His name is Bond, Geriatric Bond. No, I’m not just talking about the 50 year-old series. A grizzled and distinctively middle-aged James Bond is back and he needs to rely on his wits, as well as his friends, to come out of this mission alive. Skyfall is a solid if not stellar entry into the venerable series that happily refuses to die.
In this outing, James Bond (Daniel Craig) is visibly tired of field work. Having jumped off one too many trains, Agent 007 uses his apparent death by an errant shot from a fellow agent to unofficially retire. Unfortunately, his boozy downward spiral is interrupted by a cyber-terrorist attack that kills eight agents at MI6. The head of MI6, M (Judi Dench), is in danger, and Bond must get back in the game to save her.
Though Bond’s brutality is on full display, his softer side steals the show. The film, more than any of its predecessors, delves into Bond’ character, and 007 and M share some poignant moments. We are treated to a less frosty side to the characters, and the result is humanizing and heartbreaking. The same cannot be said for the remaining cast. Aside from Javier Bardem’s menacing villain, the other characters are largely forgettable. Even the addition of Q, MI6’s research and development prodigy, played quite well by Ben Whishaw, is unmemorable to say the least.
Bardem saves the day as the creepy Silva, a sleazy ex-agent gunning for M. Silva’s opening story about cannibalistic rats sets the tone for his character, a madman whose motives are not entirely clear. Silva stands in contrast to the disfigured and colorful Bond villains we’ve come to expect. He does not wish to destroy the world but rather to have his revenge on those who have wronged him.
The juxtaposition of madness and personal grief is striking in a series that usually relies on global terrorist plots. Bardem is superb, bringing emotional depth to a lunatic who is the unstoppable force to Bond’s immovable object.
Despite some great elements, the film’s script keeps it from true greatness; it feels plain at times, struggling for the sexy and suave nature of its predecessors. Bond is at his best in quiet moments, but when he has to turn on the charm it feels forced. It doesn’t help that he has no chemistry with either of the underused Bond girls. In Casino Royale Craig had some truly phenomenal scenes with Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd. Their tense, smart wordplay is nowhere to be found in Skyfall, which relies on playful, uninspired dialogue to move the plot along.
Nevertheless, director Sam Mendesw does a brilliant job, especially considering the fact he has never directed an action film before. Some of the sequences on display here, particularly the final battle, are riveting. Tense car chases? Check. Hand-to-hand combat on top of a train? Check. Gun battles in Parliament? Check. Although not as breathless as Quantum of Solace, the movie moves at a swift pace even when things slow down a bit.
It won’t be winning any awards and it fails to live up to the quality of Casino Royale, but Skyfall is a worthy entry into the Bond canon that deserves your attention.