The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Enjoy

November 16, 2012

Benji Tunnell: Superb 'Skyfall' lets Bond grow as a character

I’ve been mocked over the years for choosing to pursue an English degree. And I’ll be honest, my degree hasn’t really benefited me much in my real-world career. Aside from bothering you good folks once a week, I have found very little use for it.

In an uncertain economy, I’ve been keeping my eyes open for other, if not more lucrative then at least more in-demand, fields. After much analysis, I believe that I may finally have found my fallback: high-stakes espionage.

If movies are to be believed, being a government operative is a growing vocational opportunity just waiting to be tapped. In the past few years, we’ve seen everything including “Salt,” the Jason Bourne/Aaron Cross films, the return of the “Mission: Impossible” force and so many in between.

It seems like spies are everywhere. And the granddaddy of them all, James Bond, dusts off his tuxedo to make his triumphant return in “Skyfall.”

In his latest adventure, Bond (Daniel Craig) is shot and presumed killed while trying to recover a hard drive containing the true identities of agents in the field. As he enjoys the life of a dead man, MI6 is attacked by a cyber hacker who destroys part of headquarters, killing a half dozen in the process, then begins releasing the identities of the covert agents on the Internet, jeopardizing the lives of countless field operatives and years of work.

Bond realizes that he can either carouse and womanize for free or he can get paid for it, as well as get the satisfaction of avenging his fake death and stopping the hacker. So he comes out of hiding, and after failing all tests, is put back into active duty by M (Judi Dench). He then must track down the villain, who has his own axe to grind with MI6.

Craig quickly erased the bad memories of the last few Pierce Brosnan films when he assumed the Bond role in “Casino Royale,” bringing a steely seriousness that eliminated the fears of those who felt he didn’t fit the idea of James Bond, as conceived by Ian Fleming. Craig followed that up with the mediocre “Quantum of Solace,” a disappointing misstep that snubbed out the goodwill of the first film.

After sitting on the sidelines for four years, mostly because of parent studio MGM’s bankruptcy issues, Craig and Bond are back, and he jumps into the role as if “Solace” was just a bad dream.

Craig does a fantastic job of humanizing James Bond. A character that had begun transitioning to caricature, all libido and one-liners, is brought back to be more relatable. Starting in “Royale,” Craig began to reclaim Bond as a human being.

More than just bravado and swagger, Craig’s Bond had the ability to love and to lose. He is allowed emotion and frustration as well as anger and humor. Bond is more driven in this film, having loved and had love taken away, then abandoned by the agency that he had devoted his life to.

Bond is aging (if not in real time, then in movie time), and that is reflected in how he adjusts to his return to service. It is a refreshing aspect to the character and franchise, and one that I hope carries over to future films.

Also solid is director Sam Mendes. Mendes made his name directing more dramatic fare (“American Beauty,” “Revolutionary Road”), and that serious touch perfectly accents the direction of the new Bond.

But for those who would worry that he might not have the action chops to handle a big-budget spectacle film required of the 007 franchise, he quickly puts minds at ease with a white knuckle opening sequence as fine as any seen in the series. He directs the frenetic pace nimbly, then transitions to the more dramatic aspects flawlessly.

If there was a running critique of the past couple of films, it is the lack of a truly commanding villain. The Bond series is known for its villains as much as its hero.

That is remedied this time out, as Silva (Javier Bardem) is a throwback to earlier Bonds, a scenery-chewing bad guy who reeks of evil. He is as adept at executing a loved one as he is at hacking into government databases. Aside from a hideous hairstyle (apparently a trademark of Bardem lately), he is a quintessential Bond baddie and one who fits snuggly into the tradition of the series’ super villains.

Back as well is Dench, who continues to add character to her role as she ages. She plays an integral part of the plot of the film and gets to flex a bit of action muscle, even if she might be a bit weaker than her counterparts. New to the franchise is Ralph Fiennes as Gareth Mallory, a bureaucrat who lacks faith in Bonds’ abilities, and Naomi Harris as Eve, a field agent who is set up to play a longer-running role in future films.

