The fiftieth anniversary of James Bond brings everything back to where it should be. Which, for me, is both reassuring and disappointing. After Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace deconstructed a lot of the original Bond formula by making everything gritty and serious, Skyfall goes a long way to reconstructing a lot of the stuff they'd cast aside from the formula. There's the return of a couple of long-term characters, the return of gadgets (originally treated as a joke then thoroughly subverted), and the movie teases the possibility this is actually part of the previous film continuity.
Truth be told, the previous two films weren't that far removed from the original Bond formula. QUANTUM was nothing more than a re-imagined SPECTRE for the new millennium and it's not like the previous two movies were lacking in outrageous stunts or plots. Even the biggest changes of having Bond fall in love and not sleep with the girl had been done before. So, Skyfall is still a valid progression from point A to point C.
The premise of Skyfall can best be thought of as a combination of The Dark Knight and The World of Not Enough. If these sound like an oddball mix to you, the truth is it is. MI6 (also known as SIS) is threatened by an insane lunatic who blows up the organization's headquarters before making a direct attempt on M. The fact this is the second time they have blown up the headquarters of the real-life organization should tell you they probably should have thought of another premise.
|Perhaps the most notable guest-star this movie is the car behind Bond.|
The James Bond of this movie is a far more experienced agent than the one of the previous two films. Having presumably wrapped up QUANTUM between films, he is no longer as fit an agent as he used to. He's suffering from wounds suffered in the course of his duty and will eventually be killed if he doesn't retire. Unlike The Dark Knight Rises, retirement isn't an option for Bond and he more or less let's us know he's going to eventually get killed in the field. It's true to the books as 007 routinely ruminated on the inevitably of his death.
Dame Judi Dench gives an excellent performance for her M's final performance, putting her in the same place she put 007 in Goldeneye. The world considers her a dinosaur which needs to be put out to pasture, a relic which no longer has any relevance in the cyber age. Watching her struggle with this is neat as she desperately tries to point out crippling MI6's boots on the ground is not going to help anyone.
As for Craig himself, he manages to sell a weary half-broken James Bond better than Christian Bale managed for The Dark Knight Rises. Craig's Bond finds himself unable to find any sort of meaning in civilian life, so he swiftly retreats into pills and alcohol. He might have found peace with Vesper but without her, he's lost. He and Max Payne should form a club, "Retired badasses suffering addiction problems."
The Bond girls this episode were quite lovely with Naomie Harris doing an excellent job as Eve, an updated character who comes at the position from an unexpected direction. The standout performance, however, was Bérénice Lim Marlohe as Sévérine. The dark and evil Bond girls are always the best of the bunch and she is no exception. Despite having only a limited time on screen, she's more interesting than half of the cast put together.
There's even notable moments from the supporting male cast with Ralph Fienne's Mallory, Albert Finney's Kincaid, and Ben Whishaw's Q all giving standout performances. Ben Whishaw's Q is a lot more powerful and hands-on, representing the increasing role of technology in the role of spywork. I'm not sure how Bond-ish the role of Mission Control is but I enjoyed Craig and Whishaw's chemistry.
A lot of people are saying this is the best Bond since On Her Majesty's Secret Service. I disagree. The plot is somewhat recycled, the stunts not particularly impressive, and the villain doesn't particularly wow me. I think it's roughly equal to Quantum of Solace but that's only because I preferred Adele's Let the Sky Fall opening to the abysmal one they chose for QoS by Alicia Keyes. It's a fun afternoon's viewing but I've got the entirety of the James Bond series Special Editions on DVD.
It's nothing I haven't seen before.