Skyfall (dir. Sam Mendes, 2012) – MI6 loses its star agent and an important disk. M gets wound up when a cyber terrorist attack gets personal.
Stunning visuals and high-octane action ensure Skyfall‘s easy triumph over the abysmal Quantum of Solace, though weak characters and plot bungle the streak.
Twenty-two films later, and here we are again. 007 jumps on a moving train and tackles an old spy movie cliché – a lost disk containing the secret identities of global agents.
Easily the most visually stunning and action-fuelled new Bond movie, Skyfall effortlessly surpasses Quantum of Solace as director Sam Mendes brings his revitalising vision to the franchise. But even with an exquisite opening fitting for a Bond movie, the repetition of an old formula begins to show.
Setting off the tired dominoes is M (Judi Dench). The Head of MI6 raises the stakes when her decision inadvertently ‘kills’ James Bond (Daniel Craig), just as he gets close to retrieving the disk.
But of course, it is Bond we are talking about after all. With a hobby like resurrection, we soon welcome his triumphant return against a backdrop of remarkable cinematography and impressive choreography.
Yet even the best silhouetted fights cannot distract from the dull persona of the leading man himself. During his long absence, the agent has mastered the art of a brooding countenance, inexplicably popular with modern-day protagonists. Generic lines are striking in their lack of humour and his usual gentleman spy personality. It is no wonder Daniel Craig appears bored and moody half the time.
Redeeming are the sporadic fun exchanges, mostly between Bond and Q. Actor Ben Whishaw is a bright choice as the new young Quartermaster, charming in his wit. Offering full disclosure, I have been a fan since Perfume: A Story of a Murderer.
Even so, the Q branch underwhelms in his produce. A chorus of sighs from gadget enthusiasts ensues, as he produces a rehashed version of Judge Dredd‘s Lawgiver and well… a radio. An exploding pen would have done better, to be honest.
The Bond girls do no better to impress. Miss Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) appears in her all too few moments as Bond’s sidekick, who conveniently disappears when unneeded for the plot. We then find ourselves thrown back further into the 60s, when a potentially interesting character ends up yet another sexual object for the misogynistic spy. Sévérine (Bérénice Marlohe) – a victim of sex trafficking – has her story reduced to a passing remark.
Just like most other female characters in Bond series, her eventual exit was meaningless, unnecessary and downright awful. It becomes clear that she has merely been a plot device, used solely to unite Bond with the villain.
Thankfully, Javier Bardem – Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Man – is second to none in the field of antagonists. His over-the-top antics entertain, even though his intimidating presence falters when compared to the ruthless Le Chiffre. That odd hairdo does little to help.
Only more inexplicable than that mane is his wildly elaborate plan. While an interesting element to a sadly plain premise, it is difficult to imagine why anyone would go to such lengths just to kill a person. Setting himself for a trap, Bond’s ludicrous choices drive the final nail in the coffin for an inadequate finale for a movie that can be described in the same way.