The final action sequence earns the price of admission, and it leads to a catharsis that feels completely earned and is shared with the audience. It is a fitting end to a fine film and a great addition to a franchise that’s now a half-century old but feeling fresher than ever.

1
Text Only
Enjoy
  • 071814_whiskeydicks.jpg Stretching out: Whiskey Dick's can do more in a bigger downtown location

    For the Whiskey Dick's owners, it isn't a matter of what's in a name but more of a place where everybody knows your name.

    July 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Film-Hollywoods Ape M_Cast.jpg Benji Tunnell: Great CGI, solid writing make 'Apes' a near-perfect blockbuster

    A couple of weeks ago, we saw "Transformers 4," a big, computer-driven blockbuster film that was symbolic of all that is wrong with filmmaking today.

    July 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • polyphony.jpg Marta Churchwell: New Mexico marimba group returns for concert Sunday

    They're back. Polyphony Marimba, the Santa Fe, New Mexico, band that wowed the crowd with African music during a Downtown Joplin Third Thursday last summer, received such a response to that performance that they're coming back on Sunday.

    July 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • River Regatta 2013.jpg Dave Woods: Nevada regatta makes for a birthday escape

    In just three weeks, I'll spend my 50th birthday floating down the Colorado River with 35,000 of my closest friends.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo 1 Slideshow 1 Story

  • 071814_pickin trimmin.jpg New festival focuses on short independent films

    As Jack Truman saw his films play in festivals around the world, one lingering thought persisted: He wished that such festivals existed in his hometown area.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • 071614 Glory Days_72.jpg Glory Days Music to resume weekly in-store concerts

    The staff at Glory Days Music have been working their business as usual. Musicians demonstrate guitars, drums and other instruments. Music is sold; lessons are taught. But something has been missing.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • mug_joe-hadsall-112613.jpg Joe Hadsall: All the hidden secrets in "Weird Al's" "Word Crimes" video

    I sincerely believe the "Word Crimes" video will become the most important song in history, and the most mandatory-to-watch video in schools across the country.

    July 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • mug_joe-hadsall-112613.jpg Globe Phone Test: Concept is clever, but transitions tricky with Asus PadFone X

    It's kind of embarrassing to point this out, but "Candy Crush Saga" is one of the best ways to illustrate how well the Asus PadFone X, a smartphone and tablet combo really works.

    Anyone who has more than one device will understand this situation completely: Let's say a player fires up "Candy Crush" on his tablet computer and really digs the game. A lot. So much so that he downloads it to his smartphone.

    Only there's one problem: All the progress made on the tablet is stuck on the tablet. The smartphone has a completely separate path of progress, meaning the player has to play each level twice. This makes progress through the game twice as long. (This problem can be fixed by signing up for the game on Facebook, but no one really wants their Facebook friends to know they spend so much time crushin' candy.)

    The Asus PadFone X is the dream solution to this nightmare of a problem.

    Available exclusively from AT&T, the device is actually two devices. A standalone smartphone can be plugged into a tablet computer, meaning the owner can take his pick of how he wants to play the game, and all the progress he makes is saved on one device's hard drive.

    AT&T loaned us a device that we tested for more than two weeks -- didn't like having to send it back -- and we found a lot of its qualities and quirks.

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Tantric tours in support of latest studio album

    "37 Channels," the latest album from Hugo Ferreira's band, features a lineup of guests including Hinder's Austin Winkler, Shooter Jennings, 3 Doors Down drummer Greg Upchurch, Uncle Kracker guitarist Kevin McCreery, Saving Abel guitarist Scott Bartlett and Leif Garrettt.

    July 11, 2014

  • 071114_steve cindy head.jpg New exhibit combines works of married couple

    Steve and Cindy Head create different types of art, which means they can be each other's best mentor. Steve makes mixed media works assembled from photographs, headlines and more; Cindy paints vivid patterns and fanciful scenes with bold color palettes.

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo