DIRECTOR: Sam Mendes
WRITERS: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and John Logan
WHO’S IN IT: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Naomie Harri
THE STORY: James Bond (Daniel Craig in his third go-round as a distinctly 21st century Bond) has to save M (Judi Dench), the head of MI6, from an extremely dangerous man (Javier Bardem) with a knack for cyberterrorism while dealing with his own mortality.
IN MY OPINION: This is a James Bond film going through the popular trend of dissecting pop culture icons, and it mostly works. Here Bond makes mistakes. His aging is actually acknowledged (and is a frequent theme of the film). While Bond is still a cool suave lady-killer (and killer, period) there are always times where you get a glimpse of Bond as a booze-and-sex-soaked wreck who justifies satisfying his murderous urges through his job and his loyalty to his longtime colleague, boss and handler M. This idea of an insecure Bond who keeps finding himself dealing with his aging and the possibility that he and his particular profession are no longer relevant would not work if someone like Craig weren’t our lead. Craig has always smartly played Bond as a suave soldier, and not just a swinging cool guy who happens to also save the world and kill people. Here this soldier, with his years of acknowledged service (one can’t help but think of the half-century history of the James Bond franchise), is finally dealing with the fact that he is a human, and therefore imperfect and bound to eventually die. While the character may never actually die in popular culture, Craig hides that. Craig’s rather large piercing blue eyes seem to pop when Bond is faced with dealing with the fact that he might not be able to cut it as an agent anymore, particularly in a scene that involves a woman and a shot glass, and through most of the last act. This is a Bond film that acknowledges Bond’s faults, but yet also honors tradition and what has come before. Those elements work to mixed success here. Something must also be said for Dame Judi Dench, who can still show every single emotion through her face and voice, which is the idea for any actor. Dench does this marvelously. Yet one can’t not mention Bardem as the film’s villain, Silva. You will remember this character and performance. Guaranteed. Silva is not a simple mustache-twirling bad guy, but a man whose reasons for his actions can be seen and even somewhat understood on his twisted, shark-like face. This is a presumably already rather complex man who had something absolutely horrific bring him to a whole new level of bitterness and madness. The fact that Bardem can make you understand and even sort of sympathize with this Hannibal Lecter-meets-Heath -Ledger’s-Joker-meets-a-flamboyant-hair-stylist is a statement to his astounding abilities.
(On the Big Screen is a regular monthly feature of The Laker Current and is compiled by staff writers. It is designed to spotlight movies being shown in local theaters.)