We were engaging in one of those meaningless but always enjoyable conversational riffs: which James Bond movies do you enjoy the most. Mine vary from time to time, but include On Her Majesty's Secret Service and You Only Live Twice (each considered, on release at least, to be something of a box office disappointment) not to mention all-out blockbusters like Thunderball and Goldfinger.
"Ahh," said our son, "you go for the early ones."
Well, yes, I guess I do.
I think I'll be revising my proverbial list (I always do, anyway); on Friday night, we braved the mall - it was MIdnight Madness, the weekend when the stores stay open late and they bring in security to conduct the traffic - to see Skyfall on its opening night. Yep, we're that kind of James Bond family.
It turns out the generous reviews have been on target. Skyfall really is that good. I put a lot of the credit with director Sam Mendes, who emphasizes story and character as much as spectacle and dazzling visuals ... and the latter are there, too. The investment of the reboot of Casino Royale six years ago pays off splendidly here, and the franchise brings back several key elements, chief among them the Bond sense of humour. There's actually a whole theme of what the movie calls the old ways: key characters are reintroduced, and not just Q (I'll leave the other as the surprise that the movie earns) but ongoing riffs and nods. See above for the return of the Aston Martin, whose ejector seat makes for a one-liner.
There's more: the gadgets are back, with a knowing reference and a scaled-down appreciation. With Javier Bardem's Silva, a villain worth putting up against Goldfinger himself. The globe-hobbing locales. And, yep, the guitar riff of the theme. (Not to mention a theme song that will probably get Adele an Oscar nomination, if not a win.)
Speaking of Oscars, the calibre of the cast is something else. Mendes, a winner himself, brought back not only Craig and Judi Dench, but adds Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney and Bardem to the screen. The Bond pattern was usually to get curiosities and character actors to round out the parts. Consequently, with a decent script (cowriter John Logan is arguably one of the best currently in the business, in any genre) and a confident director, the cast make for a Bond movie that has something new: genuine depth. Go figure.
I'm game to see it again: not to revel in the performances, mind you, but to absorb the whole spectacle again, and, yes, enjoy the jokes. As a Bond movie, Skyfall really works on that level, too.