadly, he's not on screen much.

The film sure is pretty to look at, however. Cinematographer Roger Deakins can make neon reflecting off a high-rise window as breathtaking as the Scottish Highlands, and director Sam Mendes makes sure you (and the characters) know it. I counted at least five scenes in which someone (usually Bond) just stands and stares at his surroundings. This would probably be tougher if your movie was set in Beaumont, TX or Birmingham, England instead of Macao and Glen Etive.

And while I may be wrong, this may be the first time we really make any sort of detailed exploration of Bond's history (beyond knowing his parents died when he was a kid). There's not much, and it comes at the end, but a little back story can't hurt what's traditionally been criticized as a shallow character,

There's a great deal of slow burn in Mendes' first Bond outing. After the opening scene (the Istanbul rooftop chase reminded me - against my will - of a similar sequence from Taken 2), he relies largely on interpersonal exchanges. Even the plot is contracted down from the usual grandiose supervillainy. Silva wants revenge, simple as that. Minus the obligatory globetrotting, Skyfall seems less ambitious than usual.

My bigger complaint is how Mendes comes perilously close to making the mistake Bryan Singer did in Superman Returns: paying such homage to your predecessors you fail to establish your own identity. Many classic Bond elements were included in the previous Craig films -- sumptuous locations, product placement -- but with Skyfall, we not only see a return of Q and his gadgetry, but of over-the-top villains and even the original Aston Martin DB5.

However the final scene, which I would desperately love to ruin for everybody but won't, is actually pretty awesome, and as much a level setter for the next film as it is a throwback to the days of Connery and Moore.

Part of what made the previous two films (Casino Royale especially) so refreshing was the way they largely veered away from Roger Moore-era goofiness. Eon should keep that in mind before allowing characters to say things like, "We've been hacked!" or suggesting a veteran secret agent would ... I'm not going to spoil the ending, but let's just say what takes place seems more like an excuse to show off a classic car and a cool location than realistic plot development.

Yeah, I know; "realistic plot development? In a Bond movie?" It isn't unheard of, and as the franchise goes, Skyfall doesn't even come close to the bottom of the barrel, but after the fantastic Casino Royale and the flawed but still occasionally tolerable Quantum, I wasn't really prepared for a largely navel-gazing pressing of the reset button.

Skyfall is in theaters today. And I'm willing to admit I may have set my expectations rather high.


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