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November 9, 2012

Bond is back and better than ever

— I’ve never seen a James Bond movie that I didn’t like. Even when they are cheesy or over-the-top, I still enjoy the timeless appeal of the sexy super-spy known as 007. That being said, I wasn’t prepared for how much I would absolutely love the latest James Bond movie. When the final history is written, I suspect that this will go down as one of the best films in the franchise, right up there with “Dr. No” and “Goldfinger.”

“Skyfall” starts off with a crowd-pleasing bang, with yet another terrific opening action sequence in which James Bond (Daniel Craig) is presumably killed. Of course this cannot be the case, but when our hero resurfaces, he is quite beat up. He seems to have lost a step, leaving the audience to wonder if he’s still the unbeatable movie hero we’ve come to know and love.

That physical uncertainty is a problem because whether he’s ready or not, Bond’s boss, M (Judi Dench) needs him to return to fieldwork immediately. Somebody has stolen the identities and locations of all of MI6’s agents, and naturally, it’s up to James Bond to swoop in and save the day. To do so, he’ll have to best a brilliant former agent named Silva, played with flamboyant relish by Javier Bardem.

Craig, Bardem and Dench are all superb, turning in much deeper, character-based performances here than most of the previous Bond films have allowed. Credit that to director Sam Mendes, certainly the most acclaimed man to ever helm one of these films. Mendes elevates the franchise by making his actors turn in full-blooded performances in the service of a film that is about something other than just tuxedoes, martinis and scantily-clad Bond girls.

Not content to make just another action blockbuster, Mendes asks some tough questions. He wants to know if MI6’s ruthless methods are really appropriate. Does M have blood on her hands? Does the end really justify the means? That’s a resonant question that makes “Skyfall” feel like a much more contemporary drama than any of the previous installments.

Don’t worry Bond fans; Mendes didn’t turn the franchise into an art house film. There are still plenty of all the things we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in a Bond film, including an undercurrent of droll British humor that I particularly love. The point is that Medes added the acting work on top of the Bond basics, and when you couple that with noticeably superior camera work from award-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins, “Skyfall” ends up being a Bond movie that is a step above the rest.

Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are published bi-weekly in “The Port Arthur News” and seen weekly on KFDM-TV and KBOI 2-TV. Sean welcomes your comments via email at smcbride@kboi2.com.

“Skyfall”

Columbia Pictures

Directed by Sam Mendes

Starring Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Berenice Lim Marlohe, Ben Whishaw and Albert Finney

Rated PG-13

3 1/2 Stars  

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