Bond is back: Lines are blurred between hackney and tradition

Bond+is+back%3A+Lines+are+blurred+between+hackney+and+tradition

Courtesy photo

Bond, played by Daniel Craig, appears shaken and stirred during a fireflight with minions of the villon Raoule Silva in Sam Mendes's directed movie "Skyfall," the twenty-third 007 film.

“I’m frightened because our enemies are no longer known to us. They do not exist on a map, they’re not nations. They’re individuals.”

“Skyfall” opened this weekend. the twenty-third film in the long-running James Bond:007 franchise. Britain’s central intelligence agency, MI6, is being sabotaged by one man (played by Javier Bardem) and his technological prowess. The old ways of espionage are being tried against the digital age, where terror runs without flags or borders. In this new arena, Bond struggles as an old dog with his Walther PPK and some quick feet.

The opening scene provokes a far more vulnerable Bond, played by Daniel Craig. A bullet wound has destroyed his marksmanship. His stamina has weakened from drink. Most importantly, his loyalty to king and country isn’t what it used to be.

Throughout the film, there are consistent thematic elements that are sure to keep the literary types enthused. Tones of resurrection, of struggles with change and tried and true good vs. evil are all here. There’s even a bit of social commentary that attempts to make the film more important than it is, but not with the same vomit-inducing melodrama contained in the “The Dark Knight”. This film knows how to be subtle.

There are plenty of Bond traditions that fans will be quick to catch. There’s a musical introduction performed by a famous singer, Adele. There are your chase scenes, shoot outs, gadgets, vodka martinis and yes sir, beautiful women. The tantalizing Bérénice Marlohe plays the bond girl, Sévérine.

The film has some brilliantly rendered moments. One night scene has Bond tailing an assassin in Shanghai. He follows him to the top floor of a high-rise building illuminated by the city lights. Bond allows the assassin to kill his victim, then comes my favorite part: old fashioned fisticuffs. Craig has a body type that is perfect for hand-to-hand combat (can’t say the same about his awkward running), and it’s tastefully shot in one continuous take, which you don’t see often in the cut-up, music video approach to modern filming (See “The Dark Knight Rises”).

Shanghai looks beautiful in the backdrop, creating a silhouetted struggle between two “men of the shadows.” It’s poetic, it’s choreographed wonderfully and it’s a blast to watch.

Another scene, again weaving itself tightly with the struggles of old and new, has Bond and his allies shacked up in an abandoned estate on the countryside of England. Using homemade explosives and a hunting rifle, Bond and an old friend are at odds with a platoon of fully armed gunmen and a fancy new helicopter.

It’s a Die Hard approach to action scenes, where the hero is weakened, outnumbered and outgunned. Witnessing how the old man manages to kill everyone anyway is an expected surprise. The location is equally surprising, as exotic cityscapes or secluded military bases are the usual locales in a Bond film.

Skyfall is a sophisticated study of the spy archetype (with explosions), but it’s not perfect.

I felt fatigued with a lot of the material here. From the vehicular chase scenes, to the villain who’s always one step ahead of the heroes (I meant for you to capture me all along!), to the last-words from a dying central character. Many of scenes will make you aware of how often Hollywood likes to use the samcut-outs to stencil their films. Insert Judi Dench here, they might have said.

There’s even a part where both Bond and the villain defy death after a large explosion, just so they can have one last confrontation, which I’m sure you’ve never seen before.

Regardless, it’s all done well, and if you’re thinking of dipping your feet in the longest running franchise in cinema history, you’ll get your money’s worth. Every penny of it.