Skyfall ★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Director Sam Mendes’ feature is as much about M as 007, as the plot focuses on the hard and rather cold 'life-and-death' decisions she has made over the course of her career -- one of which comes back to haunt her in the guise of a cyber-terrorist named Silva. Thematically it touches on the relationship between M and her double-Os. "Orphans make the best agents", she points out (something also noted in Casino Royale) and she has become their surrogate mother.

Due to one of M commands, Bond is left for dead. And though James comes through it renewed, the overall tone of the movie is downbeat. The agent is broken, unshaven, and unkempt throughout. While I don’t mind 007 going through the wringer, did he have to turn mopey? Especially considering the growth we witnessed in the previous feature, this feels like a huge step backward.

The script shoehorns in a few nods to the past, but -even though he drove an Aston Martin in Casino- seeing Craig in the classic Goldfinger DB-5 with all the bells and whistles felt off. In this era they started from scratch, none of the previous EON films happened in the Craig universe. To see this Bond in a vehicle he never drove, that he has no history or connection to - my reaction was, “Hey, who is that guy driving Sean Connery’s car?” 007 never felt less like 007 to me than at that moment.

And while it was nice to have a Q, his crack about exploding pens just made me sad. Between that line and the total destruction of the Aston Martin, it felt like Mendes was spitting in my eye.

Also out of place was Javier Bardem's broad and hammy turn as the villain Silva. Motivation-wise, he’s 1 part Alec Trevelyan, 2 parts Elektra King (both of whom did this bit so much better). Plus he ripped off Max Zorin's hair 😉 I really disliked that Bardem was a guy camping it up in a movie that was steeped in the bitter real.

Now, I thought the picture started off strong, I was enjoying it, going along with the story, even going along with Emo-Bond. But it lost its bearings when Silva enters the scene. In fact, I can point to the exact moment where it all went South and lost me, and that’s when Séverine is shot and killed (Bond makes his move after this, not before? BITE ME movie!) It also stopped making any sense from here on out. Silva’s escape, for example, defies logic, I know he’s a genius who can manipulate events with his computer, but the human element will always be the fly in the ointment. Hell, Q could have fallen and broken his leg just before going to work, and then your escape is delayed, your train trick is off schedule and your scheme falls like a house of cards. Yeah I know I’m nit-picking, but critics act like this is such an elevated take on Bond, better and smarter than anything that came before, and that’s simply not the case. It can be as sloppy and illogical as any of them. And if critics take Quantum to task for its convenient leaps (falling, literally, onto Greene’s water scheme in the middle of the desert), shouldn’t Skyfall be held just as accountable when it commits the same sins?

The primary deal-breaker for me is that it violated Bond rule #1 and bored me. Also, while it took aim for it, it never hit my heart. M’s death should have moved me, but it didn’t. The film by that point had become so contrived that I simply didn’t care,

Mendes is a talented director, the cinematography was sharp - the picture looks great. I was happy with the casting of Naomie Harris as Miss Moneypenny. Her chemistry with 007 is fun and natural and it was nice to see how that easy rapport developed between the two.

But all told Skyfall was an oil and water collision of Nu-Bond blended awkwardly with a pandering nod to the old Schoolers. Some consider it the best Bond ever? Not for me, not even close. It’s at best, a decent, mid-level entry in the series.