Character drives ‘Skyfall’

Iconic characters power our cinemas today. In the last two decades we’ve seen multiple Batmen and Spideys and “Star Wars” will return to the big screen in 2015, but the icon that has graced our screen 23 times is the devilishly handsome, sly spy James Bond.

Bond’s 23rd film, “Skyfall,” is an amalgamation of Bond mythos, humor and beautiful action work.

James Bond is tested when MI6 is under attack by an individual from M’s past. Bond is MI6’s only hope when push comes to shove from the brazen blond Javier Bardem as “Skyfall’s” villain, Silva.

Bardem, best known for his work in “No Country for Old Men,” creates a fascinating villain with his performance that has both a Bond baddie quirk, but is still convincing as a character with humanity without empathy. The most memorable scene won’t be when Bardem kills or reveals his true face. The scene remembered most will be when Silva intimidates Bond with sexuality. This scene is particularly interesting, because it counters everyone’s overly sexed super spy.

Bardem certainly gives the stand-out performance, because it’s delightfully devious, but Daniel Craig’s Bond in “Skyfall” has proven himself as this iconic character. So many wonderful British actors have taken on the role of 007, but Craig has perfected his style and makes “Skyfall” all his own.

The acting is superb, but actors would be nothing without words to say in the film so credit has to go to the writers John Logan, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. The three screenwriters have assembled a screenplay wrought with cunning dialogue scenes and action sequences that will have your jaw dropping. The pieces of the screenplay Bond fans will love the most are nods to Bond’s past.

One of those returns to the past is the reintroduction to Q, short for Quartermaster, his gadgets and exchanged witticisms with 007. These are particularly good scenes, because they cut through the intensity of the thematic drama Silva brings to “Skyfall.” There are plenty more Easter eggs for Bond fans to find, but I won’t spoil those.

Finally, the person who deserves the most credit is director Sam Mendes. When Mendes was announced fans were skeptical, because he had only done character-based dramas, never action. Mendes is exactly what Bond needed after the critical drop of “Quantum of Solace.” Mendes gives audiences a character-driven action film that explores Bond’s extensive mythology and a view into the livelihood of a man tasked with protecting his country. I’m thrilled to see studios finally approach big-action pictures with directors who know character building and drama.

Never fear, movie fans, major studios are finally starting to understand there is more to action films than simply big guys with guns. I look forward to future Bond films and watching more iconic characters embrace directors and writers willing to focus on character over action.

Patrick White

Movie fan Patrick White doesn't spare anyone's feelings when deciding if the latest Hollywood offering is trash or treasure. Catch his reviews on the latest theater and DVD releases in Saturday's paper.

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