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Skyfall (7/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 143 minutes

OK for children.

         When this series started in 1962 with Dr. No the runtimes were reasonable. The first three, Dr. No, From Russian With Love, and Goldfinger had runtimes of 110 minutes, 115 minutes, and 110 minutes, respectively. Then, with Thunderball in 1965, script, character, and acting took a back seat to special effects and action and ran 130 minutes, starting a trend of overly long films that continues to this day. Not coincidentally, the quality deteriorated as the runtime escalated. Following is a list of all the James Bond films with the runtimes:

1. Dr. No (1962) 110 minutes
2. From Russia With Love (1963) 115 minutes
3. Goldfinger (1964) 110 minutes
4. Thunderball (1965) 130 minutes
5. You Only Live Twice (1967) 117 minutes
6. On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) 142 minutes
7. Diamonds Are Forever (1971) 120 minutes
8. Live and Let Die (1973) 121 minutes
9. The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) 125 minutes
10. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) 125 minutes
11. Moonraker (1979) 126 minutes
12. For Your Eyes Only (1981) 127 minutes
13. Octopussy (1983) 131 minutes
14. A View to a Kill (1985) 131 minutes
15. The Living Daylights (1987) 130 minutes
16. Licence to Kill (1989) 133 minutes
17. GoldenEye (1995) 130 minutes
18. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) 119 minutes
19. The World is Not Enough (1999) 128 minutes
20. Die Another Day (2002) - 133 minutes
21. Casino Royale (2006) - 144 minutes
22. Quantum of Solace (2008) 106 minutes

         Starting with Thunderball, they all exceeded two hours, many substantially except the last, Quantum of Solace. And the content decreased substantially, with script and plot being sacrificed for special effects, spectacular special effects, to be sure, but special effects were the dominating feature of every film from Thunderball through Quantum of Solace.

         As a result the films were simply carbon copies of one another. Can you remember any performances by anyone other than the actor playing Bond after Gert Fröbe's performance as Goldfinger? Can you remember the plot of any other than the first three? Yet the first three featured memorable performances by the villain, Joseph Wiseman as Dr. No, Robert Shaw and Lotte Lenya as Grant and Rosa Klebb, respectively, in From Russia With Love, in addition to Fröbe. Can you remember one performance for the succeeding 19 films? I can't. Even Sean Connery got stale.

         Directed by Sam Mendes with a slew of writers, always a bad sign, this new Bond is still filled with a lot of special effects. It tries for a big performance by Oscar®-winner Javier Bardem as the bad guy, but Bardem's performance falls flat. Even Judi Dench and Ralph Feinnes basically just punch the clock. On the positive side, in very small roles, Albert Finney and Naomie Harris acquit themselves admirably.

         Exacerbating the negative, this one is devoid of the bon mots that highlighted most Bond films. It tries, but fails. It's darker than all the others. Daniel Craig, the 8th actor to play Bond (if you count Barry Nelson who played James in a 1954 black & white TV version of Casino Royale), still runs like Marilyn Monroe, and it is very, very long.

         It also directly steals the rooftop location from Taken 2. Bond has a motorcycle chase across the very same rooftops that Liam Neeson only recently ran across.

         Because of all the mindless action, it's OK as an entertainment, and most people will probably find it a relatively enjoyable way to kill almost three hours. Even though this is probably the best Bond in decades, it's not something you would want to sit through again, as I can with Dr. No, From Russia With Love, and Goldfinger (and it's great line, the likes of which are sorely lacking here, when James is strapped to a table and asks Goldfinger, "Are you trying to scare me?" and Goldfinger replies, "No, Mr. Bond. I'm trying to kill you.").

November 6, 2012