3 Stars — Suspenseful
One of the welcomed changes in the stories told on film is the increasing understanding of the importance of early family experiences. Understanding that all of us are products of our families of origin, the inclusion of such information gives the characters depth and allows us to better understand how they became who they are. This change is what makes Skyfall, the latest installment of the 50-year James Bond film franchise, qualitatively better.
The first film opened in October 1962 with Sean Connery as Agent 007 in Dr. No. Based on the spy created by Ian Fleming in 1953, his death in 1964 provided the opportunity for other authors to continue the saga.
Skyfall is the 23rd film from Eon Productions and the 25th film featuring the incomparable agent of the British MI6 organization. Written by the team of Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan, Skyfall is directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition).
In his third film as Bond, Daniel Craig is the sixth actor to fill the role of the agent with the “license to kill.” A Scottish orphan who was recruited by M (Judi Dench) because of his troubled childhood and conflicted soul, M notes that “orphans make the best agents.” It is his beginning in the Scottish highlands that becomes the setting for the climax of this chapter in the tale.
Keeping the familiar repartee that suggests they are all business, there is a loyalty between M and 007 that has been built over years of service together. This aging relationship is another theme of the tale as everyone recognizes that both are showing their age and are accused of depending on primitive forms of intelligence operations to protect the empire.
Also familiar to those who follow the tale is the ever-present Miss Eve Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), whose admiration for Agent 007 is seductively effective in this most recent chapter. As is true of every love interest of Bond since the first film, the Asian beauty (Tonia Sotiropoulou) he is attempting to free from sex-slavery is cruelly killed, leaving him continually and appropriately alone.
The villain is the sociopathic genius Severine (Berenice Marlohe), a former agent who went rogue and was abandoned years before by M. Severine is out to seek his revenge in this film. His troubled mind and soul create an evil that is clearly a match for the skills of Bond.
We won’t spoil the action except to note that this film is more creative and less gadget-centered than many of the former films. The action is somewhat formulaic and uses themes found not only in former Bond films but also in other action films. Weaving together the “sins” of M with the vengeance of Severine causes the film to be more complex, but it is still clear that though outgunned and outnumbered, no one can defeat James, James Bond.
» The opening sequence in which Bond is shot allows us to experience a cinematic near-death experience. Weaving together the images of mind and soul, we journey with Bond into a surreal experience of death from which he said he “resurrected.” How do you explain near-death experiences? What do you believe these experiences reveal — a continuing existence as we pass into the next life, or an imaginative moment when the mind ceases to function? On what basis do you make your assessment?
» When it becomes clear that Q (Ben Whishaw) is half the age of Bond, it is not lost on either of them. This passing of the baton to the next generation is a common theme in film today. Do you believe this is a reflection of the tension between the generations or an awareness that this transition is occurring more frequently as baby boomers are retiring at record rates and giving up their places of influence?
» The complexity of the plan created by Severine to exact his vengeance demonstrates his insanity. Have you ever been the recipient of vengeance? Have you ever exacted revenge? From where do you think such evil comes? Why do you answer as you do?
— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.