When we are first introduced to the cinematic Bond, in 1962's Dr. No, it is without the benefit of any sort of origin story. Sean Connery simply saunters on, scintillates between extremely cool and very, very cold, and enters into filmic mythology.
Through five additional actors and five decades of films, very little is told to the viewer about Bond's past prior to his entry into MI6, aside from the hint of military service, presumably in Her Majesty's Navy. Even the reboot begun with Casino Royale, which places Daniel Craig at the very onset of Bond's 'double-O' career, does so without a personal motivation or score to be settled.
As only the third iteration of James Blond, it feels a little early for Skyfall to be talking about change. But when M's (Judi Dench) new boss (Ralph Fiennes) talks about transitioning her out of MI6, and questions Bond's ability to return to the field following his being presumed dead, it feels pretty natural. After all, Casino Royale came out over half a decade ago, and with fewer and fewer gadgets picking up the slack, there is alot more physicality for the actor to pick up, which Craig still does with aplomb.
Skyfall manages to hit all the requisite Bond checkpoints (Chases? Check. Escapes? You bet. Nasty close quarters fights? Absolutely. Bluffing your way into a casino with charm and a tuxedo? Mais bien sur!) without ever feeling tired or played out. Maybe that's because much of the movie focuses on M, whose leadership is called into question at the start of the movie, and she spends much of the rest of it on the defensive, explaining her actions, including the ones that left Bond for dead before the opening credits. Dame Judi Dench has always been stellar in her turn as M, but she has a lot more to work with in Skyfall, and the movie is much better off as a result.
Javier Bardem's villainous Mr. Silva is so captivating it makes you wonder why they wait until the second half of the film to unveil him. In a catalogue that includes some of cinema's greatest villains, Bardem's portrayal of a wounded and disturbed genius is a tremendously well done blend of villainy and vulnerability. Until the Craig iteration, the Bond villain often had to function as a dyad of Mastermind and Heavy (Goldfinger & Odd Job, Drax and Jaws, etc), but Mr. Silva is credible as both.
It is also a treat to meet the new Q, played by Ben Whishaw, who sets the tone for the enterprise when he equips 007 with his trademark Walther PPK (albeit with a palmprint scanner) and a homing beacon. When Bond expresses disappointment, Q's smug response of, "What were you expecting, an exploding pen? We don't really go in for that sort of thing these days," tells both Bond and the viewer that the days of laser wristwatches are well behind us. (That said, I think more accessible gadgetry, like both the briefcase and shoe-blade in From Russia With Love would be appreciated, at least by me!) There are a couple of choice moments for longtime Bond fans though, which I shall not spoil for you.
Skyfall works both as an action packed espionage romp, and an exploration about the costs of intelligence work, both individual and societal, in a post-Cold War, asymmetric environment, where telling the white hats from the black gets more complicated every day. What drives a person to stay in such work, or to return to it when they are given an out?
On its own, it is not quite as fresh or well-executed as Casino Royale, but I enjoyed it far more than Quantum of Solace. There are not a lot of belly laughs in it, but more chuckles than the first two Craig outings. If you enjoy Bond movies at all, i would recommend checking it out, and soon, you can enjoy being surprised at a couple of points.
This was also my first experience at the Cineplex VIP Cinemas, where you pay a premium price for premium, reserved seating in an 18 years and up environment. There is a licensed lounge where you can enjoy a beer or a cocktail while you wait for your theater to open. There are even themed drinks, so Audrey enjoyed an MI6 in a martini glass while the rest of enjoyed pints of Big Rock Traditional, and shared some deep fried dill pickles which were extremely awesome.
Once the theatre opens, you can take your place in a cushy seat, pull out your little table and place an order for either hot food menu items or popcorn and movie snacks, which are brought direct to your seat in a remarkably short period of time. James and Glen had the Angus burgers, while Audrey and went tapas-style on the appetizer menu and tried the Thai chili chicken bites, yam fries, and spring rolls. About the same price and quality you would pay in a pub, the experience of having these morsels brought to your seat prior to showtime (along with another pint) is quite the treat.
Be forewarned, apparently an adult-only screening is no assurance against juvenile behaviour, like the git in the front row recliners who felt compelled to check his smartphone for messages every twenty minutes or so. Is it out of line to go down and ask if such a person is a doctor? You know, because the messages must be pretty important to keep checking them in the middle of a film like that...
At $20 a seat, I like movies too much to only go half as often as I do, which is what it would take to do this every time. But for special occasions or busy opening weekends, the VIP experience is definitely worth trying at least once!