After 50 years of killing it as the definitive cinematic superspy, James Bond remains at the very top of his game. (Conjure on that, Harry Potter!) Skyfall, the 23rd title in the series and the third outing for Daniel Craig as suave and deadly 007, has cyber-terrorism as the threat du jour. But notwithstanding a silky uber-villain, exotic locales, kinetic chases, a few droll quips and all the other expected tropes, this is a grimmer, almost elegiac affair, one suffused with feelings of mortality and compromise. Exhilarating, sure, but also with unexpectedly powerful dramatic elements likely to leave the audience shaken as well as stirred.
The plot takes off when a computer disk identifying all the double agents embedded in terrorist organizations worldwide is stolen. Initial efforts to retrieve the disk fail spectacularly — including what seems to be the death of 007. Back in London, an embattled M (Judi Dench) is fighting with bureaucrats and politicians who think that MI6 has lost its way and needs a shake-up — including a new boss. A deadly assault on MI6 headquarters sharpens the crisis considerably, and even the unexpected reappearance of Bond does nothing to relieve the gloom.
Although he’s unfit for duty, M sends him to Shanghai anyway, where he finds hints of a trail that eventually leads him to a disgraced ex-spy named Silva (Javier Bardem), a brilliant criminal with a personal grudge against M. In a deliciously perverse scene echoing one in 2006’s Casino Royale, Bond is tied to a chair as Silva advances towards him with quiet menace. But rather than torturing him, the blond-haired Silva seductively fusses over the scars on Bond’s chest and shoulders. (Both Craig and the Oscar-winning Bardem are superb actors, and their homoerotic exchange is a marvel of the unexpected.) The plot continues to corkscrew from there, moving to London and ultimately to the wilds of Scotland as a thrilling battle of courage and wits plays out with unexpected results.
Helmed by the talented Sam Mendes (who won an Oscar for American Beauty), Skyfall is an ambitious and nearly flawless piece of genre movie-making. The superb action scenes are clever but also brutally physical, while the postcard images of Shanghai and Macau at night dazzle with their colourful beauty. (And give them points for the scene where a ruthless assassin has a gruesome encounter with a komodo dragon.) The acting is consistently excellent, and they scored big with likable Ben Wishaw (I’m Not There, Cloud Atlas) as the next-generation Q, the whip-smart computer nerd who gives 007 his spy toys. The “Bond girls” are now professional women able to meet and mate with 007 on their own terms, and there is even an applause-inducing cameo by the iconic Aston Martin DB5 that was 007’s co-star in Goldfinger.
Strong threads of guilt and regret are woven throughout the screenplay, and both M and 007 are challenged to reckon with their past. Craig’s grim, creased face conveys a depth of emotion, and when the meaning of “Skyfall” is finally revealed it helps explain the personal history of a man willing to be a patriotic killer for Queen and country. M
Directed by Sam Mendes
Starring Daniel Craig, Judi Dench
PG 13 – 143 minutes. Continues at the Capitol, SilverCity, Uni 4 and Westshore
A classic Bond film requires a classic martini: The Vesper. Named after 007’s only true love (who dies at the end of Casino Royale), this very dry cocktail is made with three measures of Gordon’s gin, one of vodka, and a half-measure of Kina Lillet (a fortified wine akin to vermouth). Shake well until ice cold, then add a large slice of lemon peel. Cheers to Queen and country!
Victoria’s Film Listings:
TWILIGHT: BREAKING DAWN PART 2 -(Capitol/SilverCity/Uni 4/Westshore) The fact that real-life vamp Kristen (she done him wrong) Stewart seems to have reunited with cheated-upon co-star Robert Pattinson may overshadow the conclusion of this rather bloodless tweener soap about a vampire-human-werewolf love triangle. Starts Thurs.
LINCOLN -(Odeon) Stephen Spielberg directs award-winning playwright Tony (Angels in America) Kushner’s account of Abraham Lincoln’s dark days as he fights the Civil War and also fights political battles in his cabinet over plans to free America’s black slaves. The cast includes Daniel Day-Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field. Starts Fri.
THE SESSIONS -(Odeon) Rave reviews have greeted this frank and funny account of a man in an iron lung who who wants to lose his viriginity and decides to have several sessions with a sex surrogate. Starring John Hawkes, William H. Macy, and Helen Hunt. Based on a true story. Starts Fri.
HERE COMES THE BOOM -(Caprice) Kevin James stars in a badly-reviewed comedy about a high school teacher who recklessly decides to become a mixed-martial-arts performer to raise money for his in-need school. Starts Fri.
