Published on: November 16, 2012Skyfall
is magnificent, not only the best James Bond movie ever made, but also a terrific movie by any standard. (It also is the beneficiary of good and inadvertent timing. Is there a news channel over the past week that has not used the phrase "Spyfall" to describe the travails of former CIA chief David Petraeus?)Skyfall
also is an example of how taking your time and having the right priorities can be a smart business decision. The last James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace
, came out in 2008, and was not a favorite of critics or fans. (I liked it, despite the darkness of the script. I thought that Bond, having gone through the trauma of losing Vesper Lynd in the terrific Casino Royale
, needed the kind of revenge-driven catharsis provided in Quantum
. It compares favorably, I think, to the way the series dealt with the death of his wife - perhaps the only other time the character has suffered any personal trauma - at the end of On Her Majesty's Secret Service
; at the beginning of Diamonds Are Forever
, it was never even mentioned.) But since Quantum
came out (and made a lot of money, by the way), the studio with rights to the Bond films had financial problems, placing the future of the series in jeopardy.
This allowed the producers, director and writers to take their time in crafting Skyfall
, and what they came up with is the best-written and directed film of the series - thoughtful, well-plotted, with characters that have an emotional stake in the proceedings. At the same time, they've done so with the requisite light touch ... there is more humor than in any of the other Daniel Craig films, and they've shot must of the film in London, giving Skyfall
a realistic geographic grounding as well as an emotional foundation. (Kudos to director Sam Mendes and writers Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan.)
I actually don't want to describe the plot in any sort of detail, except to say that just six years after Casino Royale
, which rebooted the series by detailing Bond's days as a young agent just having gotten his license to kill and 007 designation, Skyfall
shows a man who has been worn down by all the killing, who - along with M, the head of MI6 - finds himself and his skills being marginalized by shifting geopolitical events. In addition to being a crackerjack thriller, Skyfall
also is a redemption story of sorts. (At least twice in the story, there are images of cleansing and baptism ... watch for them.) It is about Bond's roots, and core values, but it handles these matters in ways that are never less that total fun.
Without overworking the themes, Skyfall
has resonances of earlier Bond films. There are scenes in Istanbul and a great train fight (think From Russia With Love
, until now my favorite Bond film ... I'm not one of those who prefers Goldfinger
). A scorpion makes an appearance that reminded me of the tarantula in Dr. No
. And there are a number of characters and references from earlier movies.
Perhaps my favorite little moment that shows institutional memory is when, for a brief moment, there is a glimpse of a painting - Modigliani's "Woman with a Fan," which was actually stolen from the Museum of Modern Art in Paris in 2010. It so happens that in the first Bond movie, Dr. No
, there is a brief glimpse of another stolen painting - "The Duke of Wellington," by Goya. I love little touches like that.
I saw Skyfall
in the wonderful AMC Imax theater in Port Chester, New York, and I heartily recommend that if you can see it in Imax, it is worth the investment. Skyfall
is big and beautiful and an absolutely blast. See it.
And a memo to co-producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli (who I sat next to in a film class at Loyola Marymount an eon ago, though I did not know her). There are those who want you to rush out the next Bond movie to take advantage of the fact that Skyfall
is such a hit. But you should take your time. Let the story and characters marinate. Get all the elements right. Because you've demonstrated with Skyfall
that when you do so, nobody does it better.
I have two wonderful wines to recommend to you this week.
• the 2011 Alain Paret Cotes-du-Rhone Valvigneyre, a Viognier that is bright and refreshing and perfect with seafood.
• the 2009 Villa Cafaggio Chianti Classico, which is fantastic with spicy Italian food ... instantly becoming one of my favorite chiantis ever.
Both, by the way, are available from Nicholas Roberts Ltd, which powers the MNB Wine Club. And if you haven't checked it out, you ought to click here to look into the MNB Wine Club
. It is a great way to find out about and taste some unusual and hard-to-find wines, and be a part of a growing segment of the MNB community.
That's it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.