“The… Best… Bond… Ever!” so says one reviewer from England whose zeal is so fervent, it is hard to take him or his review seriously. In my professional and less ardent opinion, “Skyfall” falls short of Daniel Craig’s quintessential Bond film, “Casino Royale,” a 007 motion picture which I think is unrivaled in its action, intensity, stunning cinematography and arresting plotline. That film, is in my mind, the ‘Best Bond Movie’ Craig has done, and, one of the Top 5 action movies I have ever seen. But by no means does my preferred choice signify that “Skyfall” is not worth watching. Au contraire, “Skyfall” is entertaining cinema worthy of multiple views, except it possesses two defects that lessen its acclaim.
“Skyfall” starts with Bond going on his latest assignment which goes gravely wrong and several undercover agents around the world are exposed, MI6 is attacked, thus, forcing M to relocate the agency. These events cause her authority and position to be challenged by Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), the new Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee. With MI6 now compromised from both inside and out, M is left with one ally she can trust: Bond. 007 takes to the shadows – aided only by field agent, Eve (Naomie Harris) – following a trail to the mysterious Silva (Javier Bardem), whose lethal and hidden motives have yet to reveal themselves.
The issue I have with “Skyfall” is that Sam Mendes – cheered on by Craig – tinkered with the Bond universe in such away that ‘I’ feel violated. The two worst offenders are: aging Bond and the reduced role of the Bond Girl. How could he have done this!? Doesn’t he comprehend that by developing a real aging gene to the 007 character, you are in essence, MAKING HIM HUMAN! Bond does not age. He’s been in his prime for 50 years! Now all of a sudden “he shouldn’t be ashamed to lose a step,” voiced to Bond by Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) in a tense scene. By Mendes opening up this Pandora’s box, this travesty sets in motion Bond’s eventual demise because of his future elder age. The producers would then have to reboot the series in its entirety with 007’s unknown son or new young agent, 008, similar to the way the ‘Bourne’ franchise did when they transitioned from Matt Damon to Jeremy Renner. Do you see what has been done?
Also, the selection of the Bond Girl is not just a carnal passage for Bond, but a symbol of long-lasting prestige for any woman in film. In “Skyfall,” Bérénice Marlohe is only a brief incident that is dealt with an anticlimactic shower scene and a quick dismissal. Naomi Harris’ character is an agent of the MI6, not a real Bond Girl, in the true sense of the term. These two grave and awful decisions have ramifications down the line for the franchise and I am aghast that many critics have not accentuated the discrepancies.
The aforementioned blemishes ultimately were too distracting for me to suspend disbelief. It kept on haunting me, not allowing me to immerse myself in this new universe. Bond didn’t even ask the bartender for a “martini shaken, not stirred,” because the bartender supposedly knew the drill. The Heineken scene was had in a beach. Against the philosophies of Craig and Mendes, they need to understand that these are the classic elements fans look forward to in every movie. They endure because they work, that is why they become classic moments, every 2-4 years. We want to ascertain what new and creative ways they will approach it and we want to smile heartily at them. In “Skyfall,” they severed off those memorable and cherished cinematic souvenirs we anticipated so much. Hopefully, they will bring it back in all of their full glory one day.
Despite my vexing remarks, they do not apply to the grand production, the ambitious entertainment value and the multi-dimensional layers that James Bond is draped in. I will not be mentioning references of ‘best,’ but I will highlight reasons why you should still see “Skyfall”. The opening action sequence is once again one of the reasons you can’t come late to a 007 movie. Car chases, tractors, guns, trains and deadly jumps, devise a most energetic beginning. Adele’s sultry and enchanting opening number is Grammy and Oscar deserving. If you can dismiss the bumps on the road, ergo, my previous critical observations, Craig gives an affecting performance that blends the better parts of his acting in ‘Casino’ and ‘Quantum’.
Then we enter Javier Bardem, the first Hispanic actor to ever play a Bond villain. As he made history by playing the effeminate and demented Raoul Silva (according to Bardem himself, Silva is Portuguese), Bardem holds his own against the pantheon of memorable evil adversaries Bond had to kill. He’s not as good as Anton Chigurh, the role he won the Oscar for “No Country for Old Men”, but he is nonetheless intimidating.
As an action movie, “Skyfall” works. It holds a sense of danger and peril not associated to the other films. I’ll give it that. Yet, I felt that 2012 offered better action with “The Raid: Redemption” and “The Dark Knight Rises” (who can forget its opening airplane scene!).
“Skyfall” is not a masterpiece movie. It is better than average and has a lot to applaud, but not enough to revere. So go ahead and buy your ticket, watch it, enjoy it, but know that there are better out there.