Daniel Craig as James Bond
Judi Dench as M
Javier Bardem as Silva
Ralph Fiennes as Gareth Mallory
Naomie Harris as Eve
Bérénice Marlohe as Sévérine
Albert Finney as Kincade
Ben Whishaw as Q
Rory Kinnear as Tanner
Ola Rapace as Patrice
Helen McCrory as Clair Dowar MP
Nicholas Woodeson as Doctor Hall
Bill Buckhurst as Ronson
Directed by Sam Mendes
“Skyfall” delivers on the Bond girls, the action, and the villain. It’s a big improvement over “Quantum of Solace,” but it does tend to drag in pacing in the middle.
After a laptop hard drive containing a list of NATO’s undercover agents is stolen, the agents begin getting killed off one by one. To make matters worse, the unknown enemy has intimate knowledge of MI6 and its inner workings, and they have targeted M as the focus of their mayhem.
James Bond is called on to track down the person behind the crimes, but there’s a catch. Bond is no longer at the top of his game. Having suffered a near fatal injury, he’s physically and mentally compromised. And with M deliberately hiding information from him, the odds are stacked against Bond.
“Skyfall” is rated PG-13 for intense violent sequences throughout, some sexuality, language and smoking.
There are a few things you look for in any good James Bond movie. They are good action scenes, good Bond girls, good villains, good performances, good international settings, and a good theme song. So how does “Skyfall” measure up?
The action scenes, as you would expect, are fantastic. The bar is set high early in the film with a spectacular motorcycle chase in Istanbul, Turkey that eventually turns into a fight on the top of a moving train. The film wastes no time whatsoever in throwing you in an intense situation and it doesn’t take its foot off the pedal for a while. There’s another memorable game of cat and mouse in a Shanghai office building filled with glass. Massive neon signs outside of the building make a beautiful backdrop to the action and a hand-to-hand fight done entirely in silhouette is quite impressive. But the grand finale in the Scottish highlands is very reminiscent of an old west standoff as Bond makes a final stand while being vastly outnumbered. The action scene makes a satisfying ending to the film.
How are the Bond girls? What they lack in screentime they make up for in performance. Naomie Harris as Eve is phenomenal and I would have liked to have seen much more of her in the film. She’s beautiful yet convincing in the action scenes. She also has great chemistry with Bond. And a surprise about her character gives the ultimate payoff to the audience for falling in love with her earlier in the film. Bérénice Marlohe is also interesting as Sévérine. She has an exotic look about her, but Bond soon gets past her carefully constructed persona to reveal the true woman beneath. A scene between Bond and Sévérine at a Shanghai bar is one of the more memorable character moments in the Bond films and it reminds you that a big part of being a spy is having the ability to read people.
On the subject of the Bond villain, Javier Bardem is impressive as Silva. He has the right mix of humor and menace that makes a great bad guy. He also has a hidden deformity tied to his back story that’s utterly horrifying. He’s one of the more disturbing Bond villains to ever come along. He also knows how to push Bond’s buttons. A lot of people would label Silva as homosexual in his mannerisms, but as Bardem himself has said, everything the character does is more intended to throw Bond off his game. Seeing his actions as part of a psychological game with the super spy makes him significantly more interesting.
As for James Bond himself, Daniel Craig delivers yet another excellent performance. The fact that he doubts himself, he can’t shoot straight, and he’s feeling the effects of aging make him more vulnerable and more intriguing even though you know full well that he’ll survive the film. “Skyfall” also gives us a few hints about James Bond’s origin. Seeing Craig’s reaction as he returns home makes the character that much more vulnerable and less one dimensional. And while we do learn more about his back story, there’s still an awful lot left unsaid. Supporting Craig are Judi Dench as M, Ralph Fiennes as Gareth Mallory, Albert Finney as Kincade, and Ben Whishaw as Q. All have moments to shine and offer unique scenes when they have great interaction with Bond.
“Skyfall” offers up some unique international settings. We see Istanbul, Turkey. We are then transported to London and MI6. The story then goes to Shanghai with its enormous skyscrapers and neon signs. Things are then concluded in the desolate highlands of Scotland. They are four very different but visually striking locations, all well suited for a James Bond film.
Finally, we have Adele’s theme song “Skyfall.” Combined with the unique opening credits, the song is haunting and memorable. It also cleverly interweaves the original Bond theme into the tune. “Skyfall” ends up being one of the better Bond themes in my opinion.
What Didn’t Work:
As good as “Skyfall” is, it does have a few problems. Most notable is the pacing of the film. After a spectacular opening, there are rather long stretches of dialogue heavy scenes. Everything that happens in those scenes is interesting and relevant to the plot, but you can’t help but want the story to pick up the pace a little bit. This is especially the case in a 2 hour 23 minute film.
As much as I enjoyed Javier Bardem as Silva, I thought there was one problem with the character (besides his hair), and it was his overall plan. The character is established as a computer genius. He can hack into the most secure computer networks on the planet. He can literally do anything with computers. But what’s his grand plan to get revenge on M? I don’t want to spoil it here, but suffice it to say that it has nothing to do with his mad computer skills. Silva has MI6 and Bond completely at his mercy then resorts to less elegant means to take down M. It needed a bit more work and needed to be more tied to what makes him unique as a Bond villain.
The Bottom Line:
Overall, “Skyfall” delivers in all the ways you’d expect from a James Bond movie. I think Bond fans will be happy with it, especially when several surprises from past James Bond movies appear in unexpected ways. The end result is superior to “Quantum of Solace” and a satisfying film.