We’re now celebrating 50 years of James Bond films and the latest installment is Skyfall. This entirely new story (that is one not written by Bond creator Ian Fleming) is the second such endeavor with the first effort being the extremely lackluster Quantum of Solace.
This iteration came with a litany of glowing reviews but it’s a very mixed bag in the final analysis. Daniel Craig is back in the lead role and he once again makes a serious argument for being viewed as one of the best Bond’s in the series. He delivers in every aspect of this film from start to finish.
The nemesis is played wonderfully by Javier Bardem who now has two amazingly memorable villain roles to his credit (the first in No Country For Old Men). What’s really impressive is that the two are entirely unique.
Also back reprising the role of M is Judi Dench who finally gets a chance to spread her acting wings in the role—if only temporarily.
This installment stands very much as a re-thinking of the franchise without it being a total re-imagining. For me that didn’t turn out so well.
The opening I found to be somewhat muted which set the tone for the rest of the film. Instead of the traditional amazing initial action sequence we got something passable but not quite the same and presented in a slightly different way as well. The theme song was a bust (though most Bond themes are similarly forgettable).
The quintessential Bond elements are extremely subdued. Even the Bond girls are virtually absent. If you look close you’ll note his trademark martini being shaken, not stirred. Some elements like this needed to be toned down as it was getting a bit tired to have to keep making the same references in every single episode. Sadly, here it seems they wanted to excise nearly all of them.
The overall film was slow and very dark.
Once it concluded I couldn’t help but think that the producers literally ripped off the concept of Christopher Nolan‘s original Batman reboot. We get a back story about Bond’s troubled childhood and the sad loss of his parents (never referenced in the previous 50 years). We’re introduced to his childhood estate replete with hidden passageways like Wayne Manor. We also get the old loyal-to-the-family servant (think Alfred) played by Albert Finney. I found this telling as Bond supposedly hasn’t been here in ages and his parents are long gone so who exactly is he keeping the estate up for? Sign me up for that job!
For all the good Bardem imparts on his role, it’s one that’s ultimately unsatisfying. Why? Well, first of all it’s another hacker role which never works well in movies. Technology theft doesn’t translate and alienates the entire audience. Tech geeks find it all laughable and non-geeks find it less than riveting. Here the bad guy is made nearly God-like. He’s able to do anything and has thought 10 steps ahead. Why bother with a plot if all of it is pointless? How this is possible is never even broached. He’s just awesome and don’t ask about it again.
Then there’s Q and Moneypenny who both come off as second-rate to almost anyone who’s ever had the roles before.
The biggest problem is the ending. It all happens far too quickly and too simply for a Bond film. I couldn’t believe it was over when it happened. It was being told you’re going to get the greatest dessert you’ve ever had and then someone tossing you an apple and walking away.
The action sequences are, for the most part, quite well done but that’s hardly enough to recommend the film. As is it’s still light years ahead of the mess that was Quantum of Solace but it’s not even in the same league as Casino Royale. I just hope Craig gets a chance to put up a Bond film that matches that one.