★★★½ ARGO -(Capitol/SilverCity/Westshore/Caprice) Despite some liberties taken with the facts, this account of a CIA agent who managed to smuggle six Americans to safety from Iran during the famed 1979-’80 hostage crisis is surprisingly even-handed, very suspenseful and truly entertaining. Directed by and starring Ben Affleck.
★★½ CLOUD ATLAS -(Odeon/SilverCity) German director Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) combines forces with Andy and Lana Wachowski (The Matrix) to take us on an exotic, wildly ambitious trip as characters lead parallel and contrasting lives in six different storylines in the past, present, and future. Starring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, and Hugh Grant.
DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: DOG DAYS -(Caprice) Greg is totally ready for summer when suddenly his plans all fall apart. What’s the poor guy gonna do now?
★★★ FLIGHT -(Odeon/SilverCity) Denzel Washington is excellent in a morally complex drama about a heroic pilot who “impossibly” saves an airliner from certain destruction, only to find himself in a world of trouble for unexpected reasons. See review.
HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA -(SilverCity/Caprice) A hotel where vampires and sundry other monsters hide out from humans gets a big scare when a backpacking dude shows up looking for a room. This animated comedy features the voices of Adam Sandler, Kevin James, and Andy Samberg. Note: moves here from the Westshore on Friday.
★★★½ LOOPER -(Odeon/SilverCity/Westshore) This trippy, noir-tinged sci-fi thriller is a stylish mash-up of hitmen and time travel. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Premium Rush), Bruce Willis, and Emily Blunt.
★★★ MADAGASCAR 3: EUROPE’S MOST WANTED -(Caprice) Those mouthy NYC zoo escapees are up to their usual colourful antics in a wittily entertaining animation romp.
★★ THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS -(Odeon) Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu and a small army of martial artists get their “fu” on with a rousing tale of gold fever and blood lust as rival warriors, bandits and assassins descend on a small Chinese village that holds a fortune ready for the plundering. This goofy, gory homage to classic kung fu is fun exploitation entertainment.
★★½ MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN -(Odeon) Deepa Mehta (Water) directs a competent but less-than-engaging adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s award-winning novel, a sprawling and epic account of 60 years of recent East Indian history.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 -(Caprice) The once-interesting trick of using faux found footage to give a spritz of realism to horror flicks is becomeing duller with every sequel to this series about spooky doings in the suburbs. Note: moves here from the Westshore on Friday.
THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER -(Odeon) This coming-of-age romantic drama focuses on a freshman introvert who is befriended by a small group of slightly crazy friends.
★★½ PITCH PERFECT -(Westshore) It’s a gals-versus-the-guys vocal throwdown, as competing campus choirs seem to have gone to college only to major in Glee. Although not exactly Oscar bait, this is lots of fluffy fun.
★★★★ THE SEARCH FOR SUGAR MAN -(Uni 4) This musical documentary, a big Sundance winner, features the incredible quest of two South African men to discover whatever happened to a Bob Dylan-style troubadour from the early ’70s who never amounted to anything in his native America but became a huge superstar — and revolutionary influence — in South Africa at the height of the Apartheid era.
★★★ SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS -(Capitol) A struggling screenwriter accidentally gets mixed up with some really nasty criminals and lots of people die. With Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, and Christopher Walken. Not to all tastes, but this is a smart, darkly funny black comedy from the writer-director of In Bruges.
SINISTER -(Caprice) Some gruesome “found footage” is at the centre of this horror flick that seems to owe a large debt to The Ring. Starring Ethan Hawke.
★★★★ SKYFALL -(Capitol/SilverCity/Uni 4/Westshore) The latest James Bond spy thriller features cool gadgets, exotic locales . . . and a villain with a vendetta against poor old M. Easily one of the best Bonds ever, this has all the usual thrills but also an elegiacal tone and some unexpected drama that will leave the audience shaken and stirred. Starring Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, and Ralph Fiennes. See review.
★★½ TAKEN 2 -(Caprice) Liam Neeson reprises his role as a retired CIA tough guy who has to use his nastiest skills when his wife gets kidnapped by the vengeful father of the goon that Neeson killed in the last movie. Well-directed if rather soulless action porn that benefits from its Istanbul setting. Note: moves here from the Odeon on Friday.
★★★ WRECK–IT RALPH -(Capitol/SilverCity/Uni 4/Westshore) John C. Reilly provides the voice for a video-game villain who tires of being a bad guy and sets out on a quest that throws an entire video arcade into chaos. This occasionally-inspired animation lark includes the voices of Sarah Silverman and Jane Lynch.
