My number 16 film of the year features the return of a famous big screen action hero.
Yes, 007 is back.
16. “Skyfall” – Daniel Craig thankfully reprises his role as 007 in an extravagant and exciting chapter in the 50-year on-screen life of James Bond.
Life is the key word because MI6 presumes Bond died, but this famous superspy is very much alive and ready to help his boss, M (Judi Dench), hunt down a dangerous individual who knows the identity of British secret agents imbedded in terrorist organizations.
Soon M and Bond discover Silva (Javier Bardem) is the man behind the maelstrom, and he sets his sights of revenge on M specifically.
Casting Bardem – an Oscar winner – as Bond’s chief adversary is truly a master stroke.
Although Silva performs truly evil deeds, it’s quite fun watching Bardem work.
With a bleach-blond tuft, the occasional smile or sarcastic exchange, Bardem clearly seems to relish his devilish role.
The story doesn’t focus on grandiose “take over the world” plans, but rather a singular mission of revenge, and director Sam Mendes successfully balances both the intricate conflicts and the high octane visuals of this famous series.
Mendes – not particularly known for action films, (but he does have “Road to Perdition” (2002) on his impressive resume) – truly embraces the spirit of the Bond movies, while also adding his signatures.
While spectacular action sequences dance across the screen, Mendes thoughtfully stops to capture several moments of jaw-dropping background shots we don’t normally witness in a Bond picture.
At one point, a fight breaks out beneath an icy lake, and Mendes captures a artful wide shot of this blueish/grayish water world while one of the pugilists (I won’t say which one) sends a fiery flair towards the surface.
Sure, explosions and fight scenes in exotic locations are certainly typical, but I found myself marveling at specific nuances at those specific locales.
At times, “Skyfall” is a beautiful film to watch while murder, mayhem and martinis make their mark, and Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw (who plays a new entertaining “Q”), and Albert Finney offer solid supporting performances.
Yes, it’s great to have James Bond back, and again, Craig takes the camp out of Bond and brings a macho and dangerous air to the character.
He’s (almost) always all business.
And business is booming.
Follow me on Twitter: @MitchFilmCritic