Snippet Reviews: ‘Skyfall’ and ‘The Sessions’

In Sam Mendes’ Skyfall, the 23rd installment in the James Bond franchise and the first since 2008, MI6 – and more notably M (Judi Dench) – is under attack by former operative Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), and it is up to James Bond (Daniel Craig) to once again thwart the evildoer’s plans before they come to fruition.

While Skyfall seems to do just about what every other movie in the Bond catalog has done before it (as it pertains to storyline), it still manages to do an excellent job paying homage to the history of the famous secret agent, while at the same time keeping the series fresh and relevant with rousing chase sequences, nifty gadgets, exotic locations, and dastardly villains. Silva is the best part of Skyfall, and is played with joyful flamboyance by Bardem, who delivers one of the most memorable Bond villains in a long, long while. Craig is back for a third turn as 007, in what might be his best performance as the British spy yet. And while there are many who are already calling this one of the best Bond films of all time, I wouldn’t put Skyfall in the same echelon as Casino Royale. However, it is certainly an upgrade from Quantum of Solace, and leaves the franchise on the right path for Bond 24. (***)

Based on the true story of Mark O’Brien, a poet and polio survivor paralyzed from the neck down, Ben Lewin’s The Sessions tells the story of a man (John Hawkes) confined to an iron lung who wishes to lose his virginity, and thus hires out the services of a sex surrogate (Helen Hunt). Things become complicated for the pair when their relationship begins to blossom into something more than either had expected, and O’Brien turns to his local priest (William H. Macy) for guidance and perspective. The Sessions is a tender, intimate, and alluring film, driven by the exceptional and courageous performances of Hawkes and Hunt. It manages to improve a story that could have easily taken a more dramatic approach by spinning it down a lighter and often hilarious avenue instead. The Sessions wins you over with its amiable and genuine characters without ever having to worry about being overly sentimental. (***)