★★ ALEX CROSS -(Caprice)
★★½ THE PAPERBOY -(Odeon)
★★½ PARANORMAN -(Caprice)
SILENT HILL: REVELATION -(Capitol/Caprice)
★★★½ END OF WATCH -(Caprice)
★★ THE BOURNE LEGACY -(Caprice)
★★½ CHASING MAVERICKS -(Odeon)
FUN SIZE -(Caprice)
AIR RACERS -(1 pm, 5 pm & 8 pm, Sun.-Wed.) Paul Walker narrates this pulse-pounding documentary about the world’s fastest race, as amazingly nimble planes negotiate a tricky course at 500 MPH.
★★★ THE DARK KNIGHT RISES -(8 pm, Thurs.-Sat.)
THE LAST REEF: BENEATH THE SEA -(11 am, 2 pm, 4 pm, 7 pm)
★★★½ ROCKY MOUNTAIN EXPRESS -(10 am, 3 pm) Here’s a patriotic account of the many daunting challenges behind building the CPR railway: part history lesson, part glorious travelogue.
TO THE ARCTIC -(noon, 6 pm)
MOVIE MONDAY – Is screening How To Die In Oregon. This timely documentary enters the lives of five terminally ill patients in Oregon who are considering whether to avail themselves of that state’s law allowing physician-assisted suicide for those with less than six months to live. By donation. 6:30pm MONDAY in the 1900-block Fort. 595FLIC. moviemonday.ca
SOCIAL JUSTICE FILM NIGHT -is presenting two films on Haiti: Haiti: Call of the Conch, which tells of the devastating 2010 earthquake and its aftermath; and Baseball in the Time of Cholera, a depiction of the terrible cholera epidemic that broke out in October 2010 as a result of United Nations recklessness. THURSDAY, Nov . 15, 7 pm, 2994 Douglas Street (BCGEU Hall).
QUOTE–ALONG CLASSIC CINEMA -Has Billy ever seen a grown man naked? This and other crucial questions are explored in the ridiculously funny Airplane!, which helped spawn two decades of guffaw-a-minute movie spoofs. SATURDAY, 7 pm, at the Vic Theatre, 808 Douglas St.
ATTENTION GRADE 12 AND UNDER! -The Victoria Film Festival’s FilmCAN is back and looking for entries. Make a short film, load it online, and win a chance to screen it at the 2013 Victoria Film Festival. For info, see the VFF website.
Cinecenta at UVic screens its films in the Student Union Building. Info: 721-8365. cinecenta.com.
WE ARE LEGION: THE STORY OF THE HACKTIVISTS -(Wed.-Thurs., Nov. 14-15 Spend some time with Anonymous, the “hacktivist” collective that uses cyber power as a tool of civil disobedience that’s been known to kick corporations and governments in places where it really hurts.
★★★ CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER -(Fri.-Sat., Nov. 16-17: 3:00, 7:15, 9:00) People bored with standard rom-com fare will savour this quirky, funny and insightful account of a divorcing couple who are still best friends. Is she really breaking up with him? Starring Rashida Jones (Parks and Recreation) and Andy Samberg (SNL).
★★★ PEE–WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE -(Fri.-Sat., Nov. 16-17: 11:00 only) This early film by Tim Burton is a hilariously wacky, sometimes surreal road picture of sorts starring the incomparably twisted Pee-Wee Herman.
★★½ PARANORMAN -(Sat.-Sun., Nov. 17-18: 1:00 matinee) In an amusingly morbid slice of family animation, a misunderstood boy who can talk to the dead is the only hope to save his town from an army of zombies and ghosts activated by a centuries-old curse.
★★½ THE EXPENDABLES 2-(Sun., Nov. 18: 3:00, 7:00, 9:00 & Mon., Nov. 19: 7:00, 9:00) There is lots of manly mayhem as a group of aging mercenaries (played by aging Hollywood mercenaries like Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris and Bruce Willis) go up against a very nasty adversary. This is good, cheesy fun.
★★★★ REAR WINDOW -(Tues., Nov. 20: 7:00, 9:15) Voyeurism is explored with amusing wit in Hitchcock’s black-humoured thriller about a laid-up photographer (James Stewart) who becomes convinced that a neighbour (Raymond Burr) has killed his wife. With the ethereal Grace Kelly.
TRANs -(Wed., Nov. 21: 7:00 only) In commemoration of the 14th annual Transgender Day of Rembrance is this screening of an award-winning documentary that fully explores this important topic.