Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

'Skyfall' Breaks Traditions

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

'Skyfall' Breaks Traditions

Article excerpt

Of all the taunts we've heard a dastardly villain sneer at James Bond over the last 50 years, I don't think there's ever been anything like this: "Your knees must be killing you."

The cocky newly-certified Agent 007 played so vibrantly by Daniel Craig in "Casino Royale" is gone, replaced by an aging, edgier spy who has been written off as dead after a thrilling opening action sequence, ending in a fistfight atop of a speeding train.

When Bond does turn up again, he's haggard, bloodshot, twitchy and graying. He's been seriously wounded, turning to booze and pills to dull the pain. The icy bravado is still there, but the hands are shaky.

The consensus, among friend and foe alike, is universal: Bond has lost a step.

And it's not just 007. In "Skyfall," which arrives a half- century after the first James Bond film, the entire espionage racket as practiced by MI6 is being condemned as antiquated and clunky.

Spy chief M (Judi Dench) is being urged into retirement. Politicians such as Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) are cracking down. Field agents like Bond are increasingly seen as antediluvian throwbacks, blunt instruments to be employed only when the technological wizardry of whippersnappers like Q (Ben Whishaw) won't suffice.

Things are brought into stark relief when a mysterious antagonist manages to hack MI6's database of secret agents and blow up a big chunk of their building, too. Suddenly, it's the spymasters who appear one step behind.

As much as "Casino Royale" felt like a game-changer six years ago, "Skyfall" moves the ball further down the field. It is both grander and grimmer. The storyline is stripped down and spare, excised of extraneous supporting characters, distracting subplots and an emphasis on gadgetry.

Even Bond's legendary libido is shunted to a back burner, with the usual menagerie of "Bond girls" restricted to a fellow operative (Naomie Harris) who talks the talk but teeters along the walk, and the top villain's henchwoman (Berenice Marlohe), whose tale evokes more pity than sexual energy. …

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