2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the James Bond film franchise. Up until now, Goldfinger (1964) was the best of the JB movies. With the release of Skyfall, the glowing word of mouth about SF, and seeing SF myself, I can honestly report: The best of the JB movies is Goldfinger. As good as Skyfall is, the film runs too long and gets very overdramatic in the final scenes. By long I mean two hours and 23 minutes. Goldfinger came in at a tight one hour and 50 minutes. The extra 30-minute length doesn’t make SF better – just a lot longer.
SF opens with an epic, franchise-trademark opening scene, which ends with the death of a pretty important character. The death lasts for the length of the titles. Daniel Craig returns as the tough guy, Bogart-like killing machine who is starting to look a little worse for wear. Judi Dench is back as “M.” The bad guy is a psychotic and ruthless hacker played by Javier Bardem. He was the Oscar-winning bad guy in the Oscar-winning film No Country for Old Men (2007). Now he is not only bad, he knows all about computer hacking. We don’t get to see him until an hour and 15 minutes into the film. His presence is felt from the beginning – whole computer systems crash, the payroll for MI6 is disrupted, and all “M” can get on her Facebook are images of Pee Wee Herman. Things are not good. They have to contact Best Buy and the Geek Squad for help.
Meanwhile, JB goes on the hunt. He travels to Macau and Shanghai. He sneaks up on, and kills, bad guys. There are big explosions and more computer issues. Even Bill Gates is frustrated. He is forced to revert his home computer to Windows 95 to get it to work. There is trouble everywhere.
Eventually we find out what Javier is up to. The meaning of the term Skyfall is finally revealed. All issues are resolved after a big gun fight and more explosions.
This time out, director Sam Mendes (Oscar winner for American Beauty in 1999) has delivered a stylish JB film with great action scenes but way too much melodrama. Thomas Newman (of the talented Newman family scoring machine) uses the original James Bond music and adds his own touch of the exotic and the exciting to the screen. In places he echoes the late, great John Barry.
In many ways, as you will see, this film marks the 50th anniversary of the franchise by rebooting it and starting over. As always, the screen image during the end credits says James Bond will be back. Does anyone doubt it?
Rated 3.0 out of 4.0 reasons not to miss Goldfinger.