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What can I say?  I’m not one for action thrillers, have never been to a Conan the Schwarzenegger movie.  Runaway trucks on lonely highways in the film noir of the 50s and 60s are plenty for me, as long as the character study is rich and the mystery taut.  Like many of my generation, however, I caught the James Bond virus when we learned that he was a favorite of our young and dashing president, John F Kennedy.  Back then it was also a permissible way to get an eyeful of female pulchritude and to seem safely outrageous by saying out loud the naughty names, like Pussy Galore.

In April of 2011 I was in Istanbul with friends when we stumbled across the shooting, in the Grand Bazaar, of the latest version of the 25 movie franchise: Skyfall. We’d been waiting since to see how a multi-million dollar movie [$200,000,000 budget] sees, in one of our favorite cities, what we saw.

It is amazing what access several million dollars will get you; scenes we’d seen were turned into scenes we were delighted not to have seen: our stroll through the crowds in the bazaar with moderate pushing and being pushed was turned into motorcycles and Land Rovers scattering people in the same narrow alleyways like ten-pins and sending vegetables and clothing into the air like wind-blown chaff.

A motorcycle chase across the roofs of the enormous Grand Bazaar is about as wild as anything I’ve ever seen [but why didn’t tiles explode and slip out from under the wheels?]  It’s a chase that won’t be surpassed until someone figures out how to race two motorcycles across three slack-wires spanning the Grand Canyon.  A fist and kick fight on top of a rolling freight train, ducking seconds before the tunnels, is as old as the first cowboy shoot-em ups and this one is done superbly — ending only when the comely Naomie Harris as Eve misses her shot.  Bond’s [Daniel Craig] falling an impossible distance to a river [300 feet], over a thundering waterfall and deep into the indigo blue depths tells us:  OK, this is Marvel Comics on movie steroids.

And though we were slightly disappointed that Istanbul didn’t figure in the movie after the first 15 minutes or so [though including, unknown to us, shots in Adana and Fethiye]  equally stunning camerawork and special effects in Shanghai, Macao, and London, not to mention Skyfall, Scotland left me sated on action-adventure for perhaps another 10 years.  In fact the action and CGI (computer generated imagery) BEFORE the titles roll is as wondrous and compelling as anything I can remember seeing.  Oscar for that alone.

There are so many improbable if not absolutely impossible stunts and shots you can’t help but feel giddy in your suspension of disbelief.  Javer Bardem as Silva, a former MI6 agent, is a fantastic villain and his false actual false, cyanide ruined teeth are a miracle of prosthetics.  You have to giggle at the old-time perfect-timing of impossible events as when after a long chase through London’s tunnels Bond has Silva cornered, Silva returns a trick earlier played on him by Bond and uses a radio to trigger an explosion.  “Was that for me?” asks Bond, unscathed.  “No, but this is,” says Silva, making his escape, and an entire London Underground train, at high speed, crashes through the hole, piling up in, I don’t know, a three minute catastrophe.  I mean, fabulous!

The script is fine throughout, with the standard underplayed Bondian humor while in the midst of mortal danger.  A exchange between tough, unsentimental M, [Judi Dench] and Bond upon returning from the dead, though, went a little flat.  It seemed a perfect opportunity for redoubled snark wrapped in nonchalance and didn’t quite meet the moment.  Albert Finney as Kincaid the gamekeeper at the Skyfall mansion gets off one of the most memorable lines when, after meeting the first wave of bad-guys with double barreled shotgun blasts and an array of exploding household objects says “Welcome to Scotland.”

British born Sam Mendes, the director, has made a phenomenal transition from small, people anchored dramas [American Beauty, Road to Perdition, and Revolutionary Road] to the epic, machines as characters, modern Gargantua and Pantegruel destruction-as-good-fun movies.  How he learned the skills needed and put together the team that carried it off [including cinematographer Roger Deakins, previously of No Country for Old Men] would be a story in itself.  Just the walls of computer-like displays in the bowels of MI6 are a technical feat.  The vertigo inducing hacking displayed as Silva’s revenge begins to play out, and mimicking the CGI before the credits, is a minor work of technical legerdemain.The train crash and the final helicopter high speed disassembly into an exploding building — well,  I ‘d pay another entry fee to know how they did that.

For a good evening of comic book mayhem don’t miss Skyfall.  Get there early or you’ll miss the Istanbul carnage.  Bring earplugs for the 15 minutes of previews, all for movies of the same adrenaline scale, natch, but without the deadpan humor, the arched eyebrow that says this is a fun-house ride, nothing more.