What's the secret behind the enduring lure of James Bond a.k.a. 007? For five decades the cultural icon has been transcending generations simply because he's always the right choice. In the latest addition to the franchise, "Skyfall," it's Daniel Craig (his third time playing Bond) and he's pure perfection personified.
The first 15 minutes of the film are so adrenaline-pumping, those weak of heart may want to keep their nitroglycerin handy. Bond is chasing a man through the crowded streets of Istanbul and ends up on top of a moving train. 'M' (Judi Dench) commands another agent in pursuit (Naomie Harris) to take a risky shot, Bond takes the hit and 'M' writes his obituary.
But, of course, 007's mortality has not been compromised and he decides to take his time before resurfacing. Holed-up in some sweaty not-so-exotic locale, he shoots scorpion (live) shots at a sleazy bar, looking extremely rough hewn.
Soon, duty calls and back in London 'M' has been called on the carpet by her superior (Ralph Fiennes) for leaking a hard drive containing a list of operational NATO agents. 'M' assigns 007 to locate and take down the culprit responsible.
Enter the nefarious nemesis, Silva (Javier Bardem), a homoerotic cyberterrorist. Way beyond creepy, Silva has an interesting history with 'M' and diabolical plans for Bond and his associates.
Sam Mendes ("American Beauty") is the first Oscar winner to direct a Bond film and it shows. There's a vast difference between the somewhat disappointing "Quantum of Solace" and "Skyfall." The writing (Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan), cinematography (Roger Deakins) and magnificent Oscar-laden cast put "Skyfall" at the top of the list for best Bond films ever made.
The film also gets up close and personal with its main characters. We get a never-before glimpse into Bond's tragic childhood. On an emotional level, some of MI6 employees are in the throes of becoming obsolete. They're aging in a world which is rapidly changing and, perhaps, no longer requires their services. Is old-fashioned human intelligence becoming passe?
Not if producers extraordinaire Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson are in charge. They recognize the need for exotic destinations, slick soundtracks, balancing the past and present and evolving. They also get the fact that the villain needs to be as important as Bond.
But most importantly, James Bond has to be perfectly cast and let go before even a whisper of losing his charm surfaces. Daniel Craig has signed on for two more sequels and at the end of "Skyfall" we're informed that, "James Bond will return." It's a comforting reassurance